(Vatican Radio) Thousands of mourners gathered in Warsaw's main cathedral on Monday
as the nation laid to rest Cardinal Jozef Glemp, who headed the Polish Catholic Church
through the last years of Communism and the difficuilt transition towards democracy.
The funeral Mass at the Archcathedral of St. John the Baptist came after the 83-year-old Church leader lost his battle against cancer last week.
Ahead of the funeral, Pope Benedict XVI said in his condolence message that Cardinal Glemp had "profound love for God and for man,” describing him as, “a light, inspiration and strength in the difficult ministry of guiding the Church at a time when significant social and political transformations were taking place in Poland and Europe."
Listen to our report by Vatican Radio correspondant Stefan Bos:
Current Primate of Poland, Archbishop Jozef Kowalczyk, said in his homily that Cardinal Glemp had been faithful to the teaching of Polish-born Pope John Paul II, who was encouraging people “to change the world through words and dialogue, and not by the sword and firearms.”
He recalled that Cardinal Glemp also encouraged the faithful when an Italian hospital "weighed the fate of Pope John Paul II when he was seriously wounded in an assassination attempt."
Cardinal Glemp's encouragement came at a time when Poland "felt enslaved by Communism" and there was growing tension," Bishop Kowalczyk said.
Poland's President Bronislaw Komorowski agreed. "Cardinal Glemp was deeply patriotic and he protected Poland while at the same time trying to avoid bloodshed when the country was placed under martial law amid a crackdown" on anti-Communist trade union Solidarity and dissidents, he said.
The cardinal's name "will be for always linked to the memories of many Polish families, including my family, as he assisted those [dissidents] deprived of their liberty and their loved ones," the president added.
Monday's funeral service was attended by high ranking church leaders and other officials from several European countries, while on nearby Castle Square crowds braved winter temperatures to watch the service on a specially erected screen.
The cardinal's final resting place was in the crypts of St. John's Archcathedral, near his predecessor Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, who he had served as private secretary.
Other prominent Poles to have been laid to rest in the crypts include the last king of Poland, Stanislaw Poniatowski, Poland's last pre-war president Ignacy Moscicki, and Nobel Prize-winning author Henryk Sienkiewicz.