Abbey celebrates life of St Maximilian Kolbe

Monday, 14th January 2019

Abbey celebrates life of St Maximilian Kolbe

A service to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the birth of St Maximilian Kolbe was held at Westminster Abbey on Sunday 13th January 2019.

Saint Maximilian Kolbe*, the Polish Franciscan priest and missionary, is one of the 20th century martyrs commemorated in statues erected above the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey by the Dean and Chapter in 1998.

The service, held in English and Polish, was conducted by the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, who said in his Bidding:

For the past twenty years, St Maximilian Kolbe has been remembered and honoured here at Westminster Abbey in a particular way. His statue stands above the Great West Door on the West Front of the Abbey, one of ten Christian martyrs of the 20th century memorialised here from all traditions and from all parts of the world.
Today, on the 125th anniversary of his birth, we give thanks for his life as a Christian and as a Franciscan friar, for his faithful service of almighty God, and above all for the manner of his death, in which after the example of our Lord Jesus Christ he gave his life in order to save the life of another man, a family man, in the concentration camp at Auschwitz in Nazi-occupied Poland.
We pray for the Church and people of Poland, for the Polish community in this country, for the United Kingdom, and the countries of the European Union. And we pray that never again may there be war between the nations of Europe and we pray for peace: peace in our hearts, peace in our homes, peace in our nations, and peace in the world.

The service was attended by the Ambassador of the Republic of Poland, His Excellency Arkady Rzegocki, and by the Lord Mayor of Westminster, Councillor Lindsey Hall.


Before the start of the service the Polish Ambassador laid a wreath underneath the memorial to St Maximilian Kolbe at the Great West Door.

Joanna Tobiasiewicz read 1 John 3: 13-16, Monsignor Stefan Wylężek read St John 15: 12-17 and Father Grzegorz Bartosik read from the selected works of St Maximilian Kolbe.

The sermon was given by Bishop Wiesław Lechowicz.

Prayers were led by the Reverend Jane Sinclair, Canon-in-residence, and said by Sister Stella Zbierska, Jan Lasocki, Natalia Lasocka, Włodzimierz Mier-Jędrzejowicz and Brother Marek Gąsiorowski

The service was sung by a combined choir of the Polish Catholic Mission in London directed by Jerzy Pockert. The organ was played by Matthew Jorysz, Assistant Organist.

Order of Service for A Service to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the birth of St Maximilian Maria Kolbe (PDF, 7.78MB)

* St Maximilian Kolbe died in Auschwitz concentration camp in August 1941.

After three prisoners disappeared from the camp, the commandant picked ten men to be starved to death in an underground bunker to deter further escape attempts.

Kolbe volunteered to take the place of another prisoner with a wife and children.

After two weeks of dehydration and starvation, only Kolbe remained alive. The guards wanted the bunker emptied and the Franciscan priest was given a lethal injection of carbolic acid.

He was canonized by Pope John Paul II on 10th October 1982.