In March 1979, Glemp was named bishop of Warmia. After Cardinal Wyszyński's death in 1981, Pope John Paul II, himself a Pole, appointed Glemp to succeed Wyszyński. Glemp thus became the archbishop of Gniezno and of Warsaw and the primate of Poland. He assumed his offices on 7 July 1981. That November, he initiated a series of meetings with Polish Communist Party (PZPR) leader Wojciech Jaruzelski and Solidarity labor leader Lech Wałęsa. These conferences were designed to unite the government, the church, and the Solidarity movement in an effort to resolve Poland's ongoing economic and political problems.
On 12 December 1981, in an effort to crush Solidarity, Jaruzelski declared martial law. Archbishop Glemp, with the support of the pope, worked to defuse the crisis and reduce the possibility of violence. His moderation and accommodation led more activist Poles, including some clergy, to refer to him as "Comrade Glemp." The pope pressured Glemp to take a more antigovernment position, but the archbishop resisted, believing that a violently antigovernment movement would increase the chances of armed conflict and, ultimately, the ruination of Solidarity. More recent observers have noted that Glemp's moderation may indeed have helped the government refrain from using violence to extinguish the Solidarity movement. The Jaruzelski-Glemp-Wałęsa discussions eventually led to Poland's democratization in 1989.
Pope John Paul II elevated Glemp to cardinal in 1983. Glemp retired as president of the Polish Bishops' Conference in 2004 but retained the title of primate of Poland until December 2005.
John David Rausch Jr.
Szajkowski, Bogdan. Next to God…Poland: Politics and Religion in Contemporary Poland. New York: St. Martin's, 1983.