Sat, Jan 06, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Catholic Church rocked by allegations that new Polish archbishop was a spy


The new archbishop of Warsaw, Monsignor Stanislaw Wielgus, poses in Plock, Poland on Nov. 18. Wielgus, who is poised to be sworn in this weekend as archbishop of Warsaw, has been accused of being a ''secret and conscious'' collaborator with Poland's communist-era security forces.


The Catholic Church in Poland has been convulsed by claims that the priest who is due to be sworn in this weekend as Archbishop of Warsaw, one of the leading posts in the hierarchy, spied for the communist secret police.

Stanislaw Wielgus is under pressure to withdraw from tomorrow's ceremony or request its postponement after Polish newspapers accused him of collaborating for two decades with a communist regime that the Catholic Church staunchly opposed.

There were doubts on Thursday over whether the prime minister, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, would attend the ceremony as he was due to. The prime minister campaigned with his twin brother, Poland's president, on a platform of purging ex-communists from public life.

"The new archbishop of Warsaw was a secret and conscious collaborator with the SB [Security Service] for more than 20 years. Documents confirm this," the Rzeczpospolita newspaper wrote yesterday of Wielgus, who was chosen by Pope Benedict XVI last month to fill one of the most important roles in the Polish church.

Rzeczpospolita and other publications claim to have found Wielgus' file in the archives of the communist secret police, which have yielded evidence exposing several prominent priests as former collaborators and led investigators to conclude that about one-in-10 Polish clergymen passed information to the security services.

Wielgus is accused of spying for the SB from 1967, when he was a philosophy student at Lublin University, until the collapse of communist rule in 1989, and of operating under at least three pseudonyms -- Adam, Grey and Adam Wysocki.

Rzeczpospolita claimed to have unearthed Wielgus' signed agreement to work for the SB, along with documents showing that he gathered information about church matters and students whom he taught, and even papers suggesting that he received "special training" for agents and was given a grant to study in Germany as reward for his collaboration.

When the allegations first appeared in the Gazeta Polska newspaper last month, Wielgus said they were "a planned attack" by opponents, and insisted that he met SB agents only as part of the standard procedure for obtaining a passport in communist Poland.

"They tried to recruit me but I never did anything that could harm anyone," he said of his meetings with the secret police.

"I have never been an informer," he said.

Jozef Kloch, a spokesman for the Polish church, said yesterday that a clerical commission had compiled a summary of what it had found in Wielgus' SB dossier.

"We've given the report to Archbishop Wielgus so he can have the possibility to take a stance on it," Kloch said.

Cardinal Jozef Glemp, the outgoing Archbishop of Warsaw and a fierce critic of communism, has said he has "every confidence" in his successor, and the Vatican said in a statement last month that "all the circumstances of his life, including those concerning his past, were taken into consideration" when Wielgus was chosen.

"Black clouds will gather over Sunday's ceremony if he doesn't explain himself," said Kazimierz Sowa, a priest and journalist.

Adam Boniecki, of the Catholic newspaper Tygodnik Powszechny, said the Vatican would expect Wielgus to step down right away if his guilt were proven.

"To free the Holy See of any dilemmas, he will certainly resign if -- if -- there is unambiguous proof of these accusations," he said.

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