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Expelled Polish nuns face questioning in ‘visions’ controversy


Polish police have found and questioned a group of rebel Roman Catholic nuns, who had disappeared after being expelled from their convent. The authorities discovered the nuns living together in eastern Poland.

"Questioning these former nuns will be an important step towards finding out about this highly unusual and complex matter," regional prosecutor Andrzej Lepieszko told journalists in Lublin on 20 May. "Decisions about possible charges will be taken on their merit after analysing (the women’s) statements and collecting evidence."

The official said the 53 former members of the Family of Bethany order told police they had remained together voluntarily, and they had asked the police to keep their current whereabouts secret.

Still, Lepieszko noted that at the request of their families, the police had been searching for the nuns, and that most of them would be required to answer questions in connection with possible charges of disorder and incitement to suicide.

Trouble erupted in 2004 at the Family of Bethany’s mother house in Kazimierz, after a Vatican delegate dismissed the superior, Jadwiga Ligocka. She then occupied the convent with 65 of her fellow nuns and novices.

In a statement, the order said concern had arisen over "personal and organizational decisions" made by Ligocka, who had also claimed "private visions", in conflict with Roman Catholic teaching.

Gas and electricity supplies to the convent were cut after a February 2007 Vatican decree expelled Ligocka and her followers from the order. Meanwhile, Poland’s Interior Minister, Janusz Kaczmarek, said he was concerned to "avoid a possible tragedy" after the Polish mass-circulation daily newspaper Fakt published a nun’s letter allegedly suggesting a suicide pact.

Police forcibly removed the former sisters in October 2007 after they had ignored a series of court orders to leave their convent. The women later disappeared from church retreat centres in Lublin, Dabrowice and Naleczowo.

The local archbishop, Jozef Zycinski, has blamed the conflict on Ligocka’s "psychiatric problems", and he has thanked the local authorities for intervening.

In his statement, prosecutor Lepieszko said the defrocked nuns, who no longer wore habits, appeared to have been free to come and go from their present residence in order to shop or make visits to local doctors, and in some cases to work. In addition, some of the women had also used mobile telephones to contact their families.

Still, Lepieszko confirmed that disorder and incitement charges could still be brought against Ligocka and a defrocked Franciscan priest, Roman Komaryczko, who lived with the nuns at their Kazimierz convent before it was raided.