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Polish archbishop rejects secret police ‘collaboration’

The new Roman Catholic archbishop of Warsaw has refused to resign after two separate commissions stated that he had knowingly collaborated with Poland’s communist-era secret police. "This is a falsification," said the Rev. Stanislaw Wielgus in a statement on 5 January, just hours before he was officially to take office as Warsaw archbishop. "There is absolutely no documentation which proves it, beyond the words of functionaries who viewed my person and the whole affair in their own way."

He added, "I never betrayed Christ and his Church in deeds, words or intentions. I never inflicted any harm on anyone."

A specially-appointed Polish church commission on 5 January stated that it had seen "numerous important documents, confirming a readiness for deliberate and secret collaboration", and indicating that the "collaboration took place."

It added that collaboration with the communist-era Sluzba Bezpieczenstwa (SB) secret police had been banned by Poland’s Catholic Bishops Conference, and said evidence suggested the-then priest’s activity "could have caused damage to various people in the church’s ranks".

Poland’s civic rights commissioner, Janusz Kochanowski, had previously said that his commission had concluded there was "no doubt" about Wielgus’ "deliberate secret co-operation" with the communist-controlled Interior Ministry’s Department Four, which monitored and controlled church activities.

Polish President Lech Kaczynski and Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski indicated they would not attend the planned installation Mass for Wielgus at Warsaw cathedral on 7 January. Wielgus’ 88-page SB file has been published on the Internet.

Wielgus was named on 6 December by Pope Benedict XVI to succeed Cardinal Jozef Glemp as archbishop in the Polish capital.

Catholic Archbishop Leszek Glodz insisted in a 4 January statement that Pope Benedict XVI was aware of the new archbishop’s past when he made the appointment and he appealed to the Polish media "to show restraint and consideration in formulating accusations".

In his statement, Wielgus said he met SB agents on numerous occasions in the 1960s and 1970s, while training for the priesthood and working as a Catholic priest in the eastern city of Lublin. However, he rejected allegations that he had used his SB links to obtain an apartment or that he had informed on fellow-clergy and on Poles living abroad.

"I don’t want to justify myself, and I know I shouldn’t have maintained any relations with the secret services of communist Poland. I also very much regret that I went on trips abroad which led to these contacts," Wielgus stated. "It seemed to me at the time, however, that I had a duty to undertake useful academic research and training for the good of the church."

(c) Ecumenical News International