WARSAW, April 27 -- A Polish priest at the Vatican was accused Wednesday of collaborating with his country's communist secret police during the 1980s, a time when Pope John Paul II was inspiring his countrymen to resist the Soviet-backed government.
The Rev. Konrad Stanislaw Hejmo, a Dominican, acknowledged late Wednesday that he had shared reports he wrote for Polish church officials with an acquaintance, a Pole who lived in Germany, but said he did not suspect the man might have been a spy.
Rev. Konrad Stanislaw Hejmo spoke to reporters in Rome after being accused of giving information to Poland's secret police in the 1980s.
(Riccardo De Luca -- AP)
The accusations originated with Leon Kieres, head of the National Remembrance Institute, which guards communist-era police files. At a news conference Wednesday, he said Hejmo "was a secret collaborator of the Polish secret services under the names Hejnal and Dominik."
Kieres did not provide details or evidence at the news conference, saying the information would be published in May. He said more documents about spying on church figures would be published this year in a book by a historian given special access to papers at the institute.
Hejmo, 69, was close to the pope's entourage, but not a member of the pontiff's inner circle. He was an ever-present figure at John Paul's public events in his white robes, leading Polish pilgrims around and taking selected groups up to see the pope.
He had extensive contacts with Poles who visited Rome and had arranged housing and other assistance for Polish refugees who had fled the communist government, according to Poland's Catholic Information Agency news service.
Hejmo's Dominican superior, the Rev. Maciej Zieba, told reporters at the news conference he had seen the files, which he called "convincing and shocking."
Andrzej Paczkowski, a historian at the institute, said the files contained about 700 pages and covered the 1980s and earlier years. But Hejmo was not a "very important person," Paczkowski said.
Church officials warned against hasty judgment. "We are still not sure of the type of the cooperation, whether he was simply talking about the Holy Father with the secret services or was actually providing secret information on him," Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek told the Associated Press. "If he was providing information, then this would be a very sad truth."
Hejmo had been widely quoted about the pope's condition in the news media in the days leading up to John Paul's death on April 2. He has served at the Vatican since 1979, after being recommended by Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, the leader of Poland's church at the time and now deceased.
John Paul, elected pope in 1978, would have been of great interest to the communist secret police because of his role in inspiring the Solidarity trade union's opposition to communist rule, which collapsed in 1989.
The release of communist-era information has created turmoil in Poland recently with the leak of an index to files in the custody of the remembrance institute. That list, which was posted on the Internet, created controversy and confusion because it names people who informed and people who were spied on without distinguishing between them.