Polish Archbishop Admits Signing Communist Pact

Cleric Allegedly Cooperated With Secret Police

By Vanessa Gera
Associated Press
Saturday, January 6, 2007; Page A09

WARSAW, Jan. 5 -- After calls for him to step aside, Warsaw's incoming Roman Catholic archbishop admitted Friday that he had signed an agreement to cooperate with the secret police during the Communist era and said he was leaving his fate in the hands of Pope Benedict XVI.

Archbishop Stanislaw Wielgus, whose installation ceremony is scheduled for Sunday, expressed regret for an act that he acknowledged "harmed the church." He said that despite signing the document, he "never informed on anyone and never tried to hurt anyone."

"Before you today, I confess to the mistake committed by me years ago, just as I have confessed to the Holy Father," Wielgus said in an open letter to Poland's Roman Catholic clergy and believers.

The mounting allegations against Wielgus have gripped the heavily Roman Catholic country, where the church is esteemed for its opposition to the former Communist government. People widely revere the late Polish-born Pope John Paul II, who is credited by some with hastening the fall of the Communist system.

The scandal grew after church officials said Friday that documents at a historical institute indicated Wielgus had willingly collaborated. A church commission said documents "confirm Rev. Stanislaw Wielgus's willingness for conscious and secret cooperation with the security organs of Communist Poland." The statement added, however, that there is no proof that he "inflicted any harm on anyone."

Newspapers on Friday devoted their front pages to the revelations. A government commission also concluded he had collaborated.

The allegations surfaced in the right-wing Gazeta Polska weekly, two weeks after the Vatican appointed Wielgus archbishop of Warsaw. He initially denied any collaboration.

In a statement Friday, Wielgus acknowledged that he had contact with the secret service, but he said documents indicating he collaborated were written by the secret police and reflected their account of events, not the truth.

Wielgus, who has been bishop of Plock since 1999, said he was leaving his fate in the hands of the pope: "With full humility, I declare to the Holy Father that I will submit to each of his decisions."

Wielgus is the latest in a series of church and public figures in Poland to face allegations of collaboration with the secret police before Communist rule ended in 1989.

In his statement, Wielgus acknowledged signing a declaration of cooperation in 1978 when seeking permission to travel to Munich because he was threatened by "a very brutal" secret police agent. "That was my moment of weakness," he wrote, insisting that he never cooperated with the secret police.

He also said many statements about him in the police documents are wrong, including that he spoke Spanish or had publications abroad. "The characterization of me in the secret police material differs so much from the truth, that I would not recognize myself on their basis if it were anonymous," he said.

During a visit to Warsaw in May 2006, Benedict cautioned against passing judgment on people who lived in different times, remarks that came in the wake of similar allegations against a Polish priest.

"We must guard against the arrogant claim of setting ourselves up to judge earlier generations who lived in different times and in different circumstances," Benedict told clergy. His comments were met with applause.

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