Monday, January 8, 2007; 6:55 AM
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican did not know the former Warsaw archbishop had spied for Poland's former communist regime when Pope Benedict nominated him last month, a senior cardinal was quoted as saying on Monday.
Archbishop Stanislaw Wielgus resigned on Sunday after admitting to collaborating with Poland's communist secret police -- conduct that the Vatican's top spokesman acknowledged on Sunday had "gravely compromised his authority."
Benedict had defended Wielgus in the face of a rising tide of allegations, and the Vatican sent out a statement last month saying it had taken his past into account when it elevated the former bishop of Plock to the prestigious post.
But Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, who heads the Congregation for Bishops, the powerful department which decides the future careers of aspiring churchmen, said that the Vatican did not know the truth about Wielgus.
"When Monsignor Wielgus was nominated, we did not know anything about his collaboration with the secret services," Battista Re was quoted as saying in Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper.
Italy's La Repubblica newspaper, without naming sources, said the Pope only received an 80-page fax about Wielgus' spying on Saturday evening. The fax was sent by the Polish government and translated into Benedict's native language, German.
The scandal has been a major embarrassment for the Pontiff, who last year visited Poland, paying tribute to his Polish-born predecessor John Paul II -- widely credited with helping hasten the fall of the communist regime there.
The Vatican on Sunday accused the Polish Church's opponents of vindictively dragging up Wielgus's past. Spokesman Federico Lombardi blamed a "strange alliance between the persecutors of the past and their adversaries" for a "wave of attacks."
The Pope has not yet personally commented on the scandal. He is scheduled later on Monday to deliver his "state of the world" address -- a traditional New Year speech to diplomats accredited to the Vatican from more than 170 countries.