Cardinal Jozef Glemp, Poland's Roman Catholic primate, said today that the killing of pro-Solidarity priest Jerzy Popieluszko by secret policemen raises questions for communist officials about governing "with fear" and in "isolation from society."
Speaking at an evening mass in the capital's main cathedral of St. John the Baptist, the church leader said the death of the Warsaw cleric would "quicken the search" for a solution to Poland's internal political differences. But he cautioned against believing that an "easy and ready solution" can be found.
In language unusually sharp for Glemp, who has tended in his 3 1/2 years as primate to pull his punches with the government, he also criticized recent official press accounts publicizing internal church disputes -- accounts that he charged tried to "show the Polish church as ungrateful and malicious."
Relations between Poland's influential Roman Catholic episcopate and the government were severely strained by the killing of Popieluszko in October. Joint talks on major projects have been stalled since, and Glemp has called publicly for a "full disclosure" from communist authorities of the circumstances surrounding the cleric's assassination. At the same time, the primate has been instrumental in keeping anger and bitterness among the country's overwhelmingly Catholic population from boiling over into street protests and other violence.
In turn, the government has made certain gestures to the church to win confidence in its claims that a thorough investigation has been conducted. Several experts picked by the church were allowed to witness the official autopsy done on Popieluszko's body, and representatives of the Warsaw curia have been given passes to attend the week-old trial in Torun of three junior-ranking secret policemen charged with the priest's killing and of a colonel accused of instigating and assisting in the crime.
A bid by the church for status in the trial as an additional plaintiff on the ground that it is an aggrieved party was rejected by the court. But two prominent lawyers who were to represent the church nevertheless have been allowed to question defendants and witnesses as attorneys for Popieluszko's family.
Most of Glemp's sermon dealt with the religious significance of the Epiphany. Toward the close of his homily, the primate turned to Poland's internal divisions.
"Coming closer to finding solutions in accordance with the spirit of the nation is a long process," he told a congregation of several thousand in the cathedral in Warsaw's Old Town.
"The abduction and martyr's death of the Rev. Jerzy Popieluszko will quicken the search for a solution. The trial being held now is a chance to ponder the tragedy that touched a chaplain and the tragedy that authorities find themselves in.
"This pondering leads toward a question," Glemp went on. "Must the practice of authority be so tragic? Should one always exercise authority with fear? Must authority isolate itself from society?"
Noting that society cannot exist without some authority, Glemp remarked: "If someone thinks that in this situation there will be an easy and ready solution, an easy means of solving problems, he is mistaken."
He left unsaid what he thought the role of communist authority in Poland should be, but he said the church's duty would be to "guard the values of the nation, its past and its culture," adding that the Catholic Church is "deeply rooted in the Polish nation."
Since the start of communist rule in Poland at the end of World War II, the Polish church has built itself back from a weakened condition to become the strongest independent institution in the Soviet Bloc.
Despite continuing church-state flare-ups, communist and Catholic officials have reached a relatively stable working relationship, at least at senior levels. But Glemp was clearly upset today by what he saw as antichurch propaganda recently creeping into the official press.
He cited a report shown on Polish television Friday night, and carried in state-controlled papers yesterday, about a dispute in the village of Boleslaw in the Katowice region between parishioners and church authorities. The row involves a popular elderly parish priest, the Rev. Wladyslaw Zachariasz, whom villagers are trying to keep in town apparently against the wishes of the bishop of Kielce. According to the Polish press accounts, parishioners have occupied the rectory in Boleslaw. The Kielce curia responded by sending 60 priests to the village in a move described by irate parishioners as a "raid" and "roundup."