New Warsaw prelate a spy?

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Vatican and the Polish bishops are convinced Warsaw’s new Archbishop Stanislaw Wielgus was not a spy for the secret police under Poland’s former communist regime, the Vatican said.

“In deciding to nominate the new metropolitan archbishop of Warsaw, the Holy See took into consideration all the circumstances of his life, including those regarding his past,” said a statement issued Dec. 21 by the Vatican press office.

“This means that the Holy Father has full trust in His Excellency Msgr. Stanislaw Wielgus and, with full awareness, entrusted to him the mission of pastor of the Archdiocese of Warsaw,” the statement said.

The Polish Catholic Church has been rocked for months by revelations that some members of the clergy cooperated with the secret services of the country’s old communist regimes.

Rumors had been circulating for weeks that Archbishop Wielgus, formerly bishop of Plock, had been among the collaborators.

After his appointment as archbishop of Warsaw was announced Dec. 6, the rumors were published more widely.

The Gazeta Polska newspaper said it had conducted its own investigation into the secret police archives and discovered evidence that Archbishop Wielgus had been spying since the 1960s.

The archbishop flatly denied the allegations, saying that like many members of the church he had been approached by security services but had never revealed any information that could have harmed anyone.

Along with the Vatican statement, the press office published a Dec. 20 statement from the president, vice president and general secretary of the Polish bishops’ conference.

The conference officials said the accusations caused “public harm” to Archbishop Wielgus’ reputation and were “a clear example” of the wild accusations that have been circulating against prominent Poles.

“This situation is especially offensive in the case of a man of the church,” they said.

“The simple verification of a conversation between a priest and an exponent of the communist security services does not in itself prove an immoral collaboration given the fact that often these conversations, following the consent of one’s bishop, had an official character or had to be undertaken for pastoral reasons or in order to undertake studies,” the statement said.

The bishops’ conference leaders asked the Polish people to respect the decision of Pope Benedict and the trust he showed in appointing Archbishop Wielgus to Warsaw.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.