WARSAW, Poland – Poland’s Catholic bishops said the Vatican has cleared them of collaborating with communist-era secret police.
“The Holy See states that it finds no basis for accusing Polish bishops’ conference members of committed and willing collaboration,” said a March 11 statement from the bishops’ conference following its plenary meeting. “Because of this, we consider the matter closed. Wishing to concentrate on its pastoral mission, the conference does not intend in the future to take any position on such material.”
The statement said a report by a special bishops’ commission looked at claims of collaboration by current bishops under the 1947-89 communist rule. That report was forwarded to the Vatican in October.
The statement said Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, exonerated the bishops in a letter to Archbishop Jozef Michalik of Przemysl, president of the Polish bishops’ conference.
The bishops’ statement said the cardinal’s letter “states that the Polish bishops, although not obliged to do so, have faced up courageously to the communist past.”
“We are convinced the faithful will not succumb to attempts to undermine the moral authority of the church and its pastors, but will pray for the church and build it up with their loyalty,” the statement said.
Archbishop Michalik said March 11 that Cardinal Bertone had “expressed surprise” that the Polish bishops had volunteered to conduct their own inquiries and confirmed that the church reports would not be made public.
“There’s been enough froth over this issue,” the archbishop told journalists. “We have nothing to hide. But you can’t pressure, bully and incite particular bishops into publicly committing hara-kiri.”
However, the Gazeta Polska newspaper criticized the bishops’ conference statement, saying March 12 that the Vatican had based its ruling on material selected by the bishops themselves, rather than on its own investigation.
Father Tadeusz Isakowicz-Zaleski, an expert on communist-era collaboration, told Poland’s TVN 24 news channel he also believed the Vatican had not been shown key documents and that inquiries into church collaboration would not be “settled by a communique.”