Saturday, February 24, 2007

Court to investigate allegations that former Warsaw archbishop collaborated with secret police

A court agreed Thursday to the former Warsaw archbishop's request for an investigation into allegations that he cooperated with the communist-era secret police.

Poland's powerful Roman Catholic Church was rattled when Stanislaw Wielgus abruptly resigned as Warsaw archbishop just minutes before he was to be formally installed at an opulent Mass on Jan. 7.

He stepped down after admitting he agreed to cooperate with the much-hated communist-era secret services but denied hurting anyone.

Last week, Wielgus asked a special screening court to take up his case in an attempt to clear his name.

The court allows public individuals accused of collaboration to seek a ruling on whether they were informers — a step some opt for in an attempt to clear their names.

Poland's screening law exempts members of the clergy, but because Wielgus served as rector of the Catholic University in Lublin, judge Malgorzata Mojkowska ruled he also holds a right to screening.

Wielgus has acknowledged signing documents agreeing to cooperate with secret police, but argues they are now unreliable.

In a letter made public on Tuesday, Pope Benedict XVI expressed "understanding" and a "wish" that Wielgus "resume his activity in the service of Christ."

The Wielgus scandal spurred Poland's church to finally address the issue of collaboration among the clergy — a touchy issue given Polish reverence for the Church as a bastion of resistance to the Communists.

Polish-born Pope John Paul II, the former archbishop of Krakow, is credited by many with helping hasten the regime's demise in 1989.