Saturday, February 17, 2007

Polish archbishop retracts statement that he aided communist police

A Polish archbishop who resigned after admitting collaboration with communist secret police has withdrawn his confession and asked a court to clear his name, Catholic News Service reports.
Lawyers for former Warsaw Archbishop Stanislaw Wielgus said he did not collaborate and that his secret police files were falsified. "There was neither secret not conscious collaboration -- in my view, the archbishop acted in the interests of the church," said Marek Malecki, a lawyer acting for Archbishop Wielgus. He said a trial would allow "a different evaluation of the stance of clergy at the time."
Waldemar Gontarski, another lawyer, told the Zycie Warszawy daily Feb. 13 that the national appeal the archbishop delivered Jan. 5 was not his own and that "not just his signature, but the whole file covering his alleged cooperation with the secret services has been falsified."
Malecki filed a petition with Warsaw's Verification Court on behalf of Archbishop Wielgus, who resigned Jan. 7, two hours before his formal installation ceremony as archbishop of Warsaw.
In his January 5 appeal to Catholics, Archbishop Wielgus said he had met with secret police agents on numerous occasions in the 1960s and 1970s and signed a collaboration pledge during a "moment of weakness." Malecki told the Polish Catholic news agency KAI that passages had been added to Archbishop Wielgus' Jan. 5 statement without his knowledge, including the words: "I harmed the church by the fact of my entanglement. I harmed it again when, in recent days, facing a heated media campaign, I denied the fact of my cooperation."
He added that the accusations against the archbishop had disregarded Polish law, which requires collaboration to be established by a constitutional court ruling, and said Archbishop Wielgus also had a right to have his case partly heard in secret. "This is an absolutely exceptional situation - a member of the clergy has decided to submit himself to verification to obtain moral exoneration," said the lawyer, who has acted successfully for other high-profile clients. "I can assure you the archbishop is determined to defend his rights and present the truth about his activities in that period to public opinion."
In December Archbishop Wielgus, who has not spoken publicly since resigning, was named to succeed Cardinal Jozef Glemp as head of the Warsaw Archdiocese. However, the Gazeta Polska weekly accused Archbishop Wielgus of having been a "trusted collaborator" of Poland's secret police, the Sluzba Bezpieczenstwa, for 22 years.
The allegation was confirmed in early January by separate commissions appointed by Poland's civil rights commissioner and the bishops' conference; representatives of both said they had seen documents confirming the archbishop's "deliberate secret cooperation."
However, in a January 9 Polish TV interview, Cardinal Glemp said the archbishop had fallen victim to an "organized media action" and urged him to take legal action.