01/09/2007, 00.00
POLAND – VATICAN

Special meeting of Polish bishops after the Wielgus affair

Strange alliance between nationalists and former Communists seems to emerge. Bishops and priests want to know what is in their secret service files. Poland’s press is speculating that Mgr Kowalczyk, the papal nuncio, will pay the price for not fully informing the Holy See.

Rome (AsiaNews) – Poland’s Catholic bishops are set to gather for a special meeting to examine the situation created by the resignation of the archbishop of Warsaw. Mgr Stanisław Wielgus is accused of collaborating with the secret services of the old Communist regime. What for many is worrisome is the “political” use of what Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi calls an “enormous amount of material” that was “produced by officials of an oppressive and blackmailing regime.”

The Church seems to be under attack from a “strange alliance” of nationalists and former Communists which seems bent to weaken the Church’s historic authority without examining what officials and leaders of the former communist regime did.

Allegations about Wielgus’s collaboration with the secret services dating back to the time when he was a young priest still studying appeared in the pages of Gazeta Polska, a weekly magazine considered to be rightwing. But the lack of sources led to a flurry of criticism.

Further documented reports led the government and the Church to set up their own commission of inquiry. They also led single researchers to prod the issue on their own.

Some sources suggest that the Church commission moved only on the immediate eve of the new archbishop’s inauguration.

Today another weekly magazine, Wprost, attacked Mgr Jerzy Dąbrowski, who worked in the secretariats of cardinals Wyszynski and Glemp, and who died in 1991 in a car accident whose circumstances have now raised questions. Between 1963 and 1970, he is said to have reported to the secret services what Polish bishops discussed in their meetings.

What has happened to Mgr Wielgus has led Poland’s press to ask questions about whether the process dubbed the “purification of memory”, which is behind the investigations of collaborators, will accelerate or not.

Opinions vary. According to Fr Józef Kloch, spokesman for the Polish Bishops’ Conference, the Church’s Historical Commission has received requests from bishops and priests for further research into the documents that concern them since the Communist regime had most clergymen under close surveillance.

For the bishop of Lublin, Józef Życiński, everything now will move more quickly. He warned however that the research should not be conducted like China’s Cultural Revolution using documentation as a weapon and without proper respect for people.

More importantly, only a few dioceses have set up their own historical commission and are currently equipped to conduct an investigation.

Many people are concerned that since March 2006, secret police files held at the Institute of National Remembrance, hitherto accessible only to scholars, are now also available to journalists.

The Polish press is also wondering what impact Mgr Stanisław Wielgus’s case will have on Mgr Józef Kowalczyk, the papal nuncio in Poland since 1989.

For many he bears most of the responsibility for involving the Holy See into the affair by failing to disclose all the elements pertaining to the case.

Parallels are now being drawn between the nuncio’s conduct in this affair and his actions during the scandal involving Mgr Juliusz Paetz, the archbishop of Poznan, who was accused of sexual abusing priests and seminarians.

Mgr Paetz was forced to resign in 2002 only after Wanda Półtawska, a psychiatrist, intervened with Pope John Paul II.

She and then Mgr Wojtyła co-authored a book title Love and Responsibility. She was also restored to health in 1962 from a terminal cancer thanks to the intercession by the friar of the stigmata, Padre Pio, intercession which Mgr Wojtyła personally asked for. (FP)

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