Polish bishop: No concealment

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WARSAW, Poland (AP) – The Roman Catholic prelate who resigned two days after becoming Warsaw’s archbishop denied Saturday that he had concealed his cooperation with the communist-era secret police from Pope Benedict XVI.

Nearly a week after Bishop Stanislaw Wielgus stunned Poles by resigning his new post minutes before his formal installation, he issued a statement reiterating the oath he made to the papal envoy in Warsaw in December. He also released a copy of the oath.

In the oath, as quoted by the PAP news agency, Wielgus said “I swear to God” that during meetings and talks with the secret security and intelligence forces in the 1970s, “I never spoke against the church, nor did I do or say anything bad against any clergy or lay people.”

Wielgus’ statement Saturday was a response to the papal nuncio, Archbishop Jozef Kowalczyk, who accused the bishop of withholding the truth about his collaboration from the Vatican.

“The information offered by Bishop Wielgus did not suggest any collaboration,” Kowalczyk said, adding that future bishop candidates should have their communist-era files checked before their nominations.

Wielgus decided to step down after a special church commission announced it found evidence he had agreed to cooperate with the communist secret services.

He has admitted to contacts with the security forces, but denied it was harmful.

Lech Walesa, Poland’s former president and a Nobel peace laureate, spoke in Wielgus’ defense Saturday, accusing former security agents of provoking the scandal.

“Archbishop Wielgus has committed a venial sin, a small thing that ruined an otherwise exemplary past,” Walesa told the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. “The consequences are decisively disproportionate to the merit he earned through his long pastoral life.”

The case has shaken the Polish church and led the nation’s leading bishops to call Friday for an investigation of their own files and of those of the rest of the clergy.

The church has been revered in this overwhelmingly Catholic country for what Poles see as its staunch resistance to the communist regime. Polish-born Pope John Paul II, the former archbishop of Krakow, is credited by many with helping hasten the regime’s demise in 1989 through his calls for peaceful resistance.

Church officials and historians say that while the church was a pillar of resistance in Poland, all clergy were under secret security pressure and some 10 percent to 15 percent of priests were intimidated into informing or otherwise cooperating with the secret police.

The issue largely lay dormant until after John Paul’s death in 2005, with some saying people were reluctant to raise the issue of collaboration in the Polish church for fear of embarrassing him.

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