Page 4, 23rd February 2007

23rd February 2007
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Page 4, 23rd February 2007 — `Spy priest' archbishop retracts his confession
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Organisations: KAI
Locations: Warsaw

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`Spy priest' archbishop retracts his confession

BY WILL GORE

THE ARCHBISHOP at the centre of the "spy priest" scandal in Poland has withdrawn his confession that he spied for the Communist secret police.

Lawyers representing disgraced Archbishop Stanislaw Wielgus said the prelate's admission had been "added to" and evidence found in secret police files had been falsified.

Archbishop Wielgus will now go to court in an attempt to clear his name.

Marek Malecki, a lawyer acting for Archbishop Wielgus, said: "There was neither secret nor conscious collaboration. In my view, the archbishop acted in the interests of the Church."

He added that a trial would allow "a different evaluation of the stance of clergy at the time".

Last month, in a statement issued just hours before his inauguration as spiritual head of the Warsaw diocese, Archbishop Wieglus admitted that he had met secret police agents in the 1960s and 1970s and signed a collaboration pledge during a "moment of weakness".

But Mr Malecki told the Polish Catholic news agency KAI that Communist secret police forged Archbishop Wielgus's signature.

Furthermore, he added, the archbishop's January "admission statement" was doctored without his knowledge.

The following words were allegedly added to the text: "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."

Meanwhile, another Polish bishop has faced allegations of cooperating with Communist agents. Without offering any supporting evidence, a popular Polish television programme claimed that Archbishop Jozef Michalik of Przemysl was a collaborator who used the code name "Zefir".

The media storm over spy priests broke out in December after Archbishop Wielgus was named as the new leader of the Warsaw archdiocese. The Gazeta Polska weekly claimed that Archbishop Wielgus had been a "trusted collaborator" of Poland's secret police for 22 years.

Poland's civil rights commissioner and the bishops' conference set up two separate commissions that confirmed the allegations in early January. Representatives of both commissions said they had seen documents confirming the archbishop's "deliberate secret cooperation".

In another development, a separate investigation has revealed the identity of another Polish priest accused of spying on the future pope, John Paul II.

A 450-page study claims that Fr Mieczyslaw Satory was offered cash, football tickets and coffee in return for spying on Karol Wojtyla, then Archbishop of Krakow. Fr Satory, who lived in the same apartment block as Archbishop Wojtyla, is said to have been enlisted by the secret police in 1947. According to the report, he passed on documents and photographs from the archdiocese's office to the secret police and was trained to use a miniature spy camera.




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