Polish Archbishop resigns after spying revelations

Monday, January 8, 2007

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St. John's Cathedral, where the former Archbishop announced his resingation

Stanislaw Wielgus, the Archbishop of Warsaw, resigned yesterday after admitting to have worked for the secret police of Poland during the operation of the Communist government. At a mass in Warsaw Cathedral, the Archbishop was to have marked his formal installation. Instead, he tendered his resignation. The resignation came at the request of Pope Benedict XVI, who had appointed Wielgus one month previously.

The reaction to the resignation is mixed. Polish President Lech Kaczyński, who attended the service, applauded the resignation. Wielgus' supporters gathered outside the cathedral, yelling "Stay with us". Those opposed to the Archbishop also gathered outside, carrying banners that said "non possumus" ("we cannot allow that").

Since the late 1960s, the former Archbishop spied on members of the Church for about 20 years. After the Gazeta Polska newspaper published allegations of his actions on December 20, Wielgus denied them. However, when church officials announced they had obtained documents showing that Wielgus had willingly co-operated with the secret services, he acknowledged that the accusations were true. There is some suspicion[1] that the documents were leaked by communists, in retribution for the Catholic Church's role in the fall of European communism.

A poll, conducted by the TNS OBOP Institute and published January 5 in the Polish daily Dziennik Polska-Europa-Świat, revealed that 26% supported the Archbishop's immediate resignation, 41% thought that he would have to resign "after some explanations", 20% believed that he should keep his position, and 13% had "no opinion".

Cardinal Józef Glemp will retain the position of apostolic administrator until a replacement is chosen.