Archbishop of Warsaw resigns over secret police spy scandal

The Archbishop of Warsaw resigned less than an hour before a mass marking his installation, after revelations that he co-operated with Communist-era secret police plunged Poland's Roman Catholic Church into crisis.

Stanislaw Wielgus appeared to fight back the tears as he made his announcement in St John's Cathedral in Warsaw. It ended a scandal that has divided the country, embarrassed the Vatican and dealt a blow to Poland's highly influential church.

Earlier he had denied he was a spy but admitted he had agreed to communicate with the secret police because he feared refusal to do so would have threatened his studies. The actions had, he conceded, failed to show "decent prudence, courage and determination".

The dispute has reopened wounds from the years of struggle against Poland's Communist regime. While the Catholic Church was a source of support for the Solidarity democracy campaigners, some historians estimate that about one in 10 members of the clergy collaborated with the government of the time.

Yesterday Archbishop Wielgus, 67, bowed to growing anger among the public and stood down minutes before the ceremony Shaking visibly, he said: "I place my resignation from the post of Metropolitan Archbishop of Warsaw in Your Holiness's hands." While the announcement was greeted by applause, some among the congregation shouted "no" and "stay with us".

Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation, according to a statement half an hour earlier from the Vatican's mission in Poland. The Vatican has asked Cardinal Jozef Glemp, Archbishop Wielgus's predecessor, to return to his post temporarily.

Yesterday's ceremony, attended by the Polish President, Lech Kaczynski, became a service in honour of Cardinal Glemp who defended the outgoing Archbishop. He said: "Today, a trial of Archbishop Wielgus took place. What kind of trial was it? Based on bits of papers, copies of copies of some documents. We don't want such trials."

Nevertheless the unprecedented departure seems to have been forced by pressure from the public and politicians. More than half of the 1,024 people questioned in a survey for the broadcaster TVN said they were against the nomination after learning about the collaboration with the secret service.

Moreover the scandal has coincided with a renewed push by the right-wing government led by the Law and Justice Party to purge from public office those deemed to have co-operated with the Communist authorities. Mr Kaczynski applauded after the Archbishop announced his resignation. The President hascalled for those who co-operated with the Communists to be on rooted out of national life.

Andrzej Paczkowski, a historian who was asked by Poland's human rights ombudsman to investigate allegations that Archbishop Wielgus was a spy, said last week there was evidence that he had such a role in the 1970s. Poland's Catholic Church Historical Commission said he had co-operated with the secret services before the collapse of Communism.

In a statement last month the Vatican said it took into account "all of the circumstances" of the Archbishop's life "including those regarding his past" when it appointed him.

The Pope made no comment on the resignation when addressing Polish pilgrims at St Peter's Square in Vatican City.

A spokesman for the Polish episcopate said the legal basis for the resignation was part of church law requiring a bishop to stand down if he is "unable to properly exercise his office [and therefore] is strongly requested to submit his resignation".

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn