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Polish Bishops' Address on Archbishop's Resignation

1/16/2007 - 6:10 AM PST

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"Not Up to Us to Judge a Man, a Brother, Who Has Served the Church"


WARSAW, Poland, JAN. 16, 2007 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the statement released by the Polish bishops' conference after the resignation of Archbishop Wielgus of Warsaw, who had admitted to collaborating with the regime's secret police during the Communist era.

The bishops asked that the statement be read today in all Polish parishes.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. In recent days we have experienced dramatic events, related to the archbishop metropolitan of Warsaw, Stanislaw Wielgus, resigning from office, on the day designated for his solemn installation in the Warsaw Cathedral. We have painfully followed the accusations brought against him in the last weeks, concerning his entanglement in the collaboration with the secret service and the People's Republic of Poland intelligence. This has caused a wave of unrest and even distrust toward the new minister. Divisions in the community of believers became apparent. We are grateful to the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, for his fatherly help in the evangelical standing up to the difficult situation which we face. Thanks to his decision and attitude we are better prepared to live through this unusual time courageously and fruitfully. We also thank Archbishop Jozef Kowalczyk, the papal nuncio in Poland, for his brotherly and competent help.

On Jan. 5, 2007, in an appeal directed to the community of Warsaw Church, Archbishop Wielgus confirmed the fact of the above-mentioned entanglement and admitted having harmed Church through it, as well as -- in the face of a media campaign -- having done damage to the Church by denying the facts of collaboration with the secret service.

We accept with respect his decision about resignation from the ministry of archbishop metropolitan of Warsaw. It is not up to us to judge a man, a brother, who has served the Church in a faithful and zealous way, including his time as a professor and rector of the Catholic University of Lublin, and then as the Bishop of Plock. We want to support the archbishop with our prayer in the full clarification of the truth. At the same time regret to state that not taking into account the widely accepted rule of the presumption of innocence contributed to creating an atmosphere of pressure around the accused archbishop, which did not make it easy for him to present the public opinion with an appropriate defense, to which he was entitled.

2. We state once again that a gloomy past from the period of a totalitarian system dominating our country for decades continues to mark its presence. As we have written in the "Polish Episcopate Memorandum Concerning The Collaboration of Some Clergy with The Secret Service in Poland in The Years 1944-1989," "The records kept in the Institute of National Remembrance archives uncover a part of the vast areas of enslaving and neutralizing the Polish society by the security services of a totalitarian state. It is not, however, a complete and singular record of past times." Only a critical and solid analysis of all the available sources can allow us to approach the truth. One-sided reading of documents created by officers of the repression apparatus of a Communist state, hostile toward the Church, can seriously harm people, destroy the links of social trust and as a consequence prove to be a posthumous victory of an inhuman system, in which we were fated to live.

The memorandum also states that, "The Church is being accused of the intention of hiding a truth difficult for her, of an attempt at protecting the people responsible for collaboration with the secret service and forgetting the victims of this collaboration. As a consequence, the authority of the Church is being undermined, its credibility is being weakened. All too easily it is being forgotten that in the times of communist totalitarianism the whole Church in Poland constantly stood against the enslavement of the society and was an oasis of freedom and truth."

3. Therefore we repeat once more: The Church is not afraid of the truth, even if this is a hard, shameful, truth, and approaching this truth is sometimes very painful. We deeply believe that the truth liberates, because Jesus Christ himself is a liberating truth. The Church has been struggling with sin inside herself and in the world, to which it is sent, for 2,000 years. Sin degrades man and distorts the image and similitude of God in him. The Church does not carry this through under her own power. It does it under the power of the one, who as the only one can make us free from evil. Therefore we begin every Eucharist with a confession of our sinfulness: "I confess to the almighty Godů." This is not a void liturgical formula, but a deep confrontation with our weakness and faithlessness before the face of the merciful God. Similarly, we ask in every Eucharist: ...

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