Stanisław Wielgus

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His Excellency
Stanisław Wielgus
Archbishop Emeritus of Warsaw
BpStanilawWielgus.jpg
Archdiocese Warsaw
Province Warsaw
Appointed 6 December 2006
Installed 5 January 2007
Term ended 6 January 2007
Predecessor Józef Glemp
Successor Kazimierz Nycz
Other posts Titular Archbishop of Viminacium
Orders
Ordination 10 June 1962
by Piotr Kałwa
Consecration 1 August 1999
by Józef Glemp
Personal details
Birth name Stanisław Wojciech Wielgus
Born (1939-04-23) 23 April 1939 (age 78)
Wierzchowiska Drugie, Lublin Voivodeship
Nationality Polish
Denomination Roman Catholic
Previous post Płock
Alma mater
Motto Aeternae Sapientiae et Caritati (Eternal Wisdom and Love)
Styles of
Stanisław Wielgus
Mitre (plain).svg
Reference style The Most Reverend
Spoken style Your Excellency
Religious style Monsignor
Posthumous style n/a

Stanisław Wojciech Wielgus (born 23 April 1939) is a former Roman Catholic archbishop of Warsaw. After his appointment to the position of archbishop by Pope Benedict XVI on 6 December 2006, he assumed the office in a private installation ceremony on 5 January 2007, only to resign two days later, less than an hour before his public installation ceremony, because of a scandal connected with his cooperation with the Służba Bezpieczeństwa, the Polish communist secret police.

Biography[edit]

Stanisław Wielgus was born in Wierzchowiska, in what is today Lublin Region. At the age of 23 he was ordained a priest on 10 June 1962 by Bishop Piotr Kałwa. An expert in Polish philosophy and medieval philosophy, he spent thirty years teaching in the faculty of philosophy of the Catholic University of Lublin, serving three terms as rector. He taught at the University of Munich, from 1973 to 1975 and again in 1978, where Professor Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, was teaching as an associate. From 1990 to 1993 he was the vice-chairman of the Conference of Rectors of Polish Universities. He served as a member and consultant on the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, and a member of the Humanities section of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts.

Wielgus was appointed Bishop of Płock on 24 May 1999 by Pope John Paul II, and was consecrated by Cardinal Józef Glemp on 1 August of that year. He was Bishop of Płock from 1 August 1999 until 2006, when he was named Archbishop of Warsaw by Benedict XVI on 6 December 2006.

On 29 December 2006 Wielgus was given the special title of Honorary Resident of Płock. During his last religious ceremony in Płock the congregation exclaimed "Thank you".

Archbishop Wielgus took the "oath of fidelity" to the Holy See on 5 January 2007,[1] and in the same evening, he took canonical possession of the archdiocese in a private ceremony in which his bull of appointment was formally read before the chapter of Canons of the Cathedral of Warsaw. From that point, according to Canon Law, he was Archbishop of Warsaw. His public installation was scheduled for 7 January 2007; however, he resigned from the position the day of the scheduled installation as the result of a scandal connected to his cooperation with the Służba Bezpieczeństwa under the dictatorship.

Cooperation with the secret police[edit]

On 20 December 2006, journalists found documents from the dictatorship's archives according to which Archbishop Wielgus collaborated—or at least conversed—with the secret police during communist rule in Poland. This development was considered to be particularly significant in the context of post-communist Polish politics, because public figures, particularly politicians, can be officially censured and barred from holding public office if found to have collaborated with the Security Services (Polish: Służba Bezpieczeństwa) of the People's Republic of Poland (Polish: PRL, Polska Rzeczpospolita Ludowa).[2] The process of review of the Security Service's files, known in Poland as lustration (Pol: Lustracja) has been the source of many political scandals in recent years. The Polish human rights ombudsman, Janusz Kochanowski, said on 4 January 2007 that there was evidence in the secret police archives that Archbishop Wielgus knowingly cooperated with the dictatorship.

Archbishop Wielgus acknowledged that he signed a cooperation statement in 1978, but insisted that he did so only under coercion and disputed the length and characterization of his contact as described in the published reports.[3] He made a public statement on 4 January 2007 indicating that he only provided information concerning his own academic work, and that the reports seriously distorted the truth.[3] However, according to the Polish national newspaper Rzeczpospolita, Wielgus had a more extensive role than he admitted, and alleged that he provided information about student activities as far back as 1967, when he was a philosophy student at the Catholic University of Lublin. Archbishop Wielgus only acknowledged a relationship beginning in 1978. Wielgus asked the Polish Bishops' Conference to examine the files pertaining to him.

The day after the discovery of the incriminating documents on 20 December 2006, the Catholic News Service announced that the Vatican Press Office had issued a statement of support regarding Wielgus: "The Holy See, in deciding the nomination of the new archbishop of Warsaw, took into consideration all the circumstances of his life, including those regarding his past .... (Pope Benedict XVI) has every confidence in Monsignor Stanisław Wielgus and in full conscience entrusted him the mission of pastor of the Archdiocese of Warsaw."[4]

Resignation[edit]

Stanisław Wielgus

Wielgus took formal canonical possession of the See of Warsaw as Archbishop in a private ceremony on 5 January 2007, and was due to be publicly installed on 7 January at a Solemn Mass in St. John's Cathedral in Warsaw. However, less than an hour before the ceremony, he resigned.[5] Some reports indicate that his resignation followed consultations within the Vatican and with the Polish government involving Pope Benedict and Polish president Lech Kaczyński.[6][7] Giovanni Battista Re, Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, explained to the Italian daily Corriere della Sera that Pope Benedict himself decided on the dismissal of the Archbishop, adding that "...when Monsignor Wielgus was nominated, we did not know anything about his collaboration with the secret services,"[8] The Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, stated that "The behaviour of (Archbishop) Wielgus during the years of the communist regime in Poland seriously compromised his authority, even with the faithful."[9]

Prior to the disclosure of his involvement with the Communist-era secret police, Wielgus, like most archbishops of Warsaw, had been widely expected to be appointed a Cardinal after the death of his predecessor.

Aftermath[edit]

Archbishop Wielgus was one of the successors to the legendary Cardinal and Archbishop of Warsaw, Stefan Wyszyński, who was jailed by the Communist government for years during the 1950s. He was also designated to serve in the city whose clergy were symbolised by Father Jerzy Popiełuszko, who was murdered by the same communist secret police with whom Wielgus collaborated; thus the revelations concerning Wielgus were particularly shocking in Polish religious and political contexts.[10]

A day after the Wielgus resignation, Father Janusz Bielanski resigned as rector of Wawel Cathedral in Krakow. According to a local church spokesman, Bielanski's resignation was "in connection with repeated allegations about his cooperation with the secret services" of the Communist era. He added that Krakow's archbishop, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, accepted the resignation.[11]

Wielgus as Archbishop Emeritus[edit]

Wielgus intended to continue teaching Polish philosophy and medieval philosophy, at the faculty of philosophy of the Catholic University of Lublin.[citation needed]

In early 2007 his relevant awareness that several priests in his former diocese of Płock were sexually abusing minors came to light.[12]

In February 2007 it emerged that Archbishop Wielgus was preparing a court case to at least partially clear his name and was to be defended by "Marek Małecki, the same lawyer who was recently successful in getting a clearing verdict for Małgorzata Niezabitowska, press aide for Poland’s first government after 1989 round table compromise agreement with the communists. The verdict for Niezabitowska said that while she had been a registered spy for the communists, there is no evidence to prove that she was fully aware of the fact. Now the vetting court will examine the case of Archbishop Wielgus, whose guilt was pronounced as beyond doubt by two independent historical committees".[13]

On 12 February 2007 Stanisław Wielgus received a letter from Pope Benedict XVI, in which the Pope wrote: I hope you will be working again for the Church in Poland.[14]

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Zygmunt Kamiński
Bishop of Płock
1999-2007
Succeeded by
Piotr Libera
Preceded by
Józef Glemp
Archbishop of Warsaw
2007
Succeeded by
Kazimierz Nycz