Pope names new archbishop of Warsaw after spy scandal

VATICAN CITY Sat Mar 3, 2007 8:53am EST

Pope Benedict XVI (C) attends a meeting for the canonization of five new saints at the Vatican February 23, 2007. Pope Benedict on Saturday named Kazimierz Nycz, a bishop with a spotless record, as archbishop of Warsaw to replace a prelate who resigned in disgrace after admitting he spied for the communist police. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano/Pool

Pope Benedict XVI (C) attends a meeting for the canonization of five new saints at the Vatican February 23, 2007. Pope Benedict on Saturday named Kazimierz Nycz, a bishop with a spotless record, as archbishop of Warsaw to replace a prelate who resigned in disgrace after admitting he spied for the communist police.

Credit: Reuters/Osservatore Romano/Pool

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VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict on Saturday named Kazimierz Nycz, a bishop with a spotless record, as archbishop of Warsaw to replace a prelate who resigned in disgrace after admitting he spied for the communist police.

Nycz, 57, has been bishop of Koszalin-Kolobrzeg, a city on the Baltic coast, since 2004 and is believed to be totally free of any links with the communist-era secret services in the homeland of the late Pope John Paul.

He replaces Stanislaw Wielgus, who resigned on January 7 during the mass at which he was to have been invested in his new office. The incident was a major embarrassment for the Vatican and the Polish Church.

On the day he resigned, Wielgus apologized for his actions and admitted he had hurt the Church.

Wielgus spied on his fellow clerics, many of whom fought against the communist government. During the Cold War, hundreds of thousands of citizens in East bloc countries reported on their neighbors and co-workers.

A recent book disclosing Polish clergy who collaborated with communist-era secret services calls Nycz a totally incorruptible cleric.

The book, "Priests and the Security Service", says the secret police gave up on Nycz after years of trying to recruit or find something to blackmail him with.

Nycz, who was in charge of organizing the late Pope John Paul's trips to Poland, was under close secret police surveillance from 1978 until 1986, according to the book written by Catholic priest Tadeusz Isakowicz-Zaleski.

The book uses secret police files to paint a picture of Nycz as a ecclesiastical Mr. Clean.

"(Nycz) ardently performs his catechetical duties and inculcates in youth an idealistic ideology. He does not engage in secular lifestyles, has no known contacts with women, does not drink, smoke or own a car and uses public transport," the book quotes the secret police files as saying.

After yet another failed attempt to recruit the cleric in 1986, three years before the fall of communism, the agent in charge of tracking Nycz wrote in his report:

"The candidate openly refused to meet, and I suggest he should be deregistered as a candidate for secret informer and his files sent to the archives."

Last month, a judge ruled that Wielgus would have a chance to clear his name after he asked a special vetting court to accept his case, saying secret agents had blackmailed and harassed him into cooperating.

Wielgus follows a string of government officials who have turned to the court to clear their names since Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski came to power and launched a crusade to remove former communists and collaborators from public life.

(Additional reporting by Rob Strybel in Warsaw)

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