Archbishop Stanislaw Wielgus, who had been appointed the new head of the Warsaw Catholic Archdiocese in Poland, dramatically resigned this morning (7 January 2006), less than an hour before he was due to be installed in the city's historic cathedral.
As reported on Ekklesia yesterday, firm findings by a church commission showed that Wielgus had collaborated with the former communist country‚Äôs secret police on numerous occasions.
Until yesterday he maintained, against testimony from many others, that his actions were civic and had not endangered others. Earlier he had denied claims of collaboration.
It is thought that the combination of the weight of evidence, the repeated lies that the archbishop told and the pressure of Polish and international opinion finally forced Wielgus to step down.
Cardinal Jozef Glemp had supported him up until the last moment, but church insiders say that Poland‚Äôs hierarchy was deeply divided on the appointment, with many bishops feeling that Archbishop Stanislaw Wielgus compromises and falsehoods would bring discredit on the Catholic Church.
The news of the resignation came unexpectedly in the morning, in the midst of preparations for the archbishop's inauguration ceremony, reported Radio Polonia.
The decision partly came about, say analysts, as a result of negotiations at Vatican level. According to some sources, it was Pope Benedict XVI personally who suggested that Archbishop Wielgus should step down.
His concern was that Wielgus did not reveal the whole truth in his recent statements to the Holy See about his past collaboration with Poland's communist regime.
Instead of the inauguration ceremony, a thanksgiving Mass for the work of the previous Metropolitan Archbishop of Warsaw, Jozef Glemp, took place in the Warsaw Cathedral at 11.00 am.
Hundreds of supporters and opponents of Archbishop Wielgus had gathered in front of the Cathedral for the inauguration Mass. Those who wished the archbishop to step down carried banners saying "non possumus" ("we cannot allow that").
Those who came to support the new Metropolitan interrupted his speech at the beginning of the Mass, shouting "stay with us". After the Mass, the crowds went out on the streets and marched to the Warsaw residence of the archbishop.
Reports suggest that a reporter for Gazeta Polska, the weekly newspaper which first wrote about the church spying scandal, was physically attacked by a crowd of the Wielgus‚Äô supporters.