Polish Dominicans deny priest was a spy

A Dominican accused of spying for Poland's communist government while he was close to Pope John Paul II's entourage spoke too loosely about the inner workings of the Vatican but was not an informer, the Order's official investigating the allegations said on Saturday.

Associated Press reports that Fr Maciej Zieba, who is head of the Dominicans in Poland, had harsh words for the Polish institute that made the accusations against the Fr Konrad Stanislaw Hejmo, who also is Dominican, saying the accusations were made out of context.

Zieba flew to Rome to question Hejmo shortly after Poland's National Remembrance Institute, which guards communist-era police files, accused the priest of collaborating with Polish secret services when the nation was under communist rule.

The Polish-born John Paul, elected pope in 1978, would have been of great interest to the communist secret police because of his role in inspiring the Solidarity trade union opposition to the communist government, which collapsed in 1989.

Throughout the late John Paul's papacy, Hejmo, a conspicuous figure in his white Dominican robes, was seen accompanying Polish pilgrims at the Vatican. He was close to the papal entourage, although not part of John Paul's inner circle.

Hejmo, 69, has acknowledged sharing reports that he wrote for Polish church officials with an acquaintance, a Pole who lived in Germany, and said he received money from the man through other priests.

But he has insisted he did not suspect the man might have been a spy, and he denied being a secret agent, describing his actions as "naive."

Dominican Order Says Priest Wasn't Spy (Newsday 7/5/05)

9 May 2005