The priest in charge of caring for Polish pilgrims at the Vatican collaborated with the communist secret police in the 1980s when the late Polish-born John Paul II was the pope, an official said Wednesday.
An investigation into communist-era persecution of the Roman Catholic church in Poland turned up documents showing that the Rev. Konrad Stanislaw Hejmo, a Dominican monk, "was a secret collaborator of the Polish secret services under the names of Hejnal and Dominik," Leon Kieres, the head of the institute that investigated Nazi and communist crimes in Poland, told reporters.
Hejmo's Dominican superior, Father Maciej Zieba, told reporters he saw the files and called them "convincing and shocking."
Andrzej Paczkowski, a historian at the institute, said the files contain some 700 pages and cover the 1980s and earlier years.
Hejmo could not immediately be reached. Observers and church officials warned against passing a hasty judgment.
"We are still not sure of the type of the cooperation, whether he was simply talking about the Holy Father with the secret services or was actually providing secret information on him," Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek told The Associated Press. "If he was providing information, than this would be very sad truth."
The release of communist-era information has roiled Poland recently after the leak of an index to files in the custody of the remembrance institute.
That list, which was posted on the Internet, caused controversy and confusion because it lists both people who informed and people who were spied on without distinguishing them.
Accusation of collaborations are a serious matter in Poland, where having cooperated with the Soviet-backed communist government is considered shameful by many.
Earlier this month, Kieres said he had recognized the taped voice of a clergyman who was secretly telling agents of Poland's communist secret services about Pope John Paul II. He said the news would have been "painful" to the pope.
John Paul inspired resistance to the communist rule and is credited by many with helping bring about its collapse in 1989.
Hejmo is very popular among the Polish pilgrims who flocked to the Vatican after John Paul's election to the Holy See in October 1978. He was also often quoted in the media, commenting on the condition of the pope when he was ill. John Paul died April 2.
MONIKA SCISLOWSKA, Associated Press Writer
On the photo: Hejmo's Dominican superior, Father Maciej Zieba found the files "convincing and shocking"
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