ReutersTuesday, July 11, 2006; 6:04 AM
WARSAW (Reuters) - A leading Catholic priest in Poland, where the late Polish Pope John Paul II championed resistance under communism, said on Tuesday he had for 24 years spied on dissidents and clerics for communist secret services.
Allegations against Michal Czajkowski, a respected figure known for his work on Catholic-Jewish relations, were first published by a newspaper in May. But the priest had rejected them until now.
(Reuters) - A leading Catholic priest in Poland,
where the late Polish Pope John Paul II championed resistance
under communism, said on Tuesday he had for 24 years spied on
dissidents and clerics for communist secret services.
"I want to apologize and ask for forgiveness, especially for those whom I have hurt. There is no doubt about my guilt," Czajkowski wrote in a statement.
"I have already expressed my regret toward God. Now I am doing it toward people."
Czajkowski, an associate of John Paul who was succeeded last year by Pope Benedict, was a willing agent who reported about pro-democratic activities of his fellow clerics, according to the National Remembrance Institute, which oversees communist-era files.
Czajkowski's past is an embarrassment for a Polish church still coming to terms with the full role it played under communism.
The church supported the pro-democracy Solidarity movement, but up to 10 percent of its members may have at the same time cooperated with communist authorities, historians say.
The church has refused to make public names of clerics who cooperated with communist services.
John Paul's first visit as Pope to then-communist Poland in 1979 drew millions onto the streets and inspired Poles to challenge their communist rulers.
He was widely seen as a major influence behind the rise a year later of Solidarity, which won power in 1989 and helped bring about the fall of communism in the entire Soviet bloc.