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The Pope’s Secret File

The priest who spied on the man who became John Paul II.

By 4.14.06

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THERE ARE OVER 50 MILES of secret police files at the Institute of National Remembrance (Instytut Pamieci Narodowej) in Warsaw and its branches throughout post-Communist Poland. Among other things, one can find there U.S. Army counterintelligence manuals, accounts of American leftists cozying up to the Communists, surveillance records of U.S. diplomats and visitors, including compromising pornographic material, files of CIA spies captured by the Communists, and numerous reports on "The Main Enemy": the United States of America. Most of the files, however, concern Poland and the Poles. They show how, for half a century, the Communist secret police (SB) endeavored to control and terrorize an overwhelmingly Christian population. No one was immune, not even the most prominent son of Poland, Pope John Paul II.

What follows describes just one case of the active measures directed against Karol Wojtyla. The agent responsible was Father Konrad Stanislaw Hejmo, a Dominican priest. When initially courted, he was known by the code name "Dominik." After his recruitment it became "Hejnal" (Signal). It appears that, technically, Hejmo never signed an affidavit formalizing his status as an "secret collaborator." Instead, he was classified as an "operational contact." Hejmo's recruiter and case officer was Colonel Waclaw Glowacki of the Security Service (Sluzba Bezpieczenstwa -- SB). Before his transfer to civilian intelligence after 1982, Glowacki was with the 5th Section of the IV (anti-Church) Department of the interior ministry.

More than 700 pages of documents and several magnetic tape spools of recordings reflect the extent of Father Hejmo's work. The contacts between the agent and the secret police began circa 1973. At the time, the priest was trying to launch a Dominican periodical, W drodze (On the Way). In approaching the SB, Hejmo hoped to have eased the oppressive Communist censorship regulations and limits on paper distribution faced by his publication, where he served as editorial secretary. The relationship became more formal in November 1975. At the end of the following year, the SB opened up a file on him as a "candidate for secret collaborator." Next, it registered him as a full-fledged "secret collaborator" even though, in violation of its own rules, it never asked him to fill out the appropriate paperwork.

Father Hejmo informed his secret police handlers not only about Karol Wojtyla, both before and after Wojtyla's elevation to the papal throne, but also about Radio Free Europe, anti-Communist intellectuals, and dissident Catholic priests, including Father Jerzy Popieluszko, who was subsequently murdered by the SB. Further, Father Hejmo wrote pro-Communist articles for his publication. He condemned the anti-regime activities of his fellow Dominicans, for instance their 1977 hunger strike in solidarity with Czech dissidents. His reports were apparently made available to Colonel Tadeusz Grunwald of the IV Department's so-called "D" Group (Disintegration) to implement active measures against the Catholic faith in general, and dissident priests and lay activists in particular. Grunwald's men specialized in black propaganda, malicious gossip, and forgeries.

Father Hejmo hoped his collaboration with the secret police would not only benefit his periodical, but also help him, incredibly, to become head of the Dominican order in Poland. He accepted a few tokens and gifts from his handlers -- mostly alcohol. On the other hand, his secret police friends did not trust him. His phone was tapped and mail read. Contacts with the priest stopped briefly in 1980 after Hejmo was transferred to the Holy See.

By August 1981, Hejmo was re-recruited in Rome under a false flag: SB officers pretending to be West German operatives. Each of his three contacts approached him separately. The first, Andrzej M. ("Lakar"), had been a Communist secret police agent in Poland. Later, "Lakar" emigrated to Germany, where, reportedly, he became the SB resident in Cologne. Hejmo never informed his other handlers that Andrzej M. had identified himself to the priest as a BND officer. (In time, allegedly, "Lakar" was either turned by West German intelligence or recruited by the East German Stasi.)

While in Rome, Father Hejmo first worked at the Polish section of the Vatican press office. His Church superiors charged him with open source acquisition and analysis. Hejmo read the Western press daily. He focused on the Pope and the Episcopate of Poland, including its head, the formidable and staunchly anti-Communist Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski. The agent supplied his output both to his Church superiors and his secret police handlers. In May 1984, he was transferred to a post devoted to assisting Polish pilgrims in Rome.

Throughout, Hejmo's contact with the Pope was quite limited. He dined with the Pontiff only on very rare occasions. Still, he often bragged about his "access" to the Pope. Curiously, no reports by Hejmo on the Pope himself have been found. Nonetheless, he was able to procure documents from the Office of the Secretary of State, as well as supply information gathered from his conversations with fellow priests and other, mainly Polish visitors.

A few apologists have suggested that, since Hejmo never formalized his status as an agent, the priest was not aware that he was being used by the secret police. He was simply overly garrulous. Further, the argument goes, the intelligence he provided from the Vatican was of poor quality and mainly gossip. Yet it has been established that Hejmo accepted money for his services from Andrzej M. He may not have signed the spy personnel affidavit, but he did sign receipts for at least 20,000 German Marks. Further, the intelligence he provided probably helped the Communists to construct a psychological and physical portrait of the Pope and his surroundings. It also contained important inside information about the Episcopate of Poland and its anti-Communist work. Last but not least, it is highly likely that some of Hejmo's reports were forwarded to the KGB.

The priest continued his nefarious activities until July 1988. At this writing, he has suffered no real punishment for his misdeeds from either Church or secular authorities.

HEJMO'S, AGAIN, IS MERELY one case connected to John Paul II. There are about 100 sets of secret police files on Karol Wojtyla at the Institute of National Remembrance. Each set contains between a single and a score of files. The Institute's Marek Lasota, in his forthcoming book Karol Wojtyla w dokumentach bezpieki ("Karol Wojtyla in Secret Police Documents"), treats the subject comprehensively, describing a legion of agents snitching on the future Pope since the first days of Communist Poland. The first reports date from May 3, 1946, owing to Wojtyla's involvement that day in a massive anti-Communist student demonstration that was crushed by tanks. Later, letters of denunciation occasionally flowed when Wojtyla was parson at St. Florian Church. The secret police opened a permanent file on Wojtyla only after he was consecrated Bishop of Cracow in 1958.

At any given time, up to a dozen agents, both clerical and lay Catholic, reported on Wojtyla. Some were close confidantes. Three of them were priests who worked at the metropolitan curia and one was a lay administrative director of the influential Tygodnik Powszechny, the liberal Catholic weekly. In addition, reports poured in from a few dozen agents who met Wojtyla occasionally or heard of his "misdeeds" from other sources. Further, his apartment was bugged as was each subsequent residence to which he moved. His home and office phones at the Tygodnik Powszechny were tapped as well. The secret police rumor mill churned out stories and produced forgeries of his alleged lack of patriotism, immoral sexual behavior, and the like. The secret police classified Bishop Wojtyla as "an extremely dangerous ideological enemy."

Soon, Wojtyla became the Archbishop of Cracow and, finally, Pope. Active measures intensified. When as John Paul II he returned triumphantly to Poland in 1979, his immediate entourage was infiltrated by eight agents and four secret police officers.

During the papal visit, tens of thousands of agents and secret police officers (in addition to hundreds of thousands of regular police and military) were deployed to contain the situation throughout Poland. There were 480 agents posted for the papal visit in Cracow alone.

At the peak of its expansion in 1984, the secret police had 8,334 agents among Catholic religious and lay people (employed or involved with the Church voluntarily). Rather significantly, there were relatively few nuns and lay women among the turncoats.

The Institute of National Remembrance estimates that between 10 and 15 percent of Poland's Catholic religious and lay people were secret police agents or contacts. To put it into perspective, some calculate that about 30 percent of all journalists were agents. Altogether in Poland, between 1944 and 1989 about 3 million people (over 800,000 at the peak in the 1980s) denounced their fellow citizens to the secret police in a formalized way. That is less than 10 percent of the nation which, by Communist bloc standards, is rather low. As many as 30 percent of all East Germans collaborated. In the Soviet Union, the proportions were probably even higher.

Please remember that there are over 50 miles of secret police files in Poland's archives. The search for the Truth has hardly begun.

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