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Saturday, 23 February, 2002, 18:13 GMT
Polish archbishop 'molested students'
Monsignor Juliusz Paetz preaches
Paetz: "Spontaneity may have been misconstrued"
The Pope has ordered an inquiry into allegations that a Roman Catholic archbishop in his native Poland sexually abused seminarians and priests.

The respected Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita said that Monsignor Juliusz Paetz had been banned from a seminary after he failed to heed complaints about his behaviour.

Monsignor Paetz, archbishop of Poznan, denied all allegations of impropriety.

Pope John Paul II
The Pope was said to be shocked
Poland's Roman Catholic Episcopate confirmed that a Vatican inquiry was proceeding but questioned the intentions of the newspaper in publishing the story.

Sources told the paper that the "homosexual inclinations" of Monsignor Paetz had been known for at least two years and he had been refused access to a seminary by its rector, Tadeusz Karkosz.

"Despite the protests of priests and lay Catholics, Monsignor Paetz has not changed his ways," Mr Karkosz told the paper.

Pope John Paul II, the former archbishop of Krakow, was informed of the allegations by one of his friends, the paper said.

Map showing Poznan
"The Holy Father was shocked. He sent a commission to Poznan... whose findings have fully confirmed the accusations of sexual harassment by the archbishop," the report said.

A statement by the Polish episcopate said: "Since the matter referred to in the article has been presented to the Holy See, it will doubtless reach an appropriate explanation and resolution."

Monsignor Paetz denied the accusations in a letter to church deans.

I very much ask for your prayers, prayers in my intention and the intention of the Church

Monsignor Juliusz Paetz

"I never molested - repeat, I never molested - our seminarians and priests!" he wrote, saying his spontaneous words and behaviour may have been misinterpreted.

"I would like to look in the faces of those who have accused me," he wrote.

"I very much ask for your prayers, prayers in my intention and the intention of the Church, the Church in Poznan."

The archbishop felt "wronged and ill-treated" by the newspaper article according to his colleague, the Bishop of Poznan, Zdzislaw Fortuniak.

'Long-concealed truth'

Monsignor Paetz was recovering after an operation and unable to appear in public, he said.

Senior church figures in Poland - where 90% of people are Catholic - have said they are shocked by the report and have demanded clarifications.

But the newspaper defended the front-page article which was accompanied with a large photo of the archbishop.

It called on the episcopate "whose reputation has suffered as a result of the scandalous behaviour of Monsignor Paetz, to acknowledge the truth, long concealed by the archbishop's palace in Poznan".

The BBC's Nicholas Walton
"The allegations come at sensitive time for the Catholic Church in Poland"
See also:

09 Nov 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Poland
25 Jan 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Vatican
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