Sunday, January 21, 2007

VATICAN CITY — The forced resignation of Pope Benedict XVI’s handpicked choice for archbishop of Warsaw, Stanislaw Wielgus, has exposed divisions within the Vatican, which insiders say have left the pontiff increasingly isolated.

“Benedict does not have a decisive temperament and must take into account his age,” said the Italian Panorama newsmagazine. “The initiatives he has taken are meeting with much resistance.”

Bishop Wielgus announced his resignation on Jan. 9, just two days after accepting the post, in the face of disclosures that he had been an agent for Poland’s communist secret service for decades and twice attended its spy school.

Benedict had passed over six other candidates to select Bishop Wielgus for the post, actions that suggest he was at best poorly advised by his entourage, Vatican sources say.

The Vatican declined to comment for this article.

The controversy over Bishop Wielgus recalled the Muslim furor over a papal speech last year at the University of Regensburg in Germany. Afterward, Vatican watchers asked why the pope’s aides had not spotted the potentially offensive remarks in the text and removed them in advance.

Marco Politi, the respected Vatican reporter for La Repubblica newspaper, said many officials in the Curia, the church’s central government, resent the conservative pontiff and see him as “a man of the past.”

As he prepares to celebrate his 80th birthday on April 16, Benedict evidently has fostered resentment by trying to sideline several Polish clerics appointed to senior Vatican posts by Polish-born John Paul II, who died in 2005.

Cardinal Edmund Szoka, a Polish-American, was replaced as governor of Vatican City, responsible for the day-to-day running of the tiny state in Rome.

Also planned is the transfer of Edward Nowak, the secretary for the Congregation of Saints, the body that rules on requests for sainthood, according to Panorama.

In another move, Benedict was expected to replace the archbishop of Moscow, Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, also Polish, to improve the pope’s chances of arranging a historic meeting with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexius II, Vatican sources say.

In recent months, the German pontiff has moved to reorganize his inner Cabinet around Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the extroverted Vatican secretary of state from the Salesian Order.

Cardinal Bertone, named in September, made headlines last month by suggesting that the Vatican could field a soccer team in Italy’s first division.

Other key appointments include Dominique Mamberti as effective foreign minister of the Holy See and the elevation of Indian Cardinal Ivan Dias to head the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

But Benedict, who is more used to playing a low-key role as John Paul’s personal theologian, evidently has had difficulty becoming a team leader.

“For months, Benedict appeared isolated, closed up in his study polishing his speeches, writing his book on Jesus of Nazareth to be published in April or playing the piano,” said Ignazio Ingrao, who writes for Panorama.

“His only outings were dinners at the home of his former secretary, Monsignor Josef Clemens. He has paid dearly for not being a team player.”

La Repubblica said the pope was furious when he was forced to accept Bishop Wielgus’ resignation only hours before his formal installation.

Among those Benedict reportedly passed over for the Warsaw Archdiocese was Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the reputed ghostwriter of the last books by John Paul II.

Bishop Wielgus at first denied cooperating with Poland’s communist-era secret police, despite disclosures in a Polish weekly that his name was on a list of documents found at the National Remembrance Institute. He then acknowledged it, but said he “never informed on anyone and never tried to hurt anyone.”

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