Fr Konrad Hejmo OP and his cross
Many of us remember that three weeks after the death of John Paul II the former chairman of the National Remembrance Institute [IPN] Leon Kieres announced in the elaborated television speech that Fr Konrad Hejmo, who cared for and ministered to Polish pilgrims in Rome, was a secret collaborator of the Polish communist Security Services…The subsequent slanders, full of new details, shocked the Polish public opinion for several months. Nobody doubted that the intelligence service of the Polish People’s Republic carefully observed the activities of John Paul II and attempted to win informants in his circle and to make them secret collaborators. The news, which was official, that one of them, perhaps the most important one, was Fr Hejmo was terrifying. Many people, unfortunately, believed the news at once. Whereas others, especially those who knew the conditions of Fr Hejmo’s work, treated this revelation as incredible. He was known as a man dedicated to the matters of the Church; his attitude towards the ruling elite, forced by Moscow, was full of criticism. He spoke openly and in public, so he could have been regarded rather as someone that was connected with the centres that were hostile to the communist government in Poland. A year later Peter Raina, an eminent historian of the post-war history of the Church n Poland, published a 400-page review of the documents of the National Remembrance Institute concenring Fr Hejmo as well as the reactions of many people to the fact of his collaboration. His publication is entitled ‘Anatomia linczu. Sprawa ojca Konrada Hejmo’ [The Anatomy of Lynching. Fr Konrad Hejmo’s Affair]. Concluding his analysis of the ‘Report’ concerning the vetting of Fr Hejmo, written by Andrzej Grajewski, Pawel Machcewicz and Jan Zaryn, Raina stated, ‘The methodology of the authors is improper and fatal in its effects. Since it leads to the false, and very harmful to Fr Hejmo, conclusions.’ Currently we receive the book (over 300 pages) entitled ‘Moje zycie i moj krzyz. Nie lekam sie prawdy. Rozmowa z ojcem Konradem Hejmo, OP’ [My Life and My Cross. I am not Afraid of the Truth. Interview with Fr Konrad Hejmo, O.P.] prepared at the end of 2008 by the Warsaw Publishing House ‘Adam.’ The interview was made by Andrzej Grass. Fr Hejmo told him about his life from his childhood to the shock of the vetting he experienced. He focused on his work in the Roman Press Office of the Polish Bishops’ Conference’ (from 1980) and his work in the pastoral centre for Polish pilgrims ‘Corda Cordi’ (from 1984). He talked about his conversations with the officers of the services while he was conducting the tasks entrusted him by his superiors and about his Roman contacts with Andrzej Madejczyk, who turned out to be an agent of the Intelligence Service. In the interview Grass discovers the soul of the man involved in the matters of the Polish Church, the man dedicated to the Pope and deeply harmed by the slanders. The book is a testimony of the struggle with widely spread lies. Fr Jacek Salij, a religious fellow brother of Fr Hejmo, wrote in the foreword to this book, ‘What motivated the promoters of this lynching? Why were they in such a hurry to execute him? Two hypotheses come to my mind spontaneously. Fr Konrad was known by millions of Polish people as a person who belonged to the circle of John Paul II. Perhaps by preparing such a fierce attack on the good name of someone belonging to the papal environment (let us remember: first he was accused of informing on the Holy Father!) they wanted to suppress this unforgettable good atmosphere that whole Poland experienced on the days of our departing with John Paul II. But perhaps they wanted to remove the danger of vetting from those environments that feared it most. The latter could be supported by the fact that soon afterwards the mass media directed their interests concerning the vetting to the clergyman, i.e. to the environment that suffered most from the attacks of the secret services.’ The cross of Fr Konrad Hejmo is not only, by any means, his private personal cross. It is the cross of all those who realise that every case of falsification of the truth, every manipulation of facts, is usually used by the wicked, and full of greed to rule over souls, that want to strengthen their domineering position over their fellow citizens. Having the experiences of almost four years we should dare to make conclusions concerning the vetting procedure of Fr Hejmo, the more that it was used to slander other people, both religious and lay ones. It seems that first of all we should show the efforts and merits of the Polish clergy in the society that experienced various kinds of pressure (including atheisation) of the communist regime; the efforts – if not of evangelisation – at least of civilizing many trends of the society, especially that many environments claim to have brought about the transformations themselves; when the big press concerns carry out a campaign of covering up or at least diminishing the role and merits of Polish Catholics. No one has even begun discussing this theme or perhaps someone has deliberately blocked it. Those fewer witnesses of the struggles pass away for various reasons, without saying a word. Therefore, the testimony of one of them, Fr Konrad Hejmo, is precious. Presenting this book I want to add the following remark: reading all publications concerning the collaboration of some Polish clergymen with the intelligence services and the relationships between the representatives of the Church and the authorities of the Polish People’s Republic we are astonished at the superficiality of the analyses conducted and the easiness to pass sentences that accompanied it. Most of them show some amazing lack of knowledge about the socially and geopolitically conditions of the activities of the Polish Church in the years 1945-89 and ignorance about the situation in which the Polish clergy worked in those years. These are not publications of reliable historians and they would rather be soon classified as belonging to the ideologising journalism. It is time to notice that many journalists deal with the ecclesiastical-religious subjects like a bull in a china shop. Therefore, let us ask them to stop this disservice to the Polish Church in the name of the need to show the truth.
And perhaps it is not a problem of incompetence. It may be a continuation (using the old and new centres of anti-Church diversion) of the activities that were carefully thought out and clothed with appearances of the concern for transparency of the Church and that yield the fruits of anxiety because the Church factors have not been prepared to refute this kind of treacherous activities? Each generation faces new challenges concerning this field – is the present generation of the Polish clergy, and generally speaking the generation of Catholics, prepared to meet them?