A public prosecutor in Slovakia has begun investigating alleged financial irregularities in the Trnava archdiocese of deposed Archbishop Robert Bezak, but the archbishop’s supporters claim any irregularities occurred before he was appointed three years ago.
Pope Benedict removed the Slovakian archbishop from office on July 2. A communiqué from the papal nunciature in Slovakia nine days later said the Pope acted after an apostolic visitation had verified complaints in “numerous reports sent by priests and faithful to the Holy See”.
At the July 1 Sunday Mass in the Trnava cathedral, Archbishop Bezak, a Redemptorist, told the congregation he did not know the specific accusations against him.
However, he said he believed one reason might be his criticism of his predecessor, Archbishop Jan Sokol, who aroused controversy for praising President Jozef Tiso, a priest who led the country during the Second World War when it was allied with the Nazis and sent tens of thousands of Jews to death camps.
Archbishop Bezak won popular respect when he announced that Tiso should have resigned as soon as the first train transporting Jews left the country.
According to the Slovak Spectator, Archbishop Bezak “had come to be seen as a symbol of generational change in the Slovak Church and was widely praised by believers for his reformist and open attitude”.
Opposition to the archbishop’s dismissal was expressed by some 300 Catholics who gathered in Trnava’s St Nicholas’ Square. They decorated photographs of the archbishop with roses, gerberas and clove gillyflowers.
An Internet petition supporting the archbishop has more than 6700 signatures.
National Catholic Reporter correspondent John Allen said supporters of Archbishop Bezak claim that he discovered serious financial irregularities from the Sokol era, and that the former Slovakian archbishop enlisted friends in the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops to act against Bezak.
News category: World.