Academics appeal for respect of the legacy of John Paul II

Wojciech Kryński/PAP

Over 1,200 Polish academics and prominent individuals have appealed for the memory of Pope John Paul II to be treated with "truth and due respect" after the name of the Polish-born pope was linked to alleged attempts by the Roman Catholic Church to hush up reports of paedophilia in the Church.

In a letter published on Saturday the writers, which included the names of film director and film academy professor Krzysztof Zanussi and former Polish prime minister Hanna Suchocka, argue that linking John Paul II to the controversy "showed disrespect for the most illustrious pages in our contemporary history."

The letter's signatories wrote that in their work they were "obliged to seek the truth," and saw the accusations against the pope as "an attempt to change the image of a person worthy of the highest respect into that of someone co-responsible for heinous crimes."

Recalling John Paul II's role in toppling the communist system in Central and Eastern Europe, the signatories described him as "the spiritual leader of Poles" and warned that the accusations threatened to pass on a false picture of the pope to future generations.

"John Paul II's imposing achievements are being contested and disparaged today,” the letter claimed. “For young people born after his passing, this false and degraded picture of the Pope may be the only one they will come to know. Like any person, John Paul II deserves to be spoken about truthfully. By denigrating and rejecting him, we are causing great harm not to him, but ourselves. We are showing disrespect (...) for the most illustrious pages in our contemporary history."