WLOCLAWEK, Poland — A retired archbishop who accused Pope Francis of heresy has been ordered to cease celebrating Mass in public.
Archbishop Jan Paweł Lenga, the 69-year-old former Archbishop of Karaganda in Kazakhstan, has also been forbidden to preach at Masses or speak to the media.
The sanctions were imposed by the Diocese of Włocławek in central Poland, where the archbishop retired after serving in Kazakhstan.
Archbishop Lenga immediately defied the ruling by giving an interview to WRealu24.tv, in which he insisted that he would continue to speak out.
Fr Artur Niemira, chancellor of Włocławek diocese, told the Polish Catholic news agency KAI that local Bishop Wiesław Mering had decided to impose the disciplinary measures in order to prevent the spread of scandal among the faithful.
KAI said the archbishop had refused to mention Pope Francis’s name when celebrating Masses. It added that the measures would remain in effect until the Holy See issues a judgment on the case.
The archbishop has repeatedly criticised Pope Francis. Last year the Polish journal Więź reported that he had called Francis a “usurper and heretic.”
Więź said the archbishop had given a book-length interview to the author Stanisław Krajski. The journal quoted the archbishop as saying: "Bergoglio preaches untruth, preaches sin, and does not preach a tradition that lasted so many years, 2,000 years... He proclaims the truth of this world and this is the truth of the devil."
In January, the archbishop appeared on the Polish television show Warto rozmawiać, prompting criticism from the Polish bishops’ conference. The bishops’ spokesman Fr. Paweł Rytel-Andrianik noted that the archbishop is not a member of the Polish bishops’ conference.
“Therefore the statements of Archbishop Lenga cannot be identified in any way with the Polish episcopal conference,” he said. “They cannot be treated as positions of Polish bishops.”
In June 2019, Archbishop Lenga was among of the signatories of the 40-point "Declaration of Truths."
The declaration claimed to address “the most common errors in the life of the Church of our time,” reaffirming Church teaching on topics such as the Eucharist, marriage and clerical celibacy.
Jan Paweł Lenga was born in present-day Ukraine in 1950. He was ordained secretly in 1980 due to Soviet persecution of the Catholic Church. A member of the Marian Fathers, he was appointed apostolic administrator of Kazakhstan in 1991, the year that Kazakhstan became the last Soviet republic to declare independence.
He was appointed to Karaganda in 1998, where he remained until 2011, when Pope Benedict XVI accepted his resignation under canon 401 § 2 of the Code of Canon Law, which states that diocesan bishops may resign “because of ill health or some other grave cause”.
Archbishop Lenga retired to a community of Marian Fathers in Licheń Stary, a village that is home to Poland's largest church, in the Diocese of Włocławek.
Fr Niemira, chancellor of Włocławek diocese, said the bishop had imposed the measures on Archbishop Lenga in accordance with canons 392 and 763 of the Code of Canon Law.
Canon 392 states that, in order to protect Church unity, “a bishop is bound to promote the common discipline of the whole Church and therefore to urge the observance of all ecclesiastical laws”. Canon 763 says that bishops have the right to preach everywhere unless forbidden to do so by a local bishop.