The Polish secret police put the late Pope John Paul II under surveillance from as early as 1946, with their attentions stepping up a level when the then Karol Wojtyla became auxiliary bishop of Krakow and subsequently a cardinal, a conference on the late pontiff held University College Cork heard at the weekend.
Dr Marek Lasota of the Institute of National Remembrance in Krakow said the secret police identified Wojtyla as a problematic ideological opponent to the communist regime in the early days of his priesthood. "Despite all the myths that he was an actor, he proved to be a very able organiser. His very important ability was that he was able to analyse a political situation within Poland or outside Poland."
Dr Lasota said the secret police noted countless trivial facts such as whether he smoked or liked card games, his preference on alcoholic drinks and toiletries and where he kept his keys.
Both priests and acquaintances of Wojtyla collaborated with the regime regarding his activities. Dr Lasota said about 10 per cent of Polish priests were officers acting for the authorities.
In the early 1970s the communist regime identified the possibility of Wojtyla ascending to the papacy – arguably before the Catholic Church identified him as a potential leader.
It is understood the spying on Wojtyla continued until October 1978 when the then Cardinal of Krakow was elected Pope. Dr Lasota said Wojtyla emerged from the sea of dossiers compiled on him as a completely transparent figure, a man who could not be blackmailed or influenced.