Thursday, January 31, 2008

Bozek to make an offer to archbishop

A priest who has been in a two-year battle with the Catholic Church in Missouri will finally meet with the state's archbishop next week.

The Rev. Marek Bozek will meet with Archbishop Raymond Burke on Tuesday morning when Bozek will make an offer of reconciliation that he hopes will end a dispute over his status as a priest and the status of the parish he serves.

Bozek, who walked away from his position in the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau two years ago to serve the St. Stanislaus Kostka parish in St. Louis, recently received a letter from Burke starting the process of stripping the Polish-born priest of his clerical status.

Shortly after Bozek stepped in as pastor of the historically Polish St. Stanislaus parish, Burke informed the priest and members of the St. Stanislaus board that they had been automatically excommunicated for schism. That action has been appealed to the Vatican.

St. Stanislaus Kostka parish has fought for years with the archdiocese over control of its assets. After Burke withdrew pastoral support at the church, the parish's lay board asked Bozek to come on as pastor. When Bozek accepted the position he did so in defiance of orders from his own bishop in Springfield, the Rev. John Leibrecht, and Burke.

Bozek also participated in an ordination ceremony of two Catholic women as priests last year. The Roman Catholic Church does not allow women to serve as clergy.

Bozek said he is scheduled to meet with Burke at 9 a.m. Tuesday, and he has asked supporters in St. Louis to stand outside the archdiocesan headquarters to pray during the meeting. He said he will arrive at about 8:50 a.m. to pray with his supporters before going in for the meeting.

Bozek would not reveal what he will say to the archbishop, but said he would "make an offer ... of reconciliation to both parties." Following the appointment, he said, he will discuss the results of the meeting and the offer.

In an e-mail to supporters, Bozek wrote: "It will give me strength of spirit to know that you are praying for me right there, just outside the windows, while I face my accusers."

Bozek hopes his situation will encourage Catholics who disagree with the positions of church leadership to speak up.

He said he knows his stance makes him appear to defy church leadership, but he remains resolute.

He said his parish, which has grown from about 120 members to 500 families since he arrived, continues to support him. One parish member recently reassured him by reminding him of the biblical story of David and Goliath, Bozek said.

"We all know how that turned out."
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