Poles show restraint over kidnapping case

Both sides in Poland's domestic power structure - the communist state authority and the Roman Catholic Church - are exercising concern and restraint over the kidnapping case of the Rev. Jerzy Popieluszko, a pro-Solidarity priest.

And surprisingly, after all the bitter experiences of the past four years, the public at large, though profoundly disturbed, is exonerating Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski of any part in the kidnapping (and, it is increasingly believed, the killing) of Fr. Popieluszko.

The government appears to have convinced most Poles that it wants to get to the bottom of the Oct. 19 kidnapping.

But there was disappointment that, as of Saturday evening, television broadcasts had not thrown definitive light on Popieluszko's fate.

For their part, the church's leaders have been at pains to cool emotions, even to the extent of quietly asking the outlawed Solidarity trade union to give up an active presence at churches where the faithful were gathering to pray for the missing priest.

Last evening two major celebrations of Mass were scheduled, one to be conducted in St. John's Cathedral in Warsaw by Poland's primate, Jozef Cardinal Glemp, and the other at Popieluszko's Warsaw parish church, where his customary end-of-the-month service ''for the homeland'' was to be celebrated by another priest.

The church hierarchy made clear in advance that the message from each Mass would be to stress national dedication to the ideas of peace and nonviolence in an effort to try to contain the greater public emotions that may lie ahead.

The government's account of the results of its investigation so far was given by the internal affairs minister, Gen. Czeslaw Kiszczak, who has been seen from the martial-law period on as part of the moderate, reform-minded group around General Jaruzelski.

There is no firm information yet in the case against the three officers - Capt. Grzegorz Piotrowski and two lieutenants from the same police department - who have been charged in the kidnapping.

The captain was said to have confessed that he killed the kidnapping victim. But, said General Kiszczak, a search of the place to which he led them revealed no traces or clues of a killing there.

Another of the accused was said to have claimed the priest was freed not far from where he was seized and that he was ''still alive.''

According to Kiszczak, the accused began changing their stories when they became aware that, if found guilty of kidnapping and murder, they would face ''the highest penalty in our penal code'' - capital punishment.

It seems to be generally felt that prospects of Popieluszko's still being alive are slim.

The focus of popular attention has begun to swing to the realities of the political scene in which this affair is unfolding.

Kiszczak stressed that the authorities are looking for those who might have inspired or supported the deed of those accused.

''We do not yet have the necessary evidence,'' he said, ''but we are confident we will find out if there were, in fact, such people behind it.''

Last week's Communist Party Central Committee session gave the Politburo virtual carte blanche to conduct an investigation of the country's security organization and bring to trial whoever might have been behind the kidnapping.

But was the kidnapping inspired from ''higher up?'' That question, of course, goes to the sensitive nub of the incident.

In Polish terms, it is ironic that the position of Jaruzelski in this unhappy affair is seen, if anything, as strengthened by a consensus that he and supporters such as his interior minister are themselves the objects of plotting aimed at stopping their line of meaningful reform.

The kidnapping, according to one highly qualified, independent source in Warsaw, could hasten the outcome of such protracted inner-party tensions.

But the outcome depends on whether Jaruzelski can deal a final blow to those still opposing his political line from within the upper echelons of the party.

In this, he obviously has the support of the church. The latter is showing no inclination of trying to turn affairs to its own advantage.

The church, instead, is only stressing the national interest.

And the Russians are not going to countenance any challenge to Jaruzelski's leadership.

''Nobody,'' the source in Warsaw said, ''is going to be able to push Jaruzelski aside, because the Russians are well aware that he is the only leader able to keep Poland at least as quiet and stable as it has been since the lifting of martial law and the political amnesty.

''The church also is aware that he is not just the best, but also the only 'partner' available - and vice versa, of course, that applies also for Jaruzelski in his handling of the church.

''The way in which he has pursued the case through last week has helped his position. He can strengthen it further if he really takes this opportunity to demonstrate to public opinion here in action, as well as words, that he and his government are decisively against such terrorist activities and are really going to root out the people behind them.''

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