ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The priest at a predominantly Polish parish in St. Louis at odds with the archdiocese told parishioners that he is willing to step down if it will help the parish.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the Rev. Marek Bozek told parishioners at St. Stanislaus Kostka on Sunday that he doesn't want his personal circumstances to get in the way of what is best for the parish.
"If it is necessary for me to step aside and continue my ministry elsewhere, I am willing to do that so long as I know that you will not go without pastoral care and the Sacrament," Bozek said.
The Archdiocese of St. Louis filed suit last year to regain control of St. Stanislaus. Since 2001, the church board has twice amended its bylaws giving it control over church matters.
Bozek declined to comment on the timing of his announcement, citing the litigation.
The Polish-born Bozek arrived at St. Stanislaus in 2005. His version of Catholicism that includes support for acceptance of homosexuality and women's ordination has brought in new parishioners but driven away many traditional members.
The archdiocese welcomed the news of Bozek's possible departure.
"If that opens up an avenue for reconciliation, that would be a wonderful thing," Bernard Huger, an attorney for the archdiocese, told the newspaper. "Clearly we don't want to have a trial, we just want to have St. Stanislaus returned as a Catholic parish."
Huger said St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson has been clear with St. Stanislaus attorneys that he is "most willing to resolve this."
Tensions are high at St. Stanislaus, between supporters and opponents of Bozek.
"He's bringing people back while the rest of the Catholic church is driving them away," member Diana Daley said after Mass on Sunday. "He says he's willing to step down, but if he does, they might as well close this church."
Grzegorz Koltuniak, a longtime critic of Bozek's, said after the pastor's announcement that he'd been "waiting for this moment from the beginning."
Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)