St. Stan's pastor says he will step down if necessary.

By Tim Townsend

The Rev. Marek Bozek, pastor of the embattled St. Stanislaus church in north St. Louis, told parishioners Sunday that he was willing to step down if it would help 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. "I do not want my personal circumstances to impede what is best for St. Stanislaus."

Bozek said he could not comment on the timing of his announcement because of pending litigation between the church and the Archdiocese of St. Louis. His attorney did not return a call seeking comment.

In July 2008, the archdiocese filed a lawsuit that, if successful, would allow it to regain the power to assign the church's pastor and approve its board members. Since 2001, the board twice has amended its bylaws to cement its control of church matters. That lawsuit is scheduled to come to trial in St. Louis Circuit Court in February.

The archdiocese welcomed the news of Bozek's possible departure from St. Stanislaus.

"If that opens up an avenue for reconciliation, that would be a wonderful thing," Bernard Huger, an attorney for the archdiocese, said Sunday. "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 had "made it clear" to St. Stanislaus attorneys that he was "most willing to resolve this."

The Polish-born Bozek was hailed as a hero in 2005 for risking his vocation to lead a church some Catholics felt had been abandoned by the archdiocese. But over the last three or four years, Bozek's version of Catholicism drove away many of the church's traditional members.

At the same time, his support for homosexuality in the church, and women's ordination, brought in a new group of parishioners.

In January, Bozek was laicized, or defrocked, by Pope Benedict XVI.

Tensions are high at St. Stanislaus, between those who support Bozek and those who want him gone. And the two sides with two very different concepts of what it means to be Roman Catholic reacted to the pastor's announcement Sunday with equal fervor.

"He's bringing people back while the rest of the Catholic church is driving them away," St. Stanislaus 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." 314-340-8221

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