WARSAW, Poland -- Government agents arrested a popular pro-Solidarity priest, the Rev. Jerzy Popieluszko, after discovering contraband in a search of his apartment, an official spokesman said today.
Popieluszko, whose church in Warsaw has become a rallying point for supporters of the outlawed union, has not been charged or indicted, government spokesman Jerzy Urban said. But there was no word when he would be released.
The outspoken :lergyman has been the target of a three-month investigation accusing him of slandering the Communist state in his sermons. But Urban indicated the objects confiscated from his apartment - presumably Solidarity underground materials -- could lead to new charges.
Urban told reporters the priest was taken into custody at midday Monday for at least 48 hours.
The tone of the announcement about Popieluszko's sudden seizure, however, indicated he would be held in custody longer.
Urban repeatedly refused to give details of the new allegations against Popieluszko, saying only that government agents who searched an apartment registered in the priest's name 'found various objects stored in large numbers, which represent a serious offense.'
Popieluszko was last seen by his parishioners Monday morning when he entered the main Warsaw prosecutor's office to answer a summons for an interrogation session.
Urban said Cardinal Jozef Glemp, the Roman Catholic primate of Poland, was consulted about the action against Popieluszko, but no other levels of the church hierarchy were consulted.
Glemp's spokesman was unavailable for comment on the case.
Popieluszko, 36, has been active in the Solidarity movement since it began in August 1980, when he was assigned to serve as chaplain to Warsaw's Huta Warszawa steel mill.
After martial law was imposed two years ago, he began holding a monthly 'mass for the fatherland' -- services at which strongly nationalistic, pro-Solidarity sentiments often were expressed. Crowds of 15,000 or more people attended the services, listening to priest's sermons over outdoor loudspeakers.
Popieluszko told United Press International in an interview 10 days ago, after prosecutors first tried unsuccessfully to serve him with a summons to appear for interrogation, that he felt he was innocent of any crime.
Asked what effect the priest's arrest would have on relations between the church and the Communist state, declining steadily for the past several months, Urban said, 'I absolutely do not foresee such a thing.'
'The church in Poland is not persecuted .... The authorities treat it as a serious partner,' the government spokesman said.
Urban said Popieluszko, one of several priests who works and lives at St. Stanislaw Kostka Church in the capital, kept a second apartment elsewhere in Warsaw.
The second residence reportedly came to light during his interrogation, a two-hour session early Monday, and the quarters were searched immediately afterwards.
'This was a sort of storehouse or place where items were found that were against the law,' Urban said.