BUCHAREST, Romania, March 26 (AP) - In a rare act of candor, an Orthodox priest confessed he became an informer for the Securitate secret police during the communist era, and he urged other clerics Monday to follow his example for ``national reconciliation.''

Breaking years of silence about its collaboration with the Securitate, Orthodox priest and teacher Eugen Jurca addressed an open letter to the Orthodox Church and ordinary Romanians.

``National reconciliation is not possible without us exorcizing this moral ambiguity in which we have been vegetating for over a decade. The truth must be known, however painful and shameful it may be,'' he wrote. ``I think this process of freedom and personal dignity ... should start with the church.''

More than 11 years have passed since communist rule ended, yet there has been more unwillingness in Romania than in some other former Soviet Bloc countries to disclose what happened during the communist years. This is partly because former Securitate officers and collaborators are believed to hold key positions in media, politics and business

. Jurca's letter was published in the daily Cotidianul and the daily Evenimentul Zilei, the only newspaper to declare the Securitate files should be opened.

The letter, which was written earlier in March, comes after the Securitate file on the head of the Orthodox Church was published in a newspaper, alleging he had taken part in a rampage on a synagogue in 1941 and had been a homosexual. The church called the claims libelous.

Under a law passed in 1999 by the previous parliament, Romania's estimated 125 million communist-era Securitate files are slowly being opened. However, so far no major figures have been exposed as former collaborators, and many doubt the process will be fair. Ordinary Romanians have yet to see their files despite a law allowing them to do so.

President Ion Iliescu and Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, key members of the left-wing administration, have criticized the publication of the files, suggesting the past is no longer relevant. The council which publishes the files has not produced any documentation referring to Iliescu or Nastase.

The Securitate relied on a reported network of up to 700,000 informers which kept tabs on the population and exploited public figures' weaknesses. Many priests and monks were coerced into being collaborators.

Jurca, a professor at the Orthodox Theology Faculty in the western city of Timisoara where the anti-communist revolt began in 1989, said he had signed a contract with the dreaded communist secret police in 1980 out of ``fear, cowardliness, ignorance, and despair.''

Dan Ciachir, an author on Orthodox affairs, praised Jurca for the gesture.

``Jurca's confession makes the church less vulnerable and less open to blackmail,'' Ciachir said, predicting the confession would pressure non-Orthodox churches to acknowledge their links with the Securitate.

Under the late dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, religious activity was limited. In the last decade of communism, some 17 churches were demolished by Ceausescu.

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