Man charged for toppling statue of Polish priest over abuse

February 22, 2019
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Activists in Poland pull down a statue of a prominent deceased priest, Father Henryk Jankowski, who allegedly abused minors sexually, in Gdansk, Poland, on Thursday Feb. 21, 2019. The activists said it was an act of protest against the Polish Catholic Church for failing in resolving the problem of clergy sex abuse. The protest comes as Pope Francis has gathered church leaders from around the world at the Vatican to grapple with the church's sex abuse crisis. (AP Photo/Bartek Sabela/Gazeta Wyborcza)

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish prosecutors said Friday they have charged the first of three men who pulled down the statue of a prominent Solidarity-era priest amid allegations that he sexually abused minors.

The man was charged with disrespectful treatment of a monument and with damaging it, Gdansk regional prosecutors’ spokeswoman Grazyna Wawryniuk said. If convicted, he could receive up to five years in prison.

Two other men are expected to hear the same charges later Friday. The men travelled from Warsaw to topple the statue early Thursday that stood close to the late Monsignor Henryk Jankowski’s parish of St. Brygida in Gdansk.

They pulled down the statue to protest what they called the failure by the Polish Catholic Church and society to resolve the problem of clergy sex abuse.

The action came just hours before Pope Francis convened world Catholic leaders at the Vatican to find ways of solving the church’s sex abuse crisis.

A Polish foundation that represents abuse survivors gave Francis a report this week that describes allegations that underage boys spent nights at Jankowski’s parish house and received presents and money from him. An investigation into the allegations was discontinued in 2003 after experts said they found no traces of sexual behavior toward the boys.

Recently, other persons have appeared on Polish media with allegations that they were abused by Jankowski as minors.

Jankowski, who died in 2010, rose to prominence in the 1980s through his support for the pro-democracy Solidarity movement and its leader, Lech Walesa, in their struggle against Poland’s communist regime.

World leaders including President George H.W. Bush and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher visited his St. Brygida church in recognition of his anti-communist activity.

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