Statue of divisive Polish priest removed from Gdansk square
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Workers in the Polish city of Gdansk dismantled Friday a statue of the late Solidarity-era priest, Henryk Jankowski, following allegations he sexually abused minors.
Councilors in the city voted Thursday to have the statue removed, and to have the name of the square where it stood — named after Jankowski — changed. They also want Jankowski stripped of the Baltic city’s honorary citizenship. The city mayor has spoken in favor of the monument’s removal.
A crane took the metal figure off its stone base and put it on a truck that drove the statue away to a storage place. Jankowski’s critics are calling for the allegations to be examined.
The statue was funded in 2012 to recognize Jankowski’s staunch support for the Solidarity pro-democracy movement in the 1980s, borne out of a strike at the Gdansk shipyard.
Questions over Jankowski resurfaced last year when at least two people alleged to Polish media that they were abused as minors. A previous investigation into allegations that Jankowski sexually abused young boys was stopped in 2003.
Protesters who wanted to draw attention to the abuse allegations in strongly Catholic Poland toppled the statue last month, cushioning its fall with car tires. Shipyard workers had put it back up.
The controversy takes place as the Vatican seeks to contain damage caused by an array of sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church.
Jankowski, who died in 2010, gained prominence through his support for the nationwide 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 Jankowski’s St. Brygida Church in Gdansk in recognition of his anti-communist activity.