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Polish priest apologizes for burning of ‘Harry Potter’ books

April 3, 2019
FILE - In this Wednesday Oct. 18, 2017 file photo, a member of British Library staff poses for a picture with Harry Potter books published in several languages at the "Harry Potter - A History of Magic" exhibition at the British Library, in London. Priests at a Catholic parish in northern Poland have burned books, including the “Harry Potter” series, and other items that their owners said had evil forces. Images from the burning at Gdansk’s Mother of Church parish on Sunday March 31, 2019, were posted on Facebook by a Catholic foundation that uses unconventional ways of religious work. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland, File)

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A priest in northern Poland who led a public burning of books that included titles from the “Harry Potter” series and other items parishioners wanted destroyed has apologized, saying the ritual was not intended to condemn specific authors, religions or social groups.

The Rev. Rafal Jarosiewicz called the burning of objects thought to be connected to magic and the occult, and deemed by their owners to be an evil force, “unfortunate.” He published the apology late Tuesday on the Facebook page of a foundation he founded.

Jarosiewicz and other priests have drawn criticism for burning books, Buddhist figurines, an African mask, and other items Sunday outside a Catholic church in the city of Gdansk. They said they encouraged parishioners to bring in things that disturbed them so the priests could do away with bad influences.

Jarosiewicz was fined by city guards. An anti-smog group also contacted prosecutors about the illegal burning of waste in an open fire.

Images from the burning at the Parish of Our Lady Mother of the Church and St. Catherine of Sweden were posted on the SMS z Nieba (SMS from Heaven) foundation, which uses unconventional means to carry out religious work across Poland.

In the pictures, flames are consuming an African wooden mask, a small Buddhist figure, figurines of elephants and books on personality, magic and from J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series. Some Catholic faithful and priests think the “Harry Potter” books promote sorcery.

The book-burning attracted attention as Poland’s influential Catholic Church is grappling with revelations about the scale of child sex abuse allegedly committed by pedophile priests.

Last month, the country’s Catholic bishops’ conference, the Episcopal Conference of Poland, said it had recorded cases of 382 clergymen who have abused 625 minors since 1990.

Prosecutors in the eastern town of Zamosc said Wednesday they plan to send an indictment to the regional court charging a priest in his 30s who is accused of recording video of girls and women while they were in public changing rooms and toilets.

Prosecutor Artur Szykula told The Associated Press the priest admitted wrongdoing.

The priest was caught in August in Croatia while recording a girl in a changing room. That case is to be heard by a court in Split, Croatia, Szykula said.