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Polish Church urged to check sex abuse claims against priest

December 7, 2018
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FILE - In this June 18, 2005 file photo former President Lech Walesa, left, welcomes father Henryk Jankowski at a party in Walesa's honor in Gdansk, Poland. Allegations against the late Mgr. Jankowski, one of the key figures in the Solidarity 1980 strikes, surfaced this week that he sexually abused minors. ( AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The mayor of the Polish city of Gdansk has asked the local Roman Catholic archbishop to investigate allegations that a now-deceased priest who rose to prominence in the Solidarity pro-democracy movement sexually abused minors.

The allegations against the late Mgr. Henryk Jankowski surfaced this week when Barbara Borowiecka told the “Duzy Format” magazine and TVN24 television he abused her and others when she was a girl and his parishioner in the 1970s, before his pro-Solidarity activity.

Another woman — who did not show her face — also told TVN24 that Jankowski touched her inappropriately when she was only six.

Gdansk Mayor Pawel Adamowicz said late Thursday he has written to Gdansk Archbishop Leszek Slawoj Glodz asking him to take action.

“I think the people in Gdansk would like to know the truth,” Adamowicz said.

Poland’s Catholic Church did not immediately comment.

Last month, Poland’s bishops asked for forgiveness from those who have been abused by priests in the mostly Catholic nation.

The church in Poland has enjoyed special authority due to its supportive role throughout the nation’s troubled history but it has also been increasingly under pressure to confront allegations of sex abuse by priests.

Red paint was splashed on a monument to Jankowski following publication of the magazine article. The monument stands in front of his St. Brygida’s parish church in Gdansk, in recognition of his support for Solidarity that eventually ousted the communist regime. A Solidarity activist, Jerzy Borowczak, said the church needs to check the allegations.

“If he was a pedophile I will dismantle the monument with my own hands,” Borowczak said on TVN24.

Jankowski rose to prominence in the 1980s through his support for Solidarity and its leader Lech Walesa in their struggle against Poland’s communist regime.

He offered support to persecuted Solidarity activists and to Walesa’s family during more than a year of the leader’s incarceration. He also subsidized children’s hospitals.

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

In 2004, prosecutors opened a probe into cases of boys spending nights at St. Brygida’s parish house, but discontinued it for lack of evidence.

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