January 7, 2019 / 5:19 PM / 2 months ago

Activists urge Pope to sack some Polish bishops for not reporting sex abuse cases

WARSAW (Reuters) - Some Polish bishops should lose their jobs after Pope Francis receives a report next month that will accuse them of failing in their duty to report paedophile cases inside the country’s powerful Catholic Church, activists said on Monday.

Pope Francis leaves at the end of the Mass for the Feast of Epiphany in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican January 6, 2019. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

The Roman Catholic Church worldwide is reeling from crises involving sexual abuse of minors in a number of countries including Chile, the United States, Australia and Ireland.

In devoutly Catholic Poland, debate on the issue has barely begun, but the anti-paedophilia foundation “Have no fear” is compiling a report on abuse and said it would soon inform Polish prosecutors of 20 previously unreported sexual crimes.

“By the end of January we will have a report documenting Polish bishops’ negligence which will be presented in February at the Vatican,” Joanna Scheuring-Wielgus, an activist and lawmaker from the small opposition party “Now”, told a news conference.

“When it turned out that bishops in Chile had concealed paedophile crimes, they lost their jobs. Plenty of bishops in Poland should bear the same consequences,” she said.

Senior bishops from around the world are due to meet Pope Francis at a conference in the Vatican in February to discuss protection of minors. Organisers say the Church must show full accountability or risk losing further credibility worldwide.

In its campaign to expose paedophile priests in Poland, “Have no fear” in October posted an interactive paedophilia map on the internet which has seen some five million clicks and prompted about 300 allegations of sexual misconduct by clergy.

Now the foundation is encouraging victims to report their cases and offers lawyers’ help to those who previously stayed silent for fear they would be doubted or shunned.

Asked about the report, a spokesman for the Polish Episcopate Conference, Pawel Rytel-Andrianik said:

“The protection of children and young people is of the utmost importance, which is why the bishops remind (people) that there is an obligation to report cases of abuse to the prosecutor’s office.”

He declined to comment directly on the report as it had not yet been made available.

In a November statement, Poland’s bishops asked victims of clerical abuse for forgiveness and said the Church had begun collecting data to assess the scale of crimes.

About 12 million people, or almost a third of Poland’s population, regularly attend mass, according to a survey by the Institute for Catholic Church Statistics, a Warsaw-based research centre.

Reporting by Marcin Goclowski; Editing by Gareth Jones

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