WARSAW, Poland — Polish prosecutors say they have charged the first of three men who pulled down the statue of a prominent Solidarity-era priest this week amid allegations the priest sexually abused minors.
Gdansk region prosecutors’ spokeswoman Grazyna Wawryniuk said Friday the man was charged with disrespectful treatment of a monument and with damaging it.
If convicted, he could receive up to five years in prison. Two other men are expected to hear the same charges later Friday.
They pulled down the statue of the late Msgr. Henryk Jankowski on Thursday in Gdansk to protest what they called the Catholic Church and society’s failure to resolve the problem of clergy sex abuse.
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.
But in recent months, Polish media have carried allegations that he abused minors, mostly boys but also girls. A foundation that represents victims of abuse recently said several people have also come to them with reports of having been abused by Jankowski.
In a manifesto, the activists in Gdansk accused Jankowski of “vile” acts against young people entrusted into his care. They accused the Church of “systemic complicity in the evil done to people by Henryk Jankowski” and they accused public officials of looking away from the problem.
The action came as Pope Francis convened world Catholic leaders to find ways of solving the Church’s sex abuse crisis.