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St John Paul II honoured as Poland sees new abuse allegations

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AP  |  Warsaw 

St John Paul II was honoured on the centennial of his birth with special Masses at the Vatican and in his native Poland on Monday, an anniversary that comes as the Polish church finds itself shaken by new allegations of sexual abuse by clerics.

From the small town of Wadowice, Poland, where Karol Wojtya was born on May 18, 1920, to Warsaw and the Vatican, Catholic faithful gave prayers of thanks for the man who was pope from 1978 until his death in 2005.

Today we can say that 100 years ago the Lord visited his people," Pope Francis said in a morning Mass in St Peter's Basilica.

Celebrating the memory of Saint John Paul II let's remember this: the Lord loves his people, he visited his people, he sent a shepherd.

To Poles, John Paul is best remembered for using the papacy to shake the foundations of an oppressive communist system that was toppled across Eastern Europe 11 years into his papacy.

Karol Wojtyla was one of the most important figures of the 20th century, Polish President Andrzej Duda said in a letter sent to worshippers at Poland's holiest site, the Jasna Gora Monastery in Czestochowa.

His teaching and testimony still touch the hearts and minds of millions of people.

Poland's Jewish community also remembered John Paul's efforts to seek reconciliation between Catholics and Jews.

No other Pope has done more to heal the painful wounds and did more than anyone else in history to effectively erase the scourge of anti-Semitism," Poland's chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, said in a statement on Sunday.

But John Paul's legacy has been stained by his failure to address the scourge of sex abuse in the church, which was well known at the Vatican during his papacy.

And that issue was also on people's minds in recent days because of a new documentary exposing alleged sex abuse in Poland's church.

The film, Playing Hide and Seek, by brothers Tomasz and Marek Sekielski, was released Saturday online and had been viewed over 4 million times by Monday morning.

It tells the story of two brothers, now young adults, who decide to confront a priest who allegedly abused them in their childhood. In their pursuit of justice they discover other alleged victims of the priest, Arkadiusz Hajdasz, but face a lack of compassion and help from church officials.

The film follows a documentary expose on pedophilia in the powerful Polish Catholic church by the Sekielski brothers released last year.

That film, Tell No One, triggered soul searching in a country where there is no higher authority than the Catholic Church and its clergy. That film also elicited an apology from Archbishop Wojciech Polak, the Primate of Poland, and prompted at least one cleric to leave priestly life.

After this new film, Polak, Poland's top church official, again voiced his concern and said the matter would be taken to the Vatican for investigation.

The film 'Playing Hide and Seek,' which I watched, shows that the standards of protection of children and youth in force in the Church have not been observed, Polak said.

Film director Tomasz Sekielski said he believes that viewers of his film may even feel angry when the see how victims of clerical abuse are deprived of state and church support.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, May 18 2020. 17:54 IST
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