World

Polish city removes statue of priest accused of sexually abusing minors

Workers in the Polish city of Gdansk dismantled a statue of the late Solidarity-era priest Henryk Jankowski on Friday following allegations he sexually abused minors.

Gdansk council also voted to rename the square named for Henryk Jankowski

Workers dismantle a statue of the late Solidarity-era priest Henryk Jankowski on Friday following a decision by city councillors in Gdansk, Poland, to remove it amid allegations Jankowski sexually abused minors. (Wojciech Strozyk/Associated Press)

Workers in the Polish city of Gdansk dismantled a statue of the late Solidarity-era priest Henryk Jankowski on Friday, following allegations he sexually abused minors. 

Councillors in the city voted Thursday to have the statue removed, and to have the name of the square where it stood — named after Jankowski — changed. They also want Jankowski stripped of the Baltic city's honourary citizenship. The city's new mayor, Aleksandra Dulkiewicz, has spoken in favour of the monument's removal, saying earlier this week it should not stand in public space.

It was Dulkiewicz's first week in office following a by-election to replace Gdansk's former mayor of 20 years, Pawel Adamowicz, a liberal who was stabbed to death on stage during a charity event in January. 

A crane took the metal figure off its stone base and put it on a truck that drove the statue away to a storage place.

Jankowski's critics are calling for the allegations to be examined.

The statue was funded in 2012 to recognize Jankowski's staunch support for the Solidarity pro-democracy movement in the 1980s, borne out of a strike at the Gdansk shipyard. 

Former Polish president Lech Walesa, left, welcomes Jankowski at a party in Walesa's honour in Gdansk in 2005. (Czarek Sokolowski/Associated Press)

Questions over Jankowski resurfaced last year when at least two people alleged to Polish media that they were abused as minors. A previous investigation into allegations that Jankowski sexually abused young boys was stopped in 2003.

Protesters who wanted to draw attention to the abuse allegations in strongly Catholic Poland toppled the statue last month, cushioning its fall with car tires. Shipyard workers had put it back up. 

The controversy takes place as the Vatican seeks to contain damage caused by an array of sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church. 

Jankowski, who died in 2010, gained prominence through his support for the nationwide Solidarity movement and its leader, Lech Walesa, in their struggle against Poland's communist regime. Walesa later served as Poland's president.