Catholic Bishop Probed Over Alleged Sexual Abuse

Bishop Jan Szkodon sprinkles head of the faithful with ashes, during the celebration of the Ash Wednesday and a Holy Masse for the Homeland and the victims of the disaster in Smolensk monthly anniversary of the tragedy, at the Royal Wawel Cathedral. Krakow, Poland. Wednesday, February 10, 2016.
Bishop Jan Szkodon sprinkles head of the faithful with ashes, during the celebration of the Ash Wednesday at the Royal Wawel Cathedral. Krakow, Poland on February 10, 2016. AFP

 

The Catholic Church is investigating claims that a bishop in Poland sexually abused a young girl decades ago, the clergyman confirmed on Monday. 

Jan Szkodon, a bishop in the southern city of Krakow, said in a statement that the Vatican had told him of the inquiry, adding that the accusations were “false and harmful” — though he gave no further detail.

The Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper carries claims that he molested a 15-year-old girl in 1998.

The accuser in the case told the paper she came forward after seeing a documentary on abuse in the Church — a film that went viral on YouTube last year and led to a slew of new allegations.

The film, called “Tell No One”, includes hidden camera footage of victims who are now adults confronting elderly priests about the abuse they suffered decades earlier.

Poland’s right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) government, which is close to the Church, raised jail terms for convicted paedophiles to a maximum 30 years in the wake of the documentary.

The claims against 73-year-old Szkodon cannot be prosecuted in the courts, however, as they are too far in the past.

“I firmly declare that the accusations against me are false and harmful to my reputation which I intend to defend,” Szkodon said in a statement published on the Krakow diocese website.

“Until this matter is clarified, I will not engage in any pastoral work.”

In March last year, the Polish Church published a report admitting nearly 400 of its clergy had sexually abused children and minors over the last three decades, reflecting claims made by a charity focused on abuse in the Church.

Allegations against senior clergy are rare in Poland — though an archbishop quit in 2002 after being accused of molesting choirboys.

Poland Begins Evacuating EU Citizens From China

British nationals evacuated from Wuhan in China amid the novel coronavirus outbreak are helped by personnel (high visibility jackets) as they disembark a chartered passenger jet at the Royal Air Force station RAF Brize Norton in Carterton, west of London, on January 31, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

 

Poland’s flagship LOT airline said Friday it was sending a passenger plane to Beijing to evacuate Polish and other EU nationals at risk from the deadly novel coronavirus. 

“The plane will fly from Warsaw to Beijing on Friday and will bring LOT crew members remaining in China and other Polish and EU passengers who decide to return,” LOT said in a press release.

The airline announced earlier it was suspending all flights to China until at least February 9, but would accommodate Polish government requests to evacuate more citizens as needed.

Poland’s deputy health minister Waldemar Kraska said separately on Friday that the government was making arrangements to evacuate 31 Poles from Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak.

Numerous countries, including France, Britain, Japan, and South Korea, have already begun airlifting their citizens out of Wuhan.

“We’re in the process of implementing a plan to transport Poles from Wuhan — currently 31 people have declared they want to return,” he told reporters in Warsaw.

The flight, expected in the coming days, “will be destined for France, and then directly to Poland,” Kraska added.

The Wuhan metropolis is at the heart of the SARS-like virus epidemic that has so far killed 213 people and led the World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday to declare it an international public health emergency.

The city of 11 million has been subject to an unprecedented lockdown, preventing residents from leaving in a bid to stop the deadly virus from spreading further.

A “dozen or so people” were in under observation in Polish hospitals for the presence of the virus, while “more than 500 people are being monitored by sanitation services,” Kraska said on Friday.

AFP

Eight dead, Including Children, In Poland Gas Explosion

 

 

Eight people, including four children, were killed after a gas explosion destroyed a house in a ski resort in the south of Poland late Wednesday, local authorities said.

Around 200 rescuers had scoured the debris of the house in Szczyrk on Thursday morning to find the bodies. No one else is believed to have been inside when the explosion occurred.

“It appears that this is the final toll,” local prefect Jaroslaw Wieczorek told reporters but added that rescuers will continue looking just to make sure.

The local gas distributor, PSG, said that the explosion had been preceded by a sudden drop in pressure in the gas pipeline, which could indicate that the pipeline had been accidentally punctured during nearby construction works.

Six Dead, Two Missing After Gas Explosion In Poland

 

Six people, including two children, were killed and another two were reported missing after a gas explosion destroyed a house in a ski resort in the south of Poland late Wednesday, local authorities said.

Around 100 firefighters were still scouring the debris of the house in Szczyrk on Thursday morning in search of possible survivors.

“We’re still hoping for a miracle,” local prefect Jaroslaw Wieczorek told reporters.

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He said that two of the bodies recovered were children and the other four were adults.

Eight people were believed to have been in the house when the explosion occurred, he added.

The local gas distributor, PSG, said that the explosion had been preceded by a sudden drop in pressure in the gas pipeline, which could indicate that the pipeline had been accidentally punctured during nearby construction works.

Poland Rejects Trump’s Bid For Russia’s G7 Return

From L) Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, US President Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson attend a work session in the Casino of Biarritz on August 26, 2019, on the third and last day of the annual G7 Summit attended by the leaders of the world’s seven richest democracies, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.  Ian LANGSDON / POOL / AFP

 

Poland’s president on Monday opposed a proposal by US President Donald Trump to reintegrate Russia into the elite G7 group, insisting that “business as usual” was unacceptable given Moscow’s occupation of Ukrainian territory.

“Should we have a business as usual approach towards Russia?… I believe that we cannot under the current circumstances,” President Andrzej Duda told reporters at a joint press conference with visiting US Vice President Mike Pence.

The issue of Russia’s reintegration into the G7 group of the world’s rich nations divided leaders at its summit last week in France, as Trump pushed for Moscow to be allowed back after its 2014 expulsion.

Russia was kicked out of what was then the Group of Eight after it annexed Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, a move never recognised by the international community.

But Trump, who will host next year’s G7 summit, said he would invite Russia to the event, a move supported by France but criticised by Britain and Germany. Poland is not a G7 member.

Speaking alongside Duda on Monday, Pence struck a different tone, insisting that it was crucial to “remain vigilant” towards Russia.

He accused Moscow of attempting to meddle in elections and use its oil and gas supplies to “divide our alliance”, in an apparent reference to the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline set to send Russian gas to Germany.

Washington and Warsaw, among others, oppose the pipeline, fearing it will increase Europe’s reliance on Russian energy supplies which Moscow could then use to exert political pressure.

Poland has long cultivated close ties with the US, which it regards as the primary guarantor of its security within the NATO alliance and as a bulwark against Russia, its Soviet-era master with whom tensions still run high.

Judicial independence 

Pence and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki were to sign a joint US-Polish declaration on digital infrastructure security later Monday.

“This declaration, we believe, will set a vital example for the rest of Europe on the broader question of 5G,” Pence had told reporters earlier.

The US is pressing allies, with mixed success, to reject Chinese 5G technology, especially from the giant mobile phone company Huawei.

Washington fears that Huawei will provide Beijing with a way to spy on communications from the countries that use its products and services.

Pence also said he had discussed the “importance of judicial independence” with Duda in the wake of a string of controversial judicial reforms pushed through by Poland’s right-wing government since taking office in 2015.

The EU has slammed the measures as a threat to the rule of law and ultimately democracy.

Pence also said that Poles travelling to the US would soon be covered by Washington’s visa-waiver programme, allowing them unrestricted entry.

“We are literally weeks away from being able to make that a reality,” Pence said.

The US vice president travelled to Warsaw for Sunday ceremonies marking 80 years since the outbreak of World War II.

President Trump had planned to attend the war commemorations but cancelled at the last minute to monitor Hurricane Dorian.

Without going into detail, Trump confirmed on Sunday in Washington that he had only postponed his trip and would travel to Poland “soon”.

AFP

Germany Asks Poland For Forgiveness 80 Years After WWII

Invited Heads of State and officials attend a military ceremony as part of the commemorations marking 80 years since the outbreak of World War II on September 1, 2019 at Pilsudski Square in Warsaw, Poland. Janek SKARZYNSKI / AFP

 

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Sunday asked Poland’s forgiveness for history’s bloodiest conflict during a ceremony in the Polish city of Wielun, where the first World War II bombs fell 80 years ago.

“I bow before the victims of the attack on Wielun. I bow before the Polish victims of German tyranny. And I ask your forgiveness,” Steinmeier said in both German and Polish.

Poland suffered some of the worst horrors of World War II: nearly six million Poles died in the conflict that killed more than 50 million people overall.

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That figure includes the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust, half of them Polish.

“It was Germans who committed these crimes against humanity in Poland. Anyone calling them things of the past, or claiming that the vile rule of terror of the National Socialists in Europe was a mere footnote of German history, is passing judgement on him or herself,” Steinmeier added in the presence of his Polish counterpart.

The line appeared to be a clear reference to the German far-right, whose co-leader Alexander Gauland once called the 12-year Third Reich a “speck of bird poop” on an otherwise glorious German past.

“As Germany’s Federal President, let me assure you that we will not forget,” Steinmeier said.

“We want to, and we will, remember. And we will bear the responsibility that our history imposes upon us.”

Polish President Andrzej Duda for his part denounced Nazi Germany’s attack on Poland, calling it “an act of barbarity” and “a war crime.”

“I am convinced that this ceremony will go down in the history of Polish-German friendship,” he added, thanking Steinmeier for his presence.

 ‘Working for tolerance’ 

The heads of state will later tour the Wielun museum and meet with local survivors of the September 1, 1939 bombing.

“I saw dead bodies, the wounded… Smoke, noise, explosions. Everything was burning,” Wielun bombing survivor Tadeusz Sierandt, 88, told AFP ahead of the anniversary.

The carpet-bombing came one week after Germany and the Soviet Union secretly agreed to carve up Eastern Europe between them by signing the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans attended a separate dawn remembrance Sunday in Westerplatte, where a Nazi German battleship opened fire on a Polish fort on September 1, 1939.

Timmermans spoke of how “we Europeans could honour the memory of those who fell for our freedom here.”

“We express it (gratitude) by… working for tolerance, working for mutual respect, working to remove the feeding ground of those who propose intolerance. Who believe that hate is a good engine for politics. Who believe that confrontation between nations, between different cultures, is a good thing,” he said.

Hitler’s attacks on Poland led Britain and France to declare war on Nazi Germany. On September 17, the Soviet Union in turn invaded Poland.

After the Nazis tore up the pact with Moscow, two alliances battled it out to the end: the Axis powers led by Germany, Italy and Japan and the victorious Allied forces led by Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States.

Later Sunday, US Vice President Mike Pence, Steinmeier and Duda will deliver speeches at a ceremony in Warsaw’s Pilsudski Square, the site of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

 ‘Demand compensation’ 

Although it has been 80 years since the war started, there are still unresolved matters according to Poland, which says Germany owes it war reparations.

A parliamentary commission is currently working on a new analysis of the extent of Poland’s wartime human and material losses.

“We have to talk about, remember and demand the truth regarding those losses. We have to demand compensation,” Morawiecki said on Sunday at the Westerplatte ceremony.

When it comes to reparations, however, Berlin believes the case is closed.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will attend the Warsaw ceremony, but no other major world leaders are expected.

US President Donald Trump had planned to attend the war commemorations but cancelled at the last minute so that he could monitor Hurricane Dorian.

Also not attending are French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, while Russian President Vladimir Putin was not invited — unlike 10 years ago — because of Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

The Polish presidency had said the commemorations would be attended by around 40 foreign delegations, a few of them led by heads of state.

They include Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky whose partnership matters to Poland, which believes its security depends on Ukraine remaining outside of Russia’s sphere of influence.

AFP

Lightning Storm Kills Several, Injures 12 In Poland

 

“A few” people died and 12 were injured Thursday during a sudden thunderstorm that saw lightning strike a metal cross in the Tatra mountains in southern Poland, rescuers said. 

“A dozen people were struck by lightning around Mount Giewont,” mountain rescue service chief Jan Krzysztof told reporters.

“There were a few deaths in different parts of the Tatra mountains,” he said, without giving an exact toll.

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Poland’s TVN24 commercial news channel reported that lightning struck the large cross on the Giewont summit near the mountain resort town of Zakopane at a time when many hikers were present.

They had set out to climb Poland’s highest mountains when the skies were clear earlier in the day. Despite the poor weather conditions, rescuers have set out by helicopter to look for the victims.

AFP

Three Miners Dead After Tremor In Poland

 

 

Three miners died and six others were hospitalised on Monday after a tremor hit their coal mine in southern Poland, according to the operator PGG.

“We received the sad news that a third miner is also dead. Rescuers are currently working on bringing the bodies to the surface,” PGG spokesman Tomasz Glogowski told the TVN24 commercial news channel.

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The nine men were boring a walkway more than 700 metres (2,296 feet) underground at the Murcki-Staszic mine in the southern city of Katowice when the 2.66-magnitude tremor struck in the early afternoon.

One of the surviving miners is in serious condition, while the other five suffered lighter injuries, according to the PAP news agency.

AFP

Poland Cracks Down On Child Sex Abuse As Priest Film Goes Viral

 

Poland’s right-wing government on Tuesday unveiled plans to crack down on paedophiles by raising prison sentences to a maximum 30 years as a ground-breaking documentary on paedophilia among Polish priests went viral in the Catholic country.

The proposed changes by the Law and Justice (PiS) government, which is closely allied with Poland’s powerful Roman Catholic church, come just two weeks ahead of a tight race in elections to the European Parliament.

“Paedophilia has been treated too lightly by our judicial system,” Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said after presenting the new proposals.

Commanding a majority in parliament, the PiS wants to raise maximum jail sentences for child sex abuse from 12 to 30 years and increase the age of consent from 15 to 16.

PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, regarded as Poland’s de facto powerbroker, first suggested longer prison terms for paedophiles on Sunday as the documentary attracted attention.

“Tell No One”, by independent Polish journalist Tomasz Sekielski has sent shock waves through the devout country and been viewed 12.5 million times since it was posted Saturday on YouTube.

The two-hour film includes compelling hidden camera footage of victims who are now adults confronting elderly priests about the abuse they suffered decades ago.

Several of the priests admit to the abuse and apologise for it, sometimes hinting at monetary compensation.

The film also details how priests who were accused or even convicted of child sex abuse were transferred to other parishes and able to continue their duties and work with children.

Top Polish clerics rejected Sekielski’s requests to be interviewed for the documentary.

Polish Primate Wojciech Polak apologised on Saturday “for every wound inflicted by the Church’s people” and vowed to do everything he could to help victims.

The church admitted in March that nearly 400 clergy had sexually abused children and minors over the last three decades, reflecting findings published a month earlier by a charity.

The documentary concludes that Polish-born pope and Saint John Paul II turned a blind eye to sex abuse when the Warsaw’s communist regime was working to undermine the church, then Poland’s only independent institution.

Pope Francis last week passed a landmark new measure to oblige those who know about sex abuse to report it to superiors, which could bring many new cases to light.

AFP

FIFA U-20 World Cup: Flying Eagles Draw USA, Qatar, Ukraine In Group D

Fying Eagles players pose.                                                             Credit: NFF

 

Nigeria’s Flying Eagles have been drawn in group d for the 2019 FIFA Under 20 World Cup in Poland.

The Flying Eagles who qualified as the 4th best team in Africa will face Qatar, Ukraine and the United States of America in the group phase.

Under 20 world cup winners, Bebeto and Fernando Couto made the draw in front of numerous coaches and icons of Polish football.

READ ALSO: Liverpool Go Top Of EPL With Draw At Old Trafford

Nigeria’s Opening match is against Qatar on Friday, May 24th, followed by the US on Monday, May 27 and Ukraine on Thursday, May 30.

The 2019 Under-20 World Cup will kick-off on May 23 and end on June 15.

Both the opening game and the final will be played in Lodz, while Bielsko-Biala, Bydgoszcz, Gdynia, Lublin and Tychy will all host at least two matches with a seeded team.

 

Poland Cancels Participation In Israel Summit

File  Photo: Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki  and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo share a smile as they attend the conference on Peace and Security in the Middle east in Warsaw, on February 14, 2019.
Janek SKARZYNSKI / AFP

 

Poland’s prime minister on Monday cancelled Warsaw’s participation in a summit of central European countries in Jerusalem, calling comments about the actions of Poles during the Holocaust by Israel’s foreign minister “racist”.

“The words of the Israeli foreign minister are racist and unacceptable… it is clear that our foreign minister (Jacek) Czaputowicz will not be travelling to the summit,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told Polish media, after comments by Israel’s new foreign minister accusing Poles of anti-Semitism.

Poland Says It May Withdraw From Summit As Israel Row Escalates

 

Poland warned on Monday it may pull out of a summit of central European nations in Jerusalem this week, after comments by Israel’s new foreign minister accusing Poles of anti-Semitism.

The foreign ministry also summoned Israeli ambassador Anna Azari over the remarks by Israel Katz on Sunday, the PAP news agency reported, the second time Warsaw has taken such action in a matter of days.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki had backed out of the summit on Sunday following uproar over reported comments by his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu about Poles and the Holocaust.

Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz was due to replace Morawiecki, but the prime minister said on Monday that Warsaw’s participation was now in question following the Katz comments.

Katz told Israel’s i24 television that “there were many Poles who collaborated with the Nazis, and like Yitzhak Shamir, whose father was murdered, said: Poles suckle anti-Semitism with their mothers’ milk.”

“We’re waiting for a firm reaction to the unpardonable and simply racist words of Israel’s new foreign minister, which is something that can’t be left without reaction,” Morawiecki told Polish media.

“If there is no such reaction on the other side, we’ll wish them the best possible meeting, but minister Jacek Czaputowicz will also not attend,” Morawiecki said.

The matter would be decided “in two-three hours”, he added.

The Visegrad Group, also known as the V4, comprises the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. It is due to hold its first summit in Jerusalem Monday and Tuesday for talks with Israeli officials.

The initial row broke out last week when Netanyahu — who was quoted in Haaretz newspaper as saying that “the Poles collaborated with the Nazis” — was condemned in Poland for appearing to accuse all Polish people of cooperating with Germany during World War II.

‘Historical truth’

Warsaw has long been at pains to state that Poland, which was occupied by Nazi Germany, could not have and did not collaborate in the Holocaust although individual Poles gave up Jews to the Nazis.

The Israeli prime minister’s office said on Friday that Netanyahu had not implicated all Poles in the Holocaust.

It insisted that Netanyahu was “misquoted” in Haaretz and other publications that reported different versions of the quote.

The clarification came hours after the Polish foreign ministry had summoned Azari over the remarks.

Netanyahu was in Warsaw last week for a two-day summit on the Middle East, co-hosted by Poland and the United States, which focused on isolating Iran while building Arab-Israeli ties.

The fresh controversy in Polish-Israeli ties comes after a row last year over a Polish law that made it illegal to accuse the Polish nation or state of complicity in Nazi German crimes.

After protests from Israel and the United States, Poland amended the law to remove the possibility of fines or a prison sentence.

Poland was occupied by Nazi Germany during World War II and lost six million citizens including three million Jews.