WARSAW, Poland | Polish activists pull down statue of priest in abuse protest

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Activists in Poland pulled down a statue of a disgraced priest early Thursday after increasing allegations that he sexually abused minors.

Video footage shows three men attaching a rope around the statue of the late Monsignor Henryk Jankowski in the northern city of Gdansk and then pulling it down under the cover of darkness to protest the failure of the Polish church to deal with the problem of sex abuse by clergy.

Jankowski, who died in 2010, rose to prominence in the 1980s through his support for the Solidarity democratic 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 church in recognition of his anti-communist activity.

But in recent months, allegations have surfaced that Jankowski abused minors, mostly boys.

That has sparked an investigation as well as protests and requests to have the statue removed, though to no avail.

With the statue of the prelate lying flat on the ground Thursday, the activists placed children’s underwear in one of the statue’s hands and the small white laced church vestments worn by altar boys on the statue’s body.

The private broadcaster TVN24 reported that the three men were arrested.

Their action comes as Pope Francis has gathered church leaders from around the world at the Vatican to grapple with the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic church.

By Associated Press