Poland sees first anti-paedophilia rally against Catholic Church

Warsaw (AFP) –


Some 200 people took to the streets of Warsaw on Sunday to protest child sex abuse in the Catholic Church, in the first major such rally in staunchly Catholic Poland.

The demonstrators marched through the capital waving banners reading "Bishop, protecting paedophiles is a crime" and "We are fed up with the clergy's cowardice".

They also carried a map of the country with black crosses to mark places where complaints about child sex abuse had been made against clerics.

There are no official statistics on the number of Polish priests convicted of child sex abuse, but a Polish association that helps victims estimates there were around 56 over nearly two decades, including clergy convicted of possessing child pornography.

The protesters stopped in front of four churches in Warsaw to read out victims' accounts.

Before the archbishop's seat, a long list of Polish cities and towns with documented paedophilia cases was read out to the sound of drums and with the crowd occasionally shouting "Shame!"

"We are protesting because the Church remains passive and nothing is being done against those responsible for these crimes," said Marek Lisinki of the Don't Be Afraid organisation, which tracks child sex abuse cases inside the Church and organised Sunday's rally.

"For too long, this has been a taboo subject in Poland," he added.

Protests also took place in other Polish cities including in Poznan where an appeal court on Tuesday upheld a verdict ordering a Catholic priests' society to pay out record damages to a former child victim of a paedophile priest.

The ruling was the first of its kind in a country where the Church still wields considerable influence.

It is under increasing scrutiny worldwide over clerical sex abuse claims.

Pope Francis has called for a meeting of all the heads of Catholic bishops' conferences worldwide at the Vatican next February to discuss the issue of the "protection of minors".

In Poland, the recently released film "Kler" (The Clergy) about abuses and corruption in the Catholic Church drew close to two million spectators within a week -- a record in the country of 38 million.