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Polish paedophile priests exposed in new report

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Warsaw (AFP)

A foundation supporting victims of paedophile priests in Poland on Thursday released a report documenting nearly 400 cases of sex abuse by clergymen in the staunchly Catholic country.

The publication of the 27-page report, which activists presented to Pope Francis on Wednesday, coincided with the pontiff gathering the world's top Catholic bishops at the Vatican at a summit on tackling clerical sex abuse.

Images broadcast on Polish television showed Pope Francis kissing the hand of Marek Lisinski, head of the "Be Not Afraid" foundation, as he handed over the report to the pontiff.

The document details the cases of 85 priests convicted of paedophilia, another 88 whose alleged abuse has been exposed by the media and 95 others accused by alleged victims.

The report also names 24 Polish archbishops and bishops accused of covering up abuse.

"We expect resignations among Poland's church hierarchy, otherwise nothing will change," Agata Diduszko-Zyglewska, one of the report's authors, told AFP on Thursday.

She documented cases where paedophile priests were "protected" by bishops or other superiors.

Father Pawel Rytel-Adrianik, the spokesman for the Polish episcopate, said on Thursday that he had not yet read the report.

The Polish episcopate insists it has "zero tolerance" for criminal acts such as paedophilia.

It has vowed to publish statistics on the number of child victims of priestly sex abuse, covering the period starting in 1989 when communism fell.

However, for Diduszko-Zyglewska the episcopate is "only pretending to take action" by adopting rules that are "fair, certainly, but not realised".

The foundation insists that church authorities in Poland are "avoiding contact" with it and victims of abuse despite the steady trickle of criminal allegations.

"We are already struggling to record and verify" a growing number of historic and current cases of abuse, Diduszko-Zyglewska told AFP.

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