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[1/4]A statue of Pope John Paul II is seen in front of a church, Warsaw, Poland, March 8, 2023. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

WARSAW (Reuters), March 9, 2009 – The Polish parliament adopted a resolution Thursday to defend the name of John Paul II. A new book claims that the late pope knowingly covered clerical paedophilia allegations when he was archbishop in Krakow.

The allegations against John Paul, the first Polish pope were made in a documentary by TVN24 on Monday. They have sparked fierce debate in one Europe’s most Catholic countries.

Many people believe the allegations should lead us to a reassessment John Paul’s legacy. However, many religious conservatives condemn what is seen as a left-wing plot against a figure who is at core of the nation’s identity.

The uproar was joined by politicians from the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS), who proposed a resolution to defend his name. This resolution was passed by the Sejm, the lower chamber of parliament, on Thursday, largely by votes of PiS lawmakers.

“The Sejm strongly condemns this shameful media campaign, based largely upon materials of the Communist apparatus to violence whose object is Saint John Paul II, The Great Pope,” reads the resolution.

“We will not permit the image of a man the whole free world recognizes and honors as a pillar for victory over the Evil Empire be destroyed,” it said, using a term that Ronald Reagan used to describe the Soviet Union.

John Paul, who was declared a saint in Poland by Pope Francis in 2014 is also considered a leader in Poland that contributed to the fall communism in 1989.

The head of the Polish Bishop’s Conference Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki called on “all peoples of good will not destroy the common good and the legacy John Paul II undoubtedly belongs here”.

Gadecki said in a statement that Thursday that “Poles should recall about the blessings Providence gave us through the Pope.”

The Vatican did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the allegations in the book “Maxima Culpa”, published this week in Polish.

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Ekke Overbeek, the author of the book, reminisces about the time that Karol Wojtyla, the future pope, was archbishop in Krakow from 1964-1978. It draws upon the archives of Poland’s communist secret cop and interviews with victims and witnesses to sex abuse.

According to the book, John Paul knew about child abuse in his archdiocese and helped to cover it up by transferring priests from one parish to the next. At least two of these priests were eventually convicted and sentenced to jail for their abuse of minors.

Overbeek said that he found very concrete cases of sex abuse by minors by Roman Catholic priests within the archdiocese Krakow at a time when… John Paul II was in charge.

“He was aware from the beginning of the problem, and that sheds a completely new light on his pontificate.”

The reliability of information obtained from communist secret police documents is being questioned by those who defend the pope.

The Church was a voice for freedom in Poland during the 1980s. Pope John Paul gained iconic status for inspiring people against communist rule. The parish priests provided shelter for anti-government activists, and distributed food and underground newspapers.

According to a Pew Research Centre study however, Poland is the fastest-secularizing country in the world. A growing number of people are leaving the Church partly because of mounting evidence of priest child abuse.

Recent scandals involving clergy sex abuse and allegations of cover-ups have rocked Church in Poland and other countries. John Paul’s successors Pope Benedict, Pope Francis, and others have been accused by critics of being too slow in addressing the issue.

The allegations against John Paul in Poland have prompted politicians from the opposition Left party calling for his name to be removed from public spaces, including many kindergartens and schools named after him.

“It’s time to end the taboo surrounding this topic. Agata DiduszkoZyglewska, a leftist Warsaw councillor, stated that John Paul II must be removed from public space.

Reporting by Agnieszka Pikulicka-Wilczewska, Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk and Marek Strzelecki in Warsaw; Additional reporting by Philip Pullella in Rome; Editing by Frances Kerry, William Maclean

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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