Victims group in Poland maps 255 sex abuse cases by priests

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A private foundation published a map Sunday showing where Catholic priests in Poland have been accused of child sexual abuse, adding pressure on the church in the predominantly Catholic country to respond.

The Have No Fear foundation, which represents abuse survivors, said the map of cases it compiled represented 255 children under age 15 who were abused by priests across Poland. The cases were drawn from court records, media reports and survivor accounts gathered by the foundation, the organisation said.

More than 50 priests have been convicted of abusing children, according to the foundation. Some of them served time in prison and were reassigned to new parishes when they got out, it said.

Clergy abuse, both alleged and substantiated in court, has put church leaders in Poland under growing pressure to confront the problem. Poland's bishops' conference has said it is working on a report on the scale of pedophilia in the church, due to be published by the end of November.

The map will be updated as more cases are reported and taken to court, Polish lawmaker Joanna Scheuring-Wielgus, said. She is working to bring attention to the clergy abuse issue to colleagues in parliament, which is dominated by the conservative ruling party.

The bishop of the Opole diocese in southwest Poland, Andrzej Czaja, apologised for any sexual abuse by churchmen on Sunday and requested forgiveness "for our heavy sins" from Catholic faithful.

During Sunday services, priests read a letter in which Czaja reported that six priests in his diocese were convicted recently of abusing children.

"We are full of pain, shame and feeling hopeless," Czaja said in the letter.

The bishop in Warsaw made a similar apology last week. The Have No Fear foundation held a march in Poland's capital and some other cities on Sunday to demand the church stop protecting paedophile priests.

A few hundred people marched with banners that read "It's a Crime to Cover Up Pedophilia, Bishop".

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