Senior Polish churchmen have offered apologies after a new film turned the spotlight on cases of paedophilia among priests.
Roman Catholic Archbishop Wojciech Polak, the Primate of Poland, said in a statement that he was “deeply disturbed” by what he saw in the documentary film Tylko nie mów nikomu (Just Don’t Tell Anyone) by the brothers Tomasz Sekielski and Marek Sekielski.
Polak added that “the immense suffering of those harmed is something painful and shameful.”
“I apologise for every wound inflicted by the people of the Church,” Polak said in his statement.
He also said that all information disclosed in the film “must be explained.”
“No one in the Church can shirk responsibility; we must protect children and young people; there is no other way for the Church,” Polak said.
He thanked those who had “the courage to tell about their suffering.”
Meanwhile, Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, head of the Polish Episcopal Conference, the central authority of the Catholic Church in Poland, said in a statement that he was “stunned and saddened” as he watched the film.
He thanked the filmmakers for making the documentary and said that efforts were being made in the Church to ensure compliance with what he described as guidelines for the protection of children and young people in every diocese.
Gądecki apologised on behalf of the Episcopate to “all those harmed,” adding he was aware that “nothing can compensate them for the wrongs they have suffered.”
“Certainly this film will contribute to an even more severe condemnation of paedophilia, for which there can be no room in the Church,” he said.
The statements from the top Polish churchmen came after the new documentary was released online over the weekend.
The film garnered more than 4.5 million views within the first two days after it hit YouTube on Saturday, according to media reports.
Just Don’t Tell Anyone explores the problem of paedophilia in the Church by focusing on specific cases of people who said they were molested by priests in childhood.
One of the clergymen shown in the film and accused of being a paedophile is the late Father Franciszek Cybula, who was once one of the most influential priests in Poland and a close associate of former President Lech Wałęsa.
Last year, The Clergy (Polish title Kler), a feature film by director Wojciech Smarzowski about Roman Catholic priests, was slammed by conservatives as smearing the Church with negative stereotypes including overstated accusations of paedophilia.
The leader of Poland’s ruling conservatives, Jarosław Kaczyński, on Sunday pledged to bring in tougher penalties for paedophiles.