Controversial priest removes signs from Easter altar accusing Jews

Posted: Friday, April 20, 2001

WARSAW, Poland (AP) -- A prominent Polish Catholic priest, once barred from the pulpit for anti-Semitic remarks, removed a sign from his Easter altar that blamed Jews for killing Jesus Christ and accused them of persecuting Poles.

At his St. Brygida church in the Baltic port city of Gdansk, the Rev. Henryk Jankowski had displayed a model of a burnt barn with a human skeleton, along with signs reading ''Jews killed Jesus Christ and prophets and also persecuted us,'' and ''Poles, save Poland.''

The barn refers to a World War II massacre of Jewish villagers by their Polish neighbors. Recent revelations about the incident have shocked Poland and undermined the national view that Poles were always victims and never participants in Nazi atrocities.

Jankowski said he wanted to protest the blame placed on Poles for beating to death or burning alive as many as 1,600 Jews in the northeastern village of Jedwabne, a crime attributed for decades to German troops.

''There were some individuals who did it but not all,'' Jankowski was quoted as saying by Poland's largest newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza. ''The death of people, no matter whether Poles or Jews, should not be turned into a political matter.''

But the sign blaming Jews for persecuting Jesus Christ and Poles was removed after Gdansk Archbishop Tadeusz Goclowski sharply condemned Jankowski.

''The Easter altar cannot be a place of controversy,'' Goclowski said. ''Even if only one Pole took part in that crime, it's dramatic for all of us.''

Jankowski, a former Solidarity chaplain and friend of former President Lech Walesa, was barred by Roman Catholic authorities in 1997 from giving sermons for one year following anti-Semitic remarks.



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