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WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A statue featuring a Polish priest suspected of child sex abuse was removed from the grounds of a major Catholic pilgrimage site in central Poland, days ahead of a meeting between Polish bishops and the Vatican's sex crimes investigator.
Rev. Eugeniusz Makulski, who oversaw the construction of Poland's biggest basilica in Lichen, was among predatory priests mentioned in a documentary aired last month that revealed testimony from men and women who as children were abused and raped by clergy.
Makulski had commissioned a statue at the site depicting him on his knees before the late St. John Paul II.
The Marian Fathers in Lichen said late Tuesday the statue had been taken down, but will be returned to the site after it is altered to remove Makulski. White screens could be seen Wednesday around the stripped pedestal.
It is the first time that a statue showing the late pope is removed in his native Poland, where his memory is still revered.
The Catholic Church in Poland has recently acknowledged it is aware of hundreds of child sex abuse cases by priests. Only some of the cases have been tried before courts. The church has been criticized for covering up the cases and moving the perpetrators among parishes.
Prosecutors this week requested that regional church authorities in Poznan, in the west, urgently hand over files related to a case of a former altar boy who alleged abuse. The church authorities had refused that, saying it would violate their professional secrecy.
Polish bishops are meeting this week with the Vatican's sex crimes investigator, Archbishop Charles Scicluna.
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