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Polish church turns to top court in paedophile case

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By Reuters

WARSAW (Reuters) – An arm of the Catholic Church in Poland plans to ask the Supreme Court to annul a ruling requiring it to pay one million zloty (207,150 pounds) to a victim of a paedophile priest who belonged to the congregation, it said on Wednesday.

The Catholic Church worldwide is reeling from crises involving sexual abuse of minors, deeply damaging confidence in the Church in Chile, the United States, Australia and Ireland among other countries.

On Tuesday Poland’s court of appeal upheld a landmark ruling granting a one-off compensation and an annuity to a victim of sexual abuse by a Catholic priest, accepting that the Church in Poland held responsibility for its priest’s crimes.

“One has a right to lodge a cassation appeal to the Supreme Court and the Society will use this right,” Krzysztof Wyrwa, an attorney for the Society of Christ Fathers for Poles Living Abroad Society, said in a statement.

Wyrwa added that the ruling could not be used in other paedophile cases in the future against the Church in Poland. A spokesman for the Society has said no further comment will be given.

In January, a court ordered the Society to pay compensation to a woman who had been sexually abused by a priest as a 13-year old child in northwestern Poland. On Tuesday the court of appeal in the western city of Poznan upheld the ruling.

The man, who imprisoned and raped the girl for more than 10 months, was arrested in 2008 and sentenced in 2010 to four years in prison, Gazeta Wyborcza daily reported.

Activists have said that the case, the first ruling in Poland where the Catholic Church was recognised as responsible for a paedophile crime committed by one of its priests, would give other victims courage to bring their cases to courts.

Church attendance is declining in Poland, but it remains one of Europe’s most religious countries. Nearly 85 percent of the 38 million population are Catholic, and 37 percent of those attend Sunday mass, according to research done by priests.

Pope Francis is battling to address the issue worldwide and will meet with senior Catholic bishops at the Vatican in February to discuss the protection of minors.

Nearly a million people flocked to cinemas across Poland last weekend to watch a movie called “Clergy” that depicts Catholic priests in a highly unflattering light, breaking box-office records.

(Reporting by Marcin Goclowski, Editing by William Maclean)