WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A popular Polish priest apologized Tuesday for a sermon in which he defended a bishop accused of covering up for pedophile priests. His sermon, delivered to a congregation including the justice minister and other top politicians, was later condemned by government officials.
Father Tadeusz Rydzyk insisted that he had not intended to hurt victims or downplay the church's role in the “sin and crime of pedophilia.”
Rydzyk's apology came days after he had defended Bishop Henryk Janiak, who was recently removed by Pope Francis amid an investigation into media allegations that he had covered up cases of sexual abuse by priests. Rydzyk called Janiak a “contemporary martyr of the media.”
He said that priests also commit sins, adding: “Who does not have temptations?”
Rydzyk made the controversial speech Saturday at a Catholic Mass marking 29 years of his Radio Maryja, a Catholic broadcaster he leads which is popular among millions of older Poles and is supported by Poland's conservative government.
Opposition politicians and government critics expressed outrage on social media, noting that the congregation, including Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro and an official representing children's rights, all applauded the sermon.
Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski called Rydzyk's words “scandalous.” The sermon also drew a call from the head of Poland's Catholic Church, Archbishop Wojciech Polak, for the priest's superiors to take “resolute reaction.”
The Redemptorists Catholic order Rydzyk belongs to issued a statement Monday condemning “the sin and the crime of pedophilia as well as any cover up or procrastination in clarifying these matters.”
Saturday's crowded mass amid COVID-19 pandemic also came under fire from health officials who said all participants should go into 10-day quarantine.