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Top Polish cleric apologises after paedophile gaffe

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Poland's top Catholic cleric apologised Tuesday for suggesting parents shared the blame for paedophilia cases, including those involving Catholic priests, after a public outcry.

Poland is one of Europe's most strongly Roman Catholic countries, but public loyalty to the church is weakening, particularly in the wake of a series of allegations of paedophilia involving priests.

Speaking to the Polish PAP news agency Tuesday, Archbishop Jozef Michalik condemned paedophile priests, but said child abuse "manifests itself when a child is looking for love" and could be avoided "given a healthy relationship between parents".

Michalik later apologised and said he had been misunderstood, after the comments sparked a media storm.

"Often a person who is lost will take advantage of a child. The child doesn't have the power to draw a person into anything," he told reporters.

"I'm sorry for the misunderstanding. A child is innocent."

Unlike the United States or Ireland, child sex abuse by priests in Poland remains a largely taboo subject and has not so far provoked widespread public outcry.

Nonetheless Poland's Catholic Church is expected to declare "zero tolerance" for paedophiles on Wednesday.

It issued an unprecedented apology earlier this month over alleged paedophile priests, as prosecutors on both sides of the Atlantic began investigations against two high-profile suspects.

Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, a 65-year-old Pole who served as a papal envoy in the Dominican Republic's Santo Domingo for around five years, is being investigated for allegedly having sex with teenage boys.

Authorities on the Caribbean island nation are also investigating Wojciech Gil, a 36-year-old priest suspected of raping several young boys while serving there.

Gil told Polish media last week the allegations were fabricated, pointing to Dominican drug gangs possibly trying to frame him.

Despite the apology, Church leaders in Poland insist they will not be offering victims any material compensation.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131008/top-polish-cleric-apologises-after-paedophile-gaffe