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Poland's Solidarity priest Jankowski dies at 73
Vanessa Gera (AP, July 12, 2010)

Warsaw, Poland - Henryk Jankowski, a Polish priest who gained prominence in the 1980s by supporting Lech Walesa's Solidarity movement but who later saw his reputation marred by anti-Semitism and suspicions of pedophilia, died Monday evening in Gdansk, the city's mayor said. He was 73.

Mayor Pawel Adamowicz announced Jankowski's death on Facebook, saying the prelate died at 8:05 p.m. local time. He did not give a cause of death but Polish media reports noted that the priest had battled diabetes for years.

Jankowski, the parish priest for the St. Brygida Church in Gdansk, came to national prominence when he celebrated Masses for shipyard workers striking under Walesa's leadership - resistance that paved the way for communism's eventual demise. Along the way he won the nickname "Solidarity's chaplain," but he was one of many priests who waded into dangerous waters to support Solidarity's struggle for freedom against repressive - and atheist - communist rule.

"We do not forget the role that he played in the history of our country and city," Adamowicz said.

Another prominent anti-communist priest, Jerzy Popieluszko, was tortured and killed by communist secret agents in 1984 for his activism, and beatified in Warsaw in early June for that martyrdom.

The reputation that Jankowski built up with his support for freedom took a terrible battering in the years after communism's collapse due to anti-Semitic remarks.

He was also investigated on allegations that he sexually abused a minor, though he was never convicted. He insisted he was innocent, but called the accusations a slander campaign orchestrated by "Jews and Judeo-Communists."

In 1997, Jankowski was barred by Roman Catholic authorities from giving sermons for one year following repeated anti-Semitic remarks. During one homily, for instance, he said that members of "the Jewish minority cannot be tolerated in the Polish government."

A funeral Mass is planned for him in his church, St. Brygida, on Saturday at 11 a.m. local time, the news agency PAP reported.


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