The priest, who died in 2010, faced growing allegations before his death that he had abused boys and girls.
The toppling of the statue came hours before the opening of the Vatican summit on child sexual abuse by priests.
Polish police are questioning three men after the statue of the Solidarity movement’s former chaplain was pulled down in the northern city of Gdansk. Those responsible reportedly wanted to highlight what they saw as the ongoing failure of Polish bishops and politicians to address clerical abuse in their country.
They accused the church of:
Systemic complicity in the evil done to people by Henryk Jankowski.
Local politicians looked away, they added, rather than address the priest’s “vile” acts against young people in the city.
A video posted to YouTube shows three men looping a rope around the neck of the statue. After yanking it down and severing the pedestal’s anchoring cables, the protesters put the children’s apparel in its hands,
Driven by concern for the common good and respect for human dignity and freedom.
Jankowski, above, became a prominent figure as chaplain to the Solidarity trade union, founded in Gdansk in 1980. His parish church became a meeting place for union activists in their battle with the communist government in Warsaw.
Through his close ties to Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, he hosted world leaders in his church, including US president George H W Bush and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Walesa and other Solidarity figures distanced themselves from him over his growing nationalism and anti-Semitic views. He was removed from his position as parish priest in 2004 when abuse allegations surfaced.
Yesterday’s attack on the statue came a few months after red paint was poured over it when fresh media reports against the priest were published. A woman claimed the priest abused her and other children in the 1970s. A second woman said he touched her inappropriately when she was six.
Gdansk city hall said it would not return the monument to its public place and will instead put it into storage.
The committee that financed the Jankowski statue demanded it be reinstated , insisting that all charges against the priest were dropped during his lifetime.
Said a spokesman, Krzysztof Dosla:
What happened was based on slander, with no confirmation in reality, against someone dead for nine years.
In a statement on Thursday morning, ahead of the Vatican conference, the Polish Bishops’ Conference made no reference to the statue but promised “zero tolerance” on paedophilia in its ranks.