Polish cardinal accused of sexual abuse dies aged 97

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Polish cardinals Glemp and Gulbinowicz walk through the Vatican.
FILE PHOTO: Polish cardinals Glemp and Gulbinowicz walk through the Vatican.

WARSAW (Reuters) - A Polish cardinal who was accused of sexually abusing a minor has died at the age of 97, Poland's Roman Catholic Church said on Monday.

Cardinal Henryk Gulbinowicz, the former archbishop of Wroclaw, had been disciplined after an investigation into "allegations regarding the cardinal's past", the Vatican's nunciature (embassy) in Poland said earlier this month.

The Church said on Twitter that he had died on Monday morning. Polish media said Gulbinowicz had been in hospital in a serious condition for more than a week.

"I am asking God in His mercy to forgive the deceased for what caused suffering to the victims and pain to the community of believers," Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, Poland's most senior cleric, wrote in a message of condolence.

Last year, Poland's Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper published an article written by a man who accused Gulbinowicz of sexually abusing him when he was a minor in the 1990s and a student in a Catholic seminary.

The case was brought to prosecutors but they could not proceed because of the statue of limitations. At the time, the cardinal's lawyer said the accusations were false.

However, Gulbinowicz was barred from practising his ministry in public and ordered to contribute to a fund to help victims of sexual abuse, the nunciature said.

It also said he would be denied burial in what was once his cathedral, a tradition in Roman Catholic countries.

Gulbinowicz was the latest of several clerics to be caught up in sexual abuse scandals in Poland, the homeland of the late Pope John Paul II, where the Catholic Church remains very influential.

The Vatican recently ordered an investigation into the former archbishop of Gdansk on suspicion of negligence over sex abuse allegations, a month after Pope Francis accepted the resignation of a Polish bishop accused of shielding sexually abusive priests.

(Reporting by Alan Charlish; Editing by Gareth Jones)