March 20, 2015 / 1:07 PM / in 3 years

Polish priest offers to serve seven years in jail over child sex charges

WARSAW (Reuters) - A Catholic priest on trial for sexually abusing children in Poland and the Dominican Republic offered on Friday to serve a seven-year jail term, a court spokeswoman said.

The priest was suspended by his religious order in the rural Dominican parish of Juncalito last year after local residents accused him of molesting altar boys, according to the church.

He was arrested after returning to his native Poland and is on trial on 10 charges relating to child sex abuse and possessing pornographic images of children. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 15 years in jail.

“The priest filed for voluntary submission to a seven-year penalty,” said court spokeswoman Joanna Adamowicz. “The prosecutors will give their opinion on the motion on March 25.”

Polish law allows defendants to file such a motion, which does not signify an admission of guilt. Polish media have quoted the priest as saying he is not guilty.

The priest is being identified only as Wojciech G., as under Polish law the media is barred from reporting the family name of a defendant.

Pope Francis has pledged zero tolerance for anyone in the church who abuses children, likening such abuse to a “satanic mass”.

The Vatican last year arrested a defrocked Polish archbishop, Jozef Wesolowski, former Vatican ambassador to the Dominican Republic, after he was accused of having sex with children during his posting.

A church tribunal had previously ordered Wesolowski to be stripped of the priesthood.

Reporting by Adrian Krajewski; editing by Andrew Roche

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