WARSAW (Reuters) - A Catholic priest accused of sexually abusing children in Poland and the Dominican Republic was sentenced to seven years in jail by a Polish court on Wednesday.
The priest will also have to pay his eight victims a total of 155,000 zlotys ($41,735) in compensation, and will not be allowed to work with minors for 15 years, said judge Alina Bielinska at the regional court in Wolomin, central Poland.
The priest, who under Polish law can only be identified as Wojciech G., 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 was tried on 10 charges relating to child sex abuse and possessing pornographic images of children. The charges carried a maximum penalty of 15 years in jail.
Earlier in March, the priest offered to serve a seven-year jail term, under a part of Polish law that lets defendants file such motions without admitting guilt. Polish media have quoted the priest as saying he is not guilty.
Pope Francis has pledged zero tolerance for anyone in the church who abuses children, likening such molestation 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.
($1 = 3.7139 zlotys)
Reporting by Wiktor Szary; Editing by Andrew Heavens