Polish Bishops’ President Stanislaw Gadecki has expressed his “great sadness” over a physical attack on a priest at the Basilica of St. John the Baptist in the northwestern city of Szczecin.
In a statement released Tuesday, Gadecki, Archbishop of Poznan, sent his “solidarity and spiritual support” to the priest, Aleksander Ziejewski, and to other church workers also injured in the incident.
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Ziejewski, 68, was severely beaten by three men before last Sunday’s 6pm Mass, sustaining a wound to the face in the attack.
The attackers had burst into the basilica demanding vestments to celebrate Mass.
Ziejewski responded to a cry for help from the sacristy.
The priest told EWTN Poland that one of the intruders “got angry, started to blaspheme” and pushed the sacristan and the church’s security guard.
The same man then began “flogging the parish priest’s face with a rosary”, one witness told local radio, as if the rosary were a set of brass knuckles.
After the attack on Ziejewski, the three men fled.
The priest described his face being “flooded with blood” in the wake of the incident.
The attackers “were possessed by some kind of devilish fury”, said Ziejewski.
“They were casting insults… The sexton tried to shield me so they hit him as well and now he’s all in stitches. They were pushing the sacristy lady around”.
“I have five-centimetre-long stitches on my face”, lamented the priest.
Szczecin police reported that three men aged between 27 and 53 years old were arrested within an hour after the attack.
A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Szczecin-Kamien said Monday Ziejewski will need surgery for his wounds.
“We recommend offering [prayers for] the victims of this brutal beating, as well as praying for the conversion and repentance of the perpetrators”, the spokesman said.
“Increasingly frequent acts of hatred against believers, including priests, and acts of profanation of sacred objects, places and objects of worship, so important for the Catholics in Poland, arouse my highest concern”, said Polish Bishops’ president Gadecki meanwhile in his letter to Ziejewski.
“I am saddened to see the escalation of hostile behavior towards believers, including the use of symbolic and physical violence. Although in pluralistic society worldview differences are obvious, they can never be an excuse for this type of inhumane act”, Gadecki affirmed.
Gadecki concluded his letter to the priest “asking the perpetrators for repentance” and “asking all people of good will for prayer for the Church and for those who commit similar acts of hatred”.
He thanked Ziejewski for his “zealous” ministry “full of sacrifice” and wished the priest a “quick recovery”.