in Serbia Independent News
21 February 2014
KRAKÓW, Poland – Police in the southern Polish city of Kraków have arrested a 36-year-old priest wanted on sexual abuse charges in the Caribbean nation of the Dominican Republic.
Priest Wojciech Gil, 36, is accused of sexually abusing at least seven children, all of whom are boys. The crimes are alleged to have taken place in the small, hilly town of Juncalito, some 200 kilometers (125 miles) northwest of the capital, Santo Domingo.
Gil, known as ‘Padre Gil,’ or ‘Father Gil,’ led a Catholic parish in the town of 1,300 for almost eight years.
He is expected to be officially charged with the crimes next week in Kraków. The charges he is facing include abuse of minors, sexual abuse of minors and possession of child pornography. Regarding the last charge, Dominican authorities said they found over 87,000 pictures and videos of child pornography on Gil’s computer that he used at the small chapel he headed.
In addition, authorities in Poland disclosed that the priest is accused of sexually abusing two Polish children in 2006 before he relocated to the Dominican Republic.
It is unknown if Gil will be eventually extradited to the Dominican Republic to face charges there, but Dominican authorities have worked closely with their Polish counterparts to provide any and all information pertinent to Gil’s case.
He has denied all the charges before and he denied them once again at the first court hearing in Poland following his arrest. He also refused to answer most questions presented to him by the presiding judge on the case, which was moved shortly after his arrest to the Polish capital of Warsaw.
The allegations surfaced in November of 2013 when Gil was back in his native Poland on vacation. After he heard of the charges levied against him, Gil did not return to the Dominican Republic to resume his religious work.
He was eventually tracked down by Polish authorities in a small town in southern Poland, near the city of Kraków. They said they were keeping track of him after Interpol asked their Polish intelligence counterparts to find Gil.
After being traced to his parents’ home in Poland, Gil denied any wrongdoing both to a local journalist and a Dominican journalist via telephone. Instead, he said that he was set up by drug traffickers that operate in the region where he served because he was teaching locals to resist drugs and crime.
Regardless, the authorities kept an eye on Gil and finally, they gathered enough evidence to detain him, according to the prosecution team.
Meanwhile, Francisco Domínguez Brito, the Attorney General of the Dominican Republic, said he was glad that the Polish authorities detained Gil.
“This man not only brought pain and embarrassment upon the Catholic Church but above all, he violated and trampled the innocence and dignity of all these children,” the Dominican official said. “Justice cannot have borders,” he added, “and we trust in the Polish judicial system to see to it that justice is carried out.”
In Juncalito, the mountainous Dominican town where the alleged sexual abuse took place, the community was also glad that the priest was arrested. Additionally, most in the small town claim that the number of boys abused is twice the official number, at 14 or 15, as several of them (beside the seven included in the Dominican prosecutor’s files) appeared in the child pornography images Gil kept on his computer.
The group of parents whose children are among the abused said that by the time Gil left for his vacation to Poland, almost everyone, including the Church authorities, knew about his transgressions. He liked to drink rum and go for walks in the hillside with children, all of whom had parents that gave the children permission to spend time with the man they trusted.
The priest was also known to have traveled often from Juncalito to Santiago, the major city some 50 kilometers (30 miles) north. Gil would make the trips to the Dominican Republic’s 2nd-largest city in order to buy toys, clothing and other gifts for the children, something the parents would later found out was done in order to keep the children quiet.
A consensus was also reached between the community members that they all want to see Gil eventually extradited back to the Dominican Republic to face charges there.
This is the second case involving a Polish priest committing sexual abuse crimes against children in the Dominican Republic.
In September of 2013, Jozef Wesolowski, another Polish priest also from the Kraków region, was accused of sexually abusing children in the Caribbean nation.
The 65-year-old, who previously served as a Papal Nuncio, or envoy, for the Vatican in Central Asia and Bolivia, held the same position in the Dominican Republic since early 2008. He was Pope Benedict’s highest representative in that country.
Wesolowski was recalled to the Vatican in August of 2013 for ‘unspecified allegations,’ and just weeks later, investigations were launched into his activities by Dominican authorities. Prosecutors have asked for his extradition from the Vatican so he can face charges in Santo Domingo, but that does not look like it will happen.
Both Gil and Wesolowski, if the latter is extradited to Poland by any chance, could face up to twelve years in prison if found guilty of their crimes. In addition, Gil’s sentence could increase to twenty-two years if he is also found guilty on the child pornography charges.
The implication of Polish priests in sex abuse cases comes at a sensitive time for the Eastern European country’s most dominant faith, where the Catholic Church enjoys one of the highest adherence rates in the world.
Earlier this month, a 25-year-old man who was abused as a child by a priest filed a civic lawsuit against the suspect and the church through a court in Warsaw. With help from the human rights group Helsinki Foundation, this marked the first civil case in Poland involving a priest accused of sexual abuse.
The priest in question was convicted months before the civil case and is in prison serving a two-year-sentence.
The civil case, in which the man asked for approximately $65,000 in restitution, came after a small group of Polish sex abuse victims were denied any funds in damages collectively by the country’s Catholic leadership. According to high-ranking figures, the crimes were committed by priests acting independently, but the leadership did offer an apology to the victims.
Since his election to the papacy in March, Pope Francis has repeatedly said he will make the investigation of sexual abuse allegations a priority, but the UN and several human rights organizations are unsatisfied with the progress, or lackthereof, made regarding the issue.