A Catholic priest in Poland has been sentenced to community service after being convicted for inciting antisemitic hatred.
A Catholic priest from the Polish city of Poznan has been sentenced to community service for insulting Jews and inciting antisemitic hatred. According to critics, this is a landmark case.
Father Michał Woźnicki has a long track record of antisemitic comments, for which he has now been sentenced to 30 hours of community service for the next six months. The order was handed down by a judge earlier this month.
The conviction closes the trial of Father Woźnicki, which began with comments made during a sermon in October 2021. “Jews in the world have assumed the role of a leech, a tick, a body that lives on the host’s body, swells, leading the host’s body to death, moving on to the next one,” he said, according to Polish media. He also said that Jews were in league with the devil and were responsible for the spread of sexual impropriety in Poland, reports The Jerusalem Post.
Following his conviction, Woźnicki lashed out in comments to journalists: “Apparently, the Jews do not like me very much because I love the Lord Jesus. As a non-Jew, I concede to the Jewish king, while the Jews do not so much to their king.”
Woźnicki has a record of controversy at the church, and he delivered a sermon online because he has been suspended from his pulpit and is facing other sanctions from the church.
However, a civil society group that pressed for him to face charges believes this is a landmark case because Woźnicki was convicted as an ordained priest. The group, Otwarta Rzeczpospolita or Open Republic, is devoted to fighting antisemitism and xenophobia in Poland.
“This is a precedent case,” the group said in a statement. “It was not Woźnicki’s first hateful sermon, but the first one that the prosecutor’s office dealt with.”
The verdict is welcomed by Polish Jewish leaders.
“Woźnicki is well known for his antisemitic diatribes and anti-church tirades (he has called Pope Francis a heretic),” said Poland’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich. “The Polish court has handed down a clear verdict that antisemitic hate speech is illegal in Poland. We are hopeful that the Polish courts will continue to find others guilty of this crime.”
Photo credit: The Times of Israel (Screen capture from video of Polish priest Father Michał Woźnicki, 2021. (YouTube. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)