Polish Minister Urges Citizens to ‘Defend the Churches’ Against Protesters

Poland’s deputy prime minister in charge of national security has urged his compatriots to “defend the churches” in the face of vandalism and pro-abortion demonstrations.

As Agence France Presse (AFP) reported Friday, “Catholic churches have become a new battleground in the struggle over abortion rights in Poland” following a high court decision protecting unborn children with disabilities such as Down syndrome from being targeted for eugenic abortions.

Security Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party said the protests against the churches, which have included vandalism, harassment of Catholic priests, and interrupted Masses, were an attempt to “destroy Poland.”

In an unusual move, Pope Francis weighed in on the question Wednesday, encouraging pro-life Poles to stand strong in their defense of life and opposition to abortion.

Addressing Polish pilgrims gathered in the Vatican for his weekly general audience, the pope reminded them that Saint John Paul II, whose feast day was October 22, “always called for a privileged love for the last and the defenseless and for the protection of every human being, from conception to natural death.”

“Through the intercession of Mary Most Holy and the sainted Polish pontiff, I ask God to instill in the hearts of all respect for the lives of our brothers and sisters,” he said, “especially the most fragile and defenseless, and to give strength to those who welcome and care for it, even when this requires heroic love.”

Francis has repeatedly condemned abortion, comparing it to hiring a “hit man” to take out a child, and last week said he dreams of a future for Europe where abortion is no longer legal.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has denounced the abortion protests against churches as “barbarism” while President Andrzej Duda called them “an insult to religious sentiment.”

Poznan Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, president of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, said that “the Church cannot cease to defend life, nor can she fail to proclaim that every human being must be protected from conception until natural death.”

“On this point, the Church, as Pope Francis often says, cannot compromise, because it would be guilty of the culture of rejection that is so widespread today, always affecting the most needy and vulnerable,” the archbishop said, while “asking all the faithful for prayers for unborn children, for parents expecting children, and for the conversion of those who use violence.”

Last Sunday, demonstrators interrupted Catholic Masses around Poland to protest the court’s decision. In Poznan, Warsaw, Wroclaw, Krakow and other cities, protesters stormed into churches while services were taking place, “confronting priests with obscenities” and spray-painting churches with slogans and phone numbers of abortion providers, Associated Press (AP) reported.

Further protests are expected later Friday as well as over the weekend.

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