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Polish Bishop Investigated Over Sex Abuse Allegations

FILE - People walk by the Temple of Divine Providence, a major church in Warsaw, Poland, May 13, 2019.

The Catholic Church is investigating claims that a bishop in Poland sexually abused a young girl decades ago, the clergyman confirmed on Monday.

Jan Szkodon, a bishop in the southern city of Krakow, said in a statement that the Vatican had told him of the inquiry, adding that the accusations were "false and harmful" — though he gave no further detail.

The Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper carries claims that he molested a 15-year-old girl in 1998.

The accuser in the case told the paper she came forward after seeing a documentary on abuse in the Church — a film that went viral on YouTube last year and led to a slew of new allegations.

The film, called "Tell No One," includes hidden camera footage of victims who are now adults confronting elderly priests about the abuse they suffered decades earlier.

Poland's right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) government, which is close to the Church, raised jail terms for convicted pedophiles to a maximum 30 years in the wake of the documentary.

The claims against 73-year-old Szkodon cannot be prosecuted in the courts, however, as they are too far in the past.

"I firmly declare that the accusations against me are false and harmful to my reputation which I intend to defend," Szkodon said in a statement published on the Krakow diocese website.

"Until this matter is clarified, I will not engage in any pastoral work."

In March last year, the Polish Church published a report admitting nearly 400 of its clergy had sexually abused children and minors over the last three decades, reflecting claims made by a charity focused on abuse in the Church.

Allegations against senior clergy are rare in Poland — though an archbishop quit in 2002 after being accused of molesting choirboys.