Polish priest attacked in sacristy during apparent robbery

Szczecin, Poland, Jul 29, 2019 / 11:03 am (CNA).- A Catholic priest was severely beaten in an attack by three men in the sacristy of St. John the Baptist church in Szczecin on Sunday, in what was reportedly an attempted robbery.

Fr. Aleksander Ziejewski, 68, was attacked July 28 shortly before the 6 pm Mass. He had responded to a call for help from the sacristan, who said three men had entered the sacristy and were trying to take a chasuble, claiming they needed it to celebrate Mass, according to the priest.

According to Radio Szczecin, the men, who had also demanded other religious goods, intended to rob the church.

Ziejewski told EWTN Poland that he entered the sacristy and asked the men to leave, when “one of them got angry, started to blaspheme,” and pushed both the sacristan and the church’s security guard, who was also present.

The same man then beat the priest before all three fled. Ziejewski said he believes the man, when he hit him, used a rosary around his hand in the manner of brass knuckles. The rosary was taken from the sacristy. The priest described his face as “flooded with blood.”

According to the Szczecin police, the three men, ranging in age from 27 to 53 years old, were caught and held for questioning Monday.

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Szczecin-Kamień said Monday the priest will need surgery due to the severity of his wounds.

The spokesman said the attack could have been motivated by anti-religious sentiment, because the men entered the sacristy during the day, close to the start of an evening Mass, when it would be expected that someone would be present.

“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.

The attack took place just over a month after another priest, Fr. Ireneusz Bakalarczyk, was stabbed in Wrocław. Bakalarczyk has recovered after he was hospitalized and underwent surgery for internal injuries in his chest and abdomen that he reportedly sustained during the June 10 stabbing.

Bakalarczyk was on his was to celebrate Mass at the church of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the Sand, in the city center of Wrocław, when a 57-year-old man approached him and started a conversation about the sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church, before allegedly pulling out a knife and stabbing the priest in the chest and abdomen, according to local news channel TVP Info.

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