Poland is reckoning with the legacy of one of its most prominent historical figures as allegations that the late Pope John Paul II concealed child abuse deepen rifts in the predominantly Catholic country.
Claims in a new book and TV documentary that the late pope, born Karol Wojtyla, knowingly hid clerical pedophilia scandals as archbishop of Krakow have led some Poles to demand that his legacy be reassessed.
The account of Slawomir Mastek, a 56-old photographer from the late pope's hometown Wadowice, opens the book by a Dutch investigative journalist published on March 8. Mastek said he was molested by two priests when he was a 13-year old altar boy.
While one of the priests acknowledged his guilt, when Mastek confronted the church about the other case in 2011, he says local priests banned him from filming religious ceremonies and he lost up to 80% of his business.
The Polish Catholic church urged Poles to respect the late pope's memory, saying that a review of its archives did not confirm the accusations against the church hierarchy, adding that some files could be opened in future. The Vatican has not responded to requests for comment about the allegations in the book, called "Maxima Culpa."
"Opening the files that contain sensitive personal data requires care and consent from a local bishop, and possibly also the Vatican. It won't be a quick process," priest Lukasz Michalczewski, spokesman for the archbishop of Krakow, told Reuters.
Michalczewski said he was not familiar with Mastek's case, adding that the church has apologised to those that feel hurt by its actions and is ready to apologise again.
Mastek's studio on John Paul II central square Wadowice remains open but he now makes his living renovating houses. With elections due in autumn, he worries the politicisation of the issue will delay justice for other victims.
In the 1980s, the Catholic Church was a voice of freedom in Poland, inspiring people to stand up against communist rule.
However, it is slowly losing ground partly due to clerical sex abuse scandals, and accusations of cover-ups that have rocked the Church in recent years not only in Poland but in many countries, and involved John Paul II's successors.
Filip Kaczynski, a PiS lawmaker from Wadowice, said he has not seen the documentary but is convinced it aims to smear the late pope.
"Given that it was aired by a TV station that is openly supporting the opposition it's not an accident, it's an attack on the church that may be part of a political infighting," he said.
In Wadowice, the Museum of the Family Home of John Paul II has no plans to include the controversy, Deputy Director Katarzyna Coufal-Lenczowska said.
"You can't redefine the most important values and that's what this exhibit is about," she told Reuters.