KAZIMIERZ DOLNY, POLAND — Dressed in their black habits, the ex-nuns sat on the floor of the convent, defiantly strumming guitars and singing religious songs as police in riot gear pushed through the gate of the walled compound.
Hours later, after mild resistance and shouted insults at the officers there to evict them, the ex-nuns filed out in defeat, some with guitars hung over their shoulders, others carrying tambourines or drums.
“Servants of Satan!” yelled some of the women — many of whom appeared to be in their 20s.
Police evicted the 65 rebellious ex-nuns Wednesday from a convent in eastern Poland that they had occupied illegally for two years after defying a Vatican order to replace their mother superior, a charismatic leader who claimed to have religious visions.
TWO LEADERS ARRESTED
A locksmith was brought in to open the gate of the building and dozens of police rushed in, arresting the mother superior, Jadwiga Ligocka, as well as a former Franciscan friar secluded with the nuns.
The women took over the convent in Poland — the homeland of the late Pope John Paul II — in 2005 after refusing the Vatican order to replace Mother Jadwiga.
“They were disobedient,” said Mieczyslaw Puzewicz, a spokesman for the Lublin diocese of the Roman Catholic Church. The Vatican formally expelled the women from their Sisters of Bethany order last year, but has revealed almost nothing about the dispute.
Lublin Archbishop Jozef Zycinski called the police operation a last resort meant to help the ex-nuns, who had closed themselves off from the outside world.
“One could clearly see that tension and aggression during today’s intervention.”
Several hours into the operation, the women began leaving. Among them were Russian and Belarusian citizens who had been living in Poland illegally, police spokesman Mariusz Sokolowski said. They will likely be deported, he said.
DISTURBING THE PEACE CHARGES
Puzewicz said the ex-nuns appeared to have been “manipulated” psychologically. He did not say who he thought was influencing them, but said the former Franciscan friar, Roman Komaryczko, had a “negative influence” on Mother Jadwiga.
Komaryczko was charged with disturbing the peace and prosecutors planned to bring the same charge against Mother Jadwiga, said Robert Bednarczyk, of the Lublin prosecutors’ office.
Besides her claim of religious visions, Mother Jadwiga was reportedly attempting to transform the convent into a contemplative order.
The Vatican, which has authority over all convents, has been wary of people claiming visions, in part fearing others could be drawn in.