Image: Polish police, ex-nun
Czarek Sokolowski  /  AP
Court officials, backed by 150 police officers, pushed their way into a Poland convent. The women had taken over the building in a rebellion against the Vatican, which had ordered the replacement of their mother superior.
updated 10/11/2007 5:31:41 AM ET 2007-10-11T09:31:41

Police evicted 65 rebellious ex-nuns Wednesday from a convent they illegally occupied for two years after defying a Vatican order to replace their mother superior, a charismatic leader who had religious visions.

The defeated nuns walked out in their black habits — some carrying guitars, drums and tambourines — after a locksmith opened the gate to the walled compound and police in riot gear rushed in and arrested the mother superior. A former Franciscan friar who had locked himself away with the nuns also was taken into custody.

Several nuns, many of whom appeared to be in their 20s, screamed at police, calling them “servants of Satan,” as they were escorted out and into waiting buses.

The women took over the convent in Kazmierz Dolny in eastern Poland in rebellion against a Vatican order in 2005 to replace Jadwiga Ligocka as mother superior.

“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.

About 150 police in riot gear went into the compound to find the ex-nuns defiantly singing religious songs and playing instruments, Puzewicz said.

Lublin Archbishop Jozef Zycinski called the police operation a last resort meant to help the ex-nuns.

“Today’s police intervention was a sort of act of desperate aid for people who for the past two years have lived in very unusual conditions, in a closed environment, in seclusion, in uncertainty, where various forms of thought take shape,” the PAP news agency quoted Zycinski as saying.

“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.

Church official: Some appeared 'manipulated'
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.

During questioning, the ex-friar “didn’t respond to questions in any topical, concrete or logical way or to the charges,” Bednarczyk said. “He also didn’t give any logical answer to his place of residence, but instead made some religious references.”

Mother Jadwiga is a charismatic figure who claimed to have religious visions and was reportedly attempting to transform the convent into a contemplative order.

The Lublin diocese hinted at that portrait in a statement on its Web site that said: “Mother Jadwiga’s private revelations, and the fact that she made it a guideline to stick by them, caused unease to the Congregation.”

Vatican expelled nuns in 2006
The Vatican, which has authority over all convents, has traditionally been wary of people claiming visions, in part fearing others could be drawn in.

When the Vatican formally expelled the nuns from their order in 2006, the women refused to leave the convent and cut themselves off from the outside world.

The church eventually sought legal action to remove them, and a court in nearby Pulawy ordered their eviction. The convent’s electricity was cut off earlier this year, but sympathetic local residents secretly funneled them food at night.

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