WARSAW Father Henryk Jankowski, "the chaplain of Solidarity" who later caused deep embarrassment to the Catholic Church because of his anti-Semitism and high living, has died aged 74 in Gdansk, the city mayor said.
Jankowski was at the forefront of Lech Walesa's Solidarity trade union, which played a key role in toppling communism in 1989, but his high profile and outspoken comments led to him falling out with the Church hierarchy.
"It is with regret that I need to inform you that today at 8:05 pm Father Henryk Jankowski died...We will not forget the role he played in the history of our country and our city," Gdansk mayor Pawel Adamowicz wrote on social networking site Facebook late on Monday.
Jankowski actively supported the pro-democracy underground opposition in the 1970s and 1980s. He was the first chaplain to say mass for workers at the Gdansk shipyard, the cradle of the Solidarity movement, as they went on strike to get concessions from the Communist government.
"Without his attitude, our fight would not have ended in success," Walesa told Polsat News TV broadcaster.
However, in post-Communist Poland Jankowski became a controversial figure known for anti-Semitism and criticism of the European Union. He was banned from preaching after he said Poles should not tolerate a Jewish minority in the government. He was subsequently dismissed from being the rector of Gdansk's St.Bridget Church.
Walesa said that after the fall of Communism the opinions expressed by the priest meant a distance grew between the pair.
"He had different views on many issues than I did and this separated us."
Jankowski, who was known for highlighting the role of Jews in the death of Jesus Christ, had a penchant for luxury cars and expensive clothes, which also drew criticism, as did some of his business enterprises. One scheme involved a wine called 'Monsignore' which had his image on the bottle label.
(Writing by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Matthew Jones)