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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Mauvaises ondes entre le Saint-Siège et Varsovie

by P.F.

Vatican at Odds with Warsaw Fundamentalists

Translated by Carol Gullidge

Translated Friday 2 June 2006, by Carol Gullidge

Pope Benedict XVI recently visited the land of his predecessor, John-Paul II. But as Poland’s political and religious leaders shift further towards the extreme Right, the Vatican now finds itself at odds with the country’s current increasing fundamentalism.


Holy See at odds with Warsaw

The Pope was confronted during his visit to Poland with the rise in a nationalist and antisemitic fundamentalism that has been borne along by the omnipresent Radio Maryja.

For his first journey away from the Vatican, apart from a spell in his native Germany, Pope Benedict XVI chose a destination that he hoped would be uncontroversial. For Poland was the native land of his predecessor John-Paul II, whose popularity remains intact throughout the Catholic world. It is also the European country where the Christian faith remains the firmest, promising the Pope an enthusiastic reception - most welcome to a man who is still little known to the believers and often considered ‘cold’.

Despite this, Poland is nevertheless starting to become a serious problem for Benedict XVI. The renewal of the faith in the eighties, fostered by John-Paul II to challenge the communist regime, has taken a fundamentalist turn over the last few years, becoming a source of unease to the Catholic hierarchy. This “boomerang” effect is crystallised on Radio Maryja, owned by the fundamentalist priest, Tadeusz Rydzyk.

Broadcasting an antiquated doctrine that sends women back into the home and condemns any so-called “deviant” practice (cohabitation, abortion, homosexuality), the station has built its popularity on its direct and unequivocal style, where xenophobic and racist indiscretions feature more and more frequently. The targets of Radio Maryja’s chronicles are often Jews, who are accused in particular of exaggerating the number of deaths in the Holocaust, or of robbing Poland.

Last month, a latest antisemitic indiscretion led the Vatican to take decisive action by demanding that the radio station be brought under control. The Warsaw episcopacy hardly seems in a hurry to take disciplinary action against Father Rydzyk. Listened to by several million people every day, Radio Maryja is an unequalled communication tool, and its creator is considered by opinion polls to be one of the most influential men in the country. In addition, the station was able to use Poland’s political shift towards the extreme Right to ensure its protection. Long since linked to the petty League of Polish Families (LPR), Radio Maryja and its cronies in television and the written press became the favourite stations of the Conservative party in power - the PIS (traditionalist Law and Justice party). At the beginning of this year, the PIS granted them exclusive rights over announcing government consensus. In short, it is a fact that the station’s fundamentalist and xenophobic doctrine coincides with the Catholicism of a good part of the Polish population, especially in rural areas. The Vatican may well condemn this neolithic fundamentalism, but it seems powerless to check its expansion.

Article first appeared in l’Humanité on 26 May 2006

URL: http://www.humanite.fr/journal/2006-05-26/2006-05-26-830490

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