Radio Maryja

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Signs such as this one in Łagów used to be a common sight in rural Poland, indicating the local frequency of the station. Currently the station broadcasts on numerous FM frequencies in Poland, via satellite and the Internet. In the past this Catholic station was also aired on shortwave from Russia.
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The Radio Maryja headquarters are housed in a modern building amid gardens on the outskirts of Toruń. The complex is fenced and monitored.
Radio Maryja is a nationalist, conservative, anti-post-communists and allegedly anti-Semitic radio station and media group, describing itself as Catholic and patriotic, founded in Toruń, Poland, on December 9, 1991 and constantly run by the Reverend Father Director Tadeusz Rydzyk CSsR. It strongly backed the victorious Law and Justice party and the Kaczyński twins during the parliamentary and presidential elections in Poland in 2005 [1], and was long a key pillar of support for the resulting coalition government.[2] The station has been criticized by the Vatican, and by Polish and international media notably for perceived spreading of one-sided, polonocentric view of the world, misconceived patriotism, the use of Catholicism as a political tool, and the promotion of conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic propaganda. The Episcopate of Poland warned Radio Maryja on 'political broadcasting’.[3] Nevertheless part of the Episcopate often expresses thankfulness to the station for its alleged evangelization work. A political and religious movement led by the Father Director is called the Radio Maryja Family. The name "Maryja" assumed by the group, is a traditional form of the name "Mary", referring to Mary, mother of Jesus by the Polish Roman Catholic community. Critics say that numerous scandals sparked by the Radio Maryja abused the authority of the Catholic Church in Poland.[4]

Programming schedule

Radio Maryja's programming consists of a political and religious news service (6 times daily), frequent recitals of the Rosary, breviary, Chaplet of Divine Mercy, the unction to the Black Madonna of Częstochowa, discussions on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, daily transmission of the Holy Mass or of the Pope's pilgrimages, and sociological and political programs such as "A Program for Farmers" or "Unfinished Conversations". Recorded broadcasts of the station are filed on many internet sites, for example: 1) web site of Jerzy Nowak of Radio Maryja, 2) Radio Maryja broadcasts - "strange and interesting programme fragments", and some on 3) the Radio Maryja official web page. A slogan frequently repeated on Radio Maryja is: "Radio Maryja - The Catholic Voice in Your Home".

Ownership and finances

The radio station is owned by the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Warsaw Province), and is financed through donations from its audience - "The Radio Maryja Family". Due to a concordat with the Vatican that grants certain privileges to the Church, Radio Maryja is not bound by any accounting rules. Therefore Radio Maryja does not disclose the exact sources of its financing, nor of any of its enterprises, and does not pay taxes.[5] As revealed by Radio Maryja, it is generously supported by Jan Kobylański[6] (a Uruguay-based millionaire, who was reportedly prevented from entering the US due to his alleged wartime collaboration with the Nazis, and is closely linked to the operator of Radio Maryja[7]). The station was also sponsored by Edward Moskal, the anti-Semitic [] chairman of the American Polish Congress[0].

Radio Maryja raised millions of Polish zlotys from donors to save the historical shipyard in Gdańsk (where Solidarity was founded). The shipyard did not receive any of the money, however. According to press, Father Rydzyk lost the millions on the stock market.[8].

Audience

Radia Maryja's audience is reputed to consist largely of elderly, rural listeners.[9] The station frequently claims that it has "millions of listeners", but market research usually shows lower numbers: approx. 1.2 million people daily. The audience peaked in 1998 and was estimated to be around 2 million listeners. The station estimates that it is listened to by well over 10% of adults in Poland[10], but the most comprehensive market research by Radio Track[11] for the whole of Poland (June-July 2005) shows a 2.5% "share of listening time". [12] A March 15, 2007 Economist article summarized that "The church in Poland is divided between Vatican loyalists, who often oppose close involvement in politics, and energetic dissidents linked to Radio Maryja, a hardline broadcaster. This once had huge clout, articulating the feelings of Poles alienated by the country's brisk, materialist business culture and the decay in moral norms. But Radio Maryja's audience has shrunk in the past decade to no more than 2% of all current listeners." Radio Maryja is one of several Catholic media outlets in Poland.

Radio Maryja Family

The Reverend Rydzyk has gathered a large group of committed followers, the Radio Maryja Family (Rodzina Radia Maryja), to which he is an unquestionable charismatic authority.[13] Many supporters of the Radio identify themselves with this movement which opponents call "the army of mohair berets", a pejorative and satirical expression. As of November 2006, The Radio Maryja Family network had 600 clubs and offices across Poland.[14] The movement holds a pilgrimage to Częstochowa every year, which in 2006 attracted about 200,000. These pilgrimages help to recruit members because in Poland the cult of Mary (mother of Jesus) is particularly strong. Representatives of the Radio Maryja Family also visited the Vatican five times during the papacy of John Paul II. These visits are continuously spotlighted on the Radio Maryja web page alongside political articles, although John Paul II clearly stated that priests should not be involved in politics. Father Director and his organization has dealt with politics and strongly supported the conservative party PiS and its leaders, the Kaczynski brothers.

While the conventional greeting in the Roman Catholic Church is, "Praised be Jesus Christ!", the followers of Father Director use, "May Jesus Christ and Mary ever Virgin be praised".

Related enterprises

Enterprises related to Radio Maryja, independent of the Roman Catholic Church authorities, and initiated by the Reverend Rydzyk are the TV network Telewizja Trwam (lit. "I Persist") [15], a newspaper Nasz Dziennik ("Our Daily"), the Nasza Przyszłość ("Our Future") Foundation, the Lux Veritatis ("The Light of Truth") Foundation, and the Wyższa Szkoła Kultury Społecznej i Medialnej ("The College of Social and Media Culture") in Toruń. The rector of the College until recently was the Reverend Rydzyk. Radio Maryja's opponents say that this network of six enterprises is dominated by the Reverend Rydzyk and call it the "Media Empire of Father Rydzyk", or the "Rydzyk holding company"[16].

Criticisms and controversies

Intolerance

A recent survey on European "hate radio" prepared by Radio Netherlands cited Radio Maryja as controversial. One of Radio Maryja's programs, "Unfinished Conversations", is according to the magazine Polityka "dominated by intolerance and authoritarianism". Lech Wałęsa, a Nobel Prize laureate and a former president of Poland who is a critic of the station [17], announced that "Radio (Maryja) is lying if it considers itself a Catholic station". [18] Nevertheless, Radio Maryja claims that it is the only independent radio station in Poland. It accuses other media, mainly Gazeta Wyborcza, of fiercely attacking the "only entirely Polish radio station". Critics note that the station uses propaganda which emphasizes nationalism, antisemitism, and anti-communism. Radio Maryja also propagates anti-German prejudice.[19]

Antisemitism

Critics [20] agree that the radio station crosses the line of xenophobia and propagates extreme antisemitism [21] and hate concepts such as żydokomuna. The Council for Media Ethics referred to the station's "weakly documented accusations" as "primitive anti-Semitism".[22] For example in one broadcast Radio Maryja listeners were told that the Jewish people fled from Poland with all the Jewish gold and that Jews have a negative effect on the birth rate of the Polish people. In January 2000 another controversy was caused by a statement of Ryszard Bender, a historian from the Catholic University of Lublin discussing on Radio Maryja with a convicted Holocaust denier [23] Dariusz Ratajczak, that Auschwitz was not an extermination camp but merely a very large labour camp for Jews [24][25]. In April, 2006 Stanisław Michalkiewicz was reported in the Gazeta Wyborcza as stating that "men from Judea... are trying to surprise us from behind", and referring to the World Jewish Congress as "a main firm in the Holocaust Industry". [26] Michalkiewicz responded by calling the Gazeta Wyborcza "an unusual example of the Jewish fifth column in Poland" and "a Jewish newspaper for Poles". Nevertheless, supporters of Radio Maryja claim that hate or anti-Semitic statements transmitted by the station are rare and originate mostly from its listeners and not its employees.[27]

The antisemitism of Radio Maryja has brought the station to worldwide attention.[28] A report of the Council of Europe stated that Radio Maryja has been "openly inciting to antisemitism for several years" and that there is "a lack of effective implementation of measures intended to prohibit antisemitic acts and statements" in Poland.[29] The Simon Wiesenthal Center initiated a petition condemning Father Rydzyk's alleged antisemitic statements.[30] See a video of Rabbi Marvin Hier talking about the Jew-hating Father Rydzyk.

In 2004 Radio Maryja went on a campaign in defense of Father Henryk Jankowski, a priest accused of antisemitism and pedophilia. (State prosecutor found no proof of child molestation, but stated that relations between Father Jankowski and the altar boys were improper. The scandal resulted in a recall of Father Jankowski from the post of the parish priest [31]).

In July 2007 over 600 Polish Catholic intellectuals, journalists, priests and Catholic activists signed a public letter of protest condemning the antisemitic extremist Father Tadeusz Rydzyk.[32] (the signed letter: [33], in Polish).

In August 2007 Nasz Dziennik, a newspaper tightly linked with Radio Maryja, suggested approval of the Holy Father for Father Rydzyk's behavior - an article titled "The Holy Father Blessed Us" described in detail how Father Rydzyk and his company went to Vatican and kissed the hand of the Holy Father. The Vatican promptly announced: "In reference to requests for clarification related to (Father) Tadeusz Rydzyk's 'kiss' ... the matter does not imply any change in the Holy See's well-known position on relations between Catholics and Jews".[34]

Conspiracy theories

A recent affair regarding the WSI, presented on the station by Antoni Macierewicz, purports to show how society was steered by the secret services. The station has claimed that the freemasons rule the world and that the Jews will conquer the world (listen). It was once broadcast that the Jews rule the country, that their government should be removed with violence and that Radio Maryja should take the power (listen). Jewish people working in the World Trade Center were accused of betrayal and conspiracy as they supposedly knew everything ahead of time.

Conflict with Vatican

The Vatican has voiced deep concern about Radio Maryja [35] [36]. The papal nuncio in Poland, Archbishop Józef Kowalczyk, wrote to the Polish Episcopate requesting their aid "to overcome difficulties caused by some transmissions and the views presented by Radio Maryja".[37] In response in May 2006 Polish bishops established an oversight body, a Cooperative Unit for Pastoral Care of Radio Maryja (headed by bishop Sławoj Leszek Głódź). Some Polish bishops support the Reverend Rydzyk, and "thanked for the great evangelizing work conducted by Radio Maryja".[38] Also a group of Polish Sejm deputies and EuroMPs addressed an open letter to the chair of the Episcopate of Poland concerning "protection for Radio Maryja".[39] The controversial Father Director remains the head of Radio Maryja and the radio has ignored the warning from the Vatican ambassador.[40]

Several Polish bishops had criticized Radio Maryja for spreading opinions incompatible with the official Episcopate's stand.[41] Critics note that the Radio Maryja case has divided the Polish Episcopate for a long time[42][43][44]. Media speculated that the Roman Catholic Church in Poland might be heading for a schism[45]. Although a schism may be doubtful, the potential breakaway church led by the Reverend Rydzyk was named "The Rydzyk Church of Poland"[46], an ironic expression, or the "Toruń-Catholic Church" (in Polish: kościół toruńsko-katolicki). In Poland the latter term is sometimes used to refer to the ideology of Radio Maryja in general. Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek, the former secretary general of the Episcopate of Poland, said that Radio Maryja is "a real and growing problem", it "offers a reduced view on Christianity" and "is extremely compromising and shameful, sick and dangerous".[47]

The Pope John Paul II only initially supported Radio Maryja for its prayer broadcasts, though clearly not for its politics or any of the controversies which arose later. According to the official Vatican web page: "Radio Maryja (...) became much more involved in spreading risky politics than in spreading the Gospel."[48]

Euroscepticism

Radio Maryja strongly opposed Poland's joining of the European Union which eventually happened in 2004. [49] The station also suggested that a close cooperation with Russia would better serve Poland's national interests than joining of NATO (which happened in 1999).[50] Until 2003 the Catholic Radio Maryja was also aired on shortwave from Russia. Despite his euroscepticism, Father Director applied for funds of the European Union alloted to help boost Polish businesses and researchers from 2007-2013.[51][52] Radio Maryja often states that it is attacked by liberal politicians and by media who are doing everything to assault “the only alternative for Poland”.[53] (original web site, in Polish).

Support for death penalty

Radio Maryja promoted the political program of Law and Justice, a Polish conservative party, which together with the League of Polish Families sought to introduce capital punishment in Poland and throughout Europe.[54][55][56] The support of Radio Maryja for death penalty contrasts strongly with the mainstream teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.[57]

Involvement in politics

Direct involvement in political issues is against the Catholic Church's directives for priests.[58] Nevertheless, controversial politicians, including Andrzej Lepper, Roman Giertych, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, and Zbigniew Ziobro, are often invited to promote their views on Radio Maryja. Thus the supposedly religious station serves as a political channel of radical parties, although the Vatican has ordered Radio Maryja to "drop the politics".[59] Asked whether the Reverend Rydzyk would himself form a party, bishop Tadeusz Pieronek, the former secretary general of the Episcopate of Poland, replied that he could not imagine a priest starting a political organization.[60].

In January 2006, a journalist from the Polish tabloid Fakt phoned the minister for agriculture Krzysztof Jurgiel, claiming to be Father Director's assistant, and told Jurgiel that Father Director's car had broken down. The minister immediately sent a government limousine for the Reverend Rydzyk. The reporter said he had carried out the provocation to check Rydzyk's influence in the government.

In February 2006 the Law and Justice party signed a key agreement with two other political parties. To the fury of the Polish press, only journalists from Radio Maryja's sister television network Trwam and its director the Reverend Rydzyk, who actively supported Law and Justice during the election, were allowed in the room. The president of the Polish National Broadcasting Council, Elzbieta Kruk, stated that she has no authority to act in regard to these complaints, as she has been appointed by the Polish president Lech Kaczynski; critics add that the government fears of alienating the station's dedicated audience, who make up a significant fraction of the constituency of the governing party Law and Justice.[61]

In March 2006, Polish literary critic and television personality Kazimiera Szczuka satirized a young woman who frequently recites prayers on Radio Maryja, not knowing that the woman was confined to a wheelchair. Despite Szczuka's public apology, she was found guilty of "insulting a disabled person and mocking her religion" by the Polish National Broadcasting Council. The station on which she had appeared was fined the equivalent of $125,000;[62] according to the Polish press, the highest fine the Council had ever levied. The sole dissenting member of the Council, Wojciech Dziomdziora, stated that "It is probably right to say" that the political support of Radio Maryja for the ruling party "is the real reason" for the serious punishment of Szczuka, while Radio Maryja is given a free hand for disparaging comments on other's religions.[63]

Governmental back up

The current Polish government openly supported Radio Maryja. In December 2006 the Prime Minister of Poland, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, joined the 15th anniversary celebrations of Radio Maryja and praised the station as a source of "comfort and hope".[64][65] Kaczynski warned that "an attack on Radio Maryja is an attack against freedom" [66] (article in Polish by Radio Maryja). Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the twin brother of the President of Poland, was a regular guest of Radio Maryja.[67]

Scandals with President's wife

In 2007 Father Rydzyk heavily offended Maria Kaczynska, the wife of the Polish President Lech Kaczynski, and 50 women journalists who met with the Polish first lady on the International Women's Day. The Reverend Rydzyk said that the meeting was a cesspool - "We will not call it anything else. We will never refer to a cesspool as a perfumery." The women signed a statement to protest a tightening of the country's already strict abortion laws.[68] Later the Wprost magazine published a recording from a lecture given by the Reverend Rydzyk at his private College of Social and Media Culture in Toruń, in which, according to Wprost, he called the President's wife "a witch who should perform euthanasia on herself" and stated that "the President cheated him" (published 8 July, 2007, text and sound in Polish: [69]). He allegedly called the Polish President "a swindler who had bowed to pressure from the Jewish lobby".[70] The Reverend Rydzyk refused to apologize saying that the voice recording was "a manipulation" and a result of a "fight of spirits". BBC News noted that "Mr. Rydzyk has not denied making the comments".[71]

Alleged attacks on Radio Maryja

In 1996, an anonymous person phoned Radio Maryja and spoke vulgar language to the priest hosting a live program (). As a result Radio Maryja uses a delay loop which allows filtering of callers' comments.

Polish Internauts broadly discuss the problems created by Radio Maryja. For example the station used to continuously broadcast an RDS signal for traffic announcements making car radios in Poland notoriously switch to Radio Maryja - see Usenet post: [72], in Polish. A Google search for 'siedziba szatana' (Polish for 'Satan's seat') once resulted in the Radio Maryja homepage: screenshot 1, screenshot 2. This was due to a Google bomb.

References

1. ^ Cas Mudde (2005). Racist Extremism in Central and Eastern Europe. London: Routledge, 168. ISBN 0415355931. OCLC 55228719. 

External links

See also

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