Tens of thousands of Poles are petitioning the Pope to silence the “hateful voice” of controversial priest media tycoon Tadeusz Rydzyk.

Driving the news

As of December 29, 144,000 people from Poland and beyond have signed the petition at online activist network Avaaz calling on Francis “to curtail the political activity of Redemptorist Tadeusz Rydzyk and restore the religious character of his radio and television”.

Rydzyk is the all-powerful head of Radio Maryja and TV Trwam in Poland.

Both outlets the priest has turned into “an aggressive, anti-immigrant, nationalist and often hateful voice”, the Avaaz petition denounces.

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Rydzyk, “a religious using Catholicism as a tool to gain money and power, is an example of pathology occurring in the Polish Catholic Church”, the request to the pontiff continues.

“Rydzyk actively participates in Polish politics. Politicians support financially (from the state budget) his investments, which generally have nothing to do with religion, and he supports them on his radio and television.

“In spite of his vow of poverty, he was among the top hundred richest Poles. Is such hypocrisy in line with Christian values?”, the petition asks rhetorically.

Deploring the division Rydzyk causes with the politics he pushes, the petitioners decry that the priest’s media meddling “does not seem to be in line with Christian ideas or the principles of humanism and ordinary decency”.

What’s more, “the hierarchy of the Polish Catholic Church silently accepts Tadeusz Rydzyk’s unworthy Christian attitude”, the Avaaz signatories continue.

The Polish Bishops “give the impression that the fear of [Rydzyk’s] media and political power is stronger than their attachment to the principles of elemental decency”.

Expressing their hope that the Pope is equally “disgusted” by Rydzyk’s “hypocrisy, racism, sowing discord and treating religion as business”, the petitioners call on Francis “to curtail [Rydzyk’s] political activity” and bring him back into line with his religious discipline.

Why it matters

According to the AFP, the Avaaz petition against Rydzyk was initiated by two Polish university professors who wish to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals.

Such is the academics’ fear – and the alleged corruption of the Polish episcopate – that the professors sidestepped Poland altogether and entrusted the petition to Thomas Lukaszuk, the Polish-born ex-deputy premier of the Canadian province of Alberta.

Lukaszuk told the AFP that he, in turn, gave the text of the petition – along with copies of Polish newspaper articles and videos – to the Archbishop of Edmonton, Richard Smith, for delivery to Pope Francis.

The professors decided to go through Lukaszuk because they “knew” that in Poland “there was a high probability that the Polish Catholic Church would destroy the petition and not deliver it to the pope”, Lukaszuk himself said.

For the record

“Now the Church is aware” of Rydzyk’s messages, the politician continued, adding that he is awaiting a written response from Edmonton archbishop confirming the transmission of the Avaaz petition to the head of the Catholic Church.

If Archbishop Smith fails to acknowledge receipt, Lukaszuk said he plans to ensure that the petition is passed on directly to the Pope by delivering it to the Apostolic Nuncio at the Vatican Embassy in Ottawa.

Lukaszuk, for his part, denounced Rydzyk’s nationalism and anti-Semitism, and said the Pope must take a stand.

Rydzyk’s comments “are anti-LGBTQ, anti-black, anti-immigration, anti-Muslim, and should not be tolerated”, the politician warned.

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