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Radio Maryja is a Polishmarker religious, nationalist, conservative, anti-post-Communist and pro-life Roman Catholic radio station and media group, describing itself as patriotic. It was founded in Toruńmarker, Poland, on December 9, 1991 and run since its inception by the Redemptorist Tadeusz Rydzyk, often called Father Director by his followers. The station has been criticized by both Polish and international media, notably for perceived misconceived patriotism, the use of Catholicism as a political tool. The Vatican expressed concern about the station, and the Episcopate of Poland has warned Radio Maryja about 'political broadcasting', with Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz of Krakówmarker and the country's Primate, Cardinal Józef Glemp urging fellow Roman Catholic church leaders to take immediate action. Dziwisz made his remarks at a meeting of Polish hierarchy in July 2007, asserting that the station threatened the unity of Polish Catholicism. However, the bishops were divided over whether to take action against the station which has considerable influence among its primary audience of the elderly rural poor. 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 Polish form of the name "Mary", referring to Mary, mother of Jesus. Critics say that scandals sparked by Radio Maryja have twisted the teaching of the Catholic Church in Poland.

Programming schedule

Radio Maryja's programming consists of a political and religious news service (several 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, the Pope's pilgrimages, and sociological and political programmes such as "A Program for Farmers" or "Unfinished Conversations" Recorded broadcasts of the station are filed on many internet sites 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 Warswaw Province of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, and is financed through donations from its audience - "The Radio Maryja Family"; this is unlike most Polish radio stations which are either publicly funded or dependent on advertising revenue. Due to a concordat with the Vatican that grants certain privileges to the Church, Radio Maryja is not bound by normal accounting rules as it is regarded as being Church operated. Thus, Radio Maryja does not disclose the exact sources of its financing, nor of any of its enterprises, and does not pay taxes. As revealed by Radio Maryja, it is financed by Jan Kobylański (a Uruguaymarker-based millionaire, who was reportedly prevented from entering the USA due to his alleged wartime collaboration with the Nazis, and is closely linked to the operator of Radio Maryja). The station was also funded by Edward Moskal, the chairman of the American Polish Congress.

Radio Maryja raised millions of Polish zlotys from donors to save the historical shipyard in Gdańskmarker, where Solidarity was founded. However, the shipyard did not receive the money, as Father Rydzyk's associate lost millions of Polish zlotys on the stock market.

Audience

Radia Maryja's audience is reputed to consist largely of elderly, rural listeners. The station 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. The station estimates that it is listened to by well over 10% of adults in Poland; the most comprehensive market research by Radio Track for the whole of Poland (June-July 2005) shows a 2.5% "share of listening time", and this may or may not be in agreement with the 10% figure. 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 station has gathered a large group of committed followers, the Radio Maryja Family (Rodzina Radia Maryja), to which Tadeusz Rydzyk is, unquestionably, a charismatic figure. Supporters identify themselves with this movement which its 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. The movement holds a pilgrimage to Częstochowamarker every year, which in 2006 attracted about 500,000. Representatives of the Radio Maryja Family also visited the Vatican five times during the papacy of John Paul II. Rydzyk and his organisation have been involved with politics as well as supported the conservative party PiS and its leaders, the Kaczyński brothers. It is the position of Radio Maryja that Catholic voters should support candidates who uphold Catholic values.

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

Related enterprises

Enterprises related to Radio Maryja, independent of the Catholic Church authorities, and initiated by the Rydzyk are the TV network Telewizja Trwam (lit. "I Persist"), 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 Rydzyk. Radio Maryja's opponents say that this network of six enterprises is dominated by Rydzyk and call it the "Media Empire of Father Rydzyk", or the "Rydzyk holding company".

Criticisms and controversies

Allegations of intolerance

A survey on European "hate radio" prepared by Radio Netherlands cited Radio Maryja as controversial. One of Radio Maryja's programmes, "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, stated that "Radio (Maryja) is lying if it considers itself a Catholic station". Nevertheless, Radio Maryja claims that it is the only independent radio station in Poland. It accuses other media, mainly leftist Gazeta Wyborcza, of fiercely attacking the "only entirely Polish radio station", referring to the fact that almost all mass media, including Gazeta Wyborcza, is controlled by foreign capital. Critics claim that the station uses propaganda which emphasizes nationalism, antisemitism, anti-communism and anti-German prejudice

Allegations of antisemitism

Critics argue that the radio station crosses the line of xenophobia. and contend that it propagates "extreme" antisemitism and hate concepts such as żydokomuna. The Council for Media Ethics referred to the station's "weakly documented accusations" as "primitive anti-Semitism". In January 2000 another controversy was caused by Ryszard Bender, a historian from the Catholic University of Lublinmarker, speaking on Radio Maryja with a convicted Holocaust denier, Dariusz Ratajczak. He stated that Auschwitzmarker was not an extermination camp but merely a large labour camp for Jews. In April, 2006, leading Polish essayist Stanisław Michalkiewicz was reported in Gazeta Wyborcza as stating that "men from Judeamarker ... are trying to surprise us from behind", and referring to the World Jewish Congress as "a main firm in the Holocaust Industry". Michalkiewicz responded by calling Gazeta Wyborcza "an unusual example of the Jewish fifth column in Poland" and "a Jewish newspaper for Poles". Supporters of Radio Maryja claim that hateful or anti-Semitic statements transmitted by the station are very rare and originate from its listeners and not its employees.

The alleged antisemitism of Radio Maryja has brought the station to worldwide attention. 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. The Simon Wiesenthal Centermarker initiated a fierce petition condemning Father Rydzyk's alleged antisemitic statements.

In 2004 Radio Maryja went on a campaign to defend 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 the removal of Jankowski from the post of parish priest).

In July 2007 over 700[196952] Polish Catholic intellectuals, journalists, priests and Catholic activists signed a public letter of protest condemning Father Tadeusz Rydzyk.

In August 2007 Nasz Dziennik, a newspaper tightly linked with Radio Maryja, suggested papal approval of for Father Rydzyk's behaviour - an article described in detail how Rydzyk and his followers went to the Vatican met the pope, kissing his hand. 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".

Conflict with Vatican

Indeed, the Vatican has voiced deep concern regarding Radio Maryja. The papal nuncio to Poland, Archbishop Józef Kowalczyk, wrote to that country's bishops requesting their aid "to overcome difficulties caused by some transmissions and the views presented by Radio Maryja". In response the Polish bishops established an supervisory body: the Cooperative Unit for Pastoral Care of Radio Maryja (headed by bishop Sławoj Leszek Głódź). However, some bishops support the Reverend Rydzyk, and "thanked for the great evangelizing work conducted by Radio Maryja". Also a group of Polish Sejm deputies and MEPs addressed an open letter to the chair of the Polish Bishop's Conference concerning "protection for Radio Maryja". The controversial Rydzyk remains the head of Radio Maryja and has ignored the warning from the papal nuncio.

Several Polish bishops have criticized Radio Maryja for spreading opinions incompatible with the official teaching of the Catholic Chhurch. Critics note that the Polish bishops have been divided over Radio Maryja for a long time. Media speculated that the Roman Catholic Church in Poland might be heading for a schism. An imaginary breakaway church led by the Reverend Rydzyk has been named "The Rydzyk Church of Poland", an ironic expression, or the "Toruńmarker-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".[196953] According to the official Vatican web page: "Radio Maryja (...) became much more involved in spreading risky politics than in spreading the Gospel."

Euroscepticism

Radio Maryja strongly opposed Poland joining of the European Union in 2004. The station also suggested that a close cooperation with Russia would better serve Poland's national interests rather than joining NATOmarker. 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. 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".

Support for death penalty

Radio Maryja promoted the political programme 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. The support of Radio Maryja for the death penalty does not go along the declaration of the Pope John Paul II .

Involvement in politics

Direct involvement in political issues is against the Catholic Church's directives for priests. Nevertheless, politicians, including Andrzej Lepper, Roman Giertych, Jarosław Kaczyński, and Zbigniew Ziobro, were often invited to promote their views on Radio Maryja. Thus the religious station serves as a political channel of conservative parties, although the Vatican has ordered Radio Maryja to "drop the politics". 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.

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 Kaczyński; 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.

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; 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.

Governmental back up

The former cabinet of Jarosław Kaczyński openly supported Radio Maryja. In December 2006 the Prime Minister of Poland, Jarosław Kaczyński, joined the 15th anniversary celebrations of Radio Maryja and praised the station as a source of "comfort and hope". Kaczyński warned that "an attack on Radio Maryja is an attack against freedom". Jarosław Kaczyński, the twin brother of the President of Poland, was a regular guest of Radio Maryja.

Scandals with President's wife

In 2007 Rydzyk offended Maria Kaczyńska, the wife of the Polish President Lech Kaczyński, 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. 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". He allegedly called the Polish President "a swindler who had bowed to pressure from the Jewish lobby". 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".

Attacks on Radio Maryja

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

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.

The radio was Google bombed in 2006, targeting the phrase "siedziba Szatana" ("dwelling of Satan").. The bomb appears to be still partially in effect.

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