Magazine article Church & State

Priests Are Not Meant to Be Politicians, Pope Says during Poland Visit

Magazine article Church & State

Priests Are Not Meant to Be Politicians, Pope Says during Poland Visit

Article excerpt

During a recent address in Warsaw, Pope Benedict XVI warned Catholic Church leaders in Poland to avoid getting too close to government officials.

Kicking off a four-day visit to Poland in late May, Benedict, speaking at St. John's Cathedral, alluded to growing questions over the church's role in national politics. He told his audience, "The priest is not asked to be an expert in economics, construction or politics. He is expected to be an expert in the spiritual life."

Many observers interpreted Benedict's remarks as muted criticism of Radio Maryja, an increasingly powerful Catholic network that critics say is taking on a political role.

The Washington Post reported that Polish President Lech Kaczynski used the network last fall to promote his candidacy. Kaczynski and his brother Jaroslaw, a leader in parliament, used the station to promote their conservative, pro-church Law and Justice Party to rural areas of the country dominated by conservative Catholics.

Poland is 96 percent Catholic but has traditionally separated religion and politics. In 1993, Pope John Paul II, a native of Poland, urged church leaders to stay out of partisan politics.

Benedict's comments may be an effort to distance the church from some of Radio Maryja's more distasteful rhetoric. The network has been accused of attacking gays and of airing anti-Semitic views.

Recently, controversy erupted over on-air comments by Stanislaw Michalkiewicz, who asserted that Jews were profiteering from "the Holocaust business" and that Jewish groups were "humiliating Poland" with demands for reparations for property confiscated during World War II. …

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