Poland's Catholic Church weighs in on European Parliament vote

2nd June 2009, Comments 0 comments

More than 90 percent of Poles are Catholic and Polish bishops recently called on "all faithful to choose people in the elections who fully represent the point of view of the Church regarding ethical and social questions, in particular the protection of human life, marriage and the family."

Warsaw -- Poland's powerful Roman Catholic church is urging its huge flock in the country to use the European Parliament election this week to pick lawmakers who reflect church values.

More than 90 percent of Poles are Catholic and Polish bishops recently called on "all faithful to choose people in the elections who fully represent the point of view of the Church regarding ethical and social questions, in particular the protection of human life, marriage and the family."

"In this way, each one of us can contribute to the renewal of the Christian face and culture of Europe," the top clergy said, highlighting their opposition to abortion, in vitro fertilisation, euthanasia and gay marriage.

"Obviously the church thinks it is it's obligation to take a position in the debate," sociologist Jacek Kucharczyk from the independent Institute of Public Affairs (ISP) think tank in Warsaw told AFP.

"Nevertheless, many Poles who define themselves as Catholics do not accept the church's involvement in politics," he added. "They don't like to have priests indicate candidates that a Catholic should support."

During Poland's 2001 parliamentary elections, Poles voted en masse for the leftist ex-communist party and for ex-communist Aleksander Kwasniewski as president in 1995, instead of Poland's Solidarity union legend Lech Walesa, a devout Catholic. Kwasniewski won a second term in 2000.

Poland's right-wing is supported by Radio Maryja, a Catholic fundamentalist and anti-EU broadcaster, part of the media empire of Catholic priest Father Tadeusz Rydzyk. It regularly slams what it terms a "permissive and secular" Europe undermining the traditional Polish values.

During the 2004 European parliament elections, Radio Maryja helped the far right League of Polish Families (LPR), which opposes the European Union, win 10 percent of the vote.

Ahead of the June 4-7 EU ballot, Radio Maryja which boasts an audience of more than a million, mostly elderly women, has already named its favourite candidates.

The media empire of Redemptorist priest Father Tadeusz Rydzyk includes the Trwam (I Endure) TV station and the Nasz Dziennik (Our Daily) national daily newspaper.

The newspaper has disputed the candidacy of a naturalised Pole of French origin, Dominique Lesage, a senior executive at Poland's leading TPSA telephone company, which is controlled by France Telecom, in the EU elections.

Lesage, who is running on the ticket of Poland's governing liberal Civic Platform (PO) "didn't even have Polish citizenship a year ago," the daily wrote.

"The man of a French investor in Poland on the list of a party which is in power, this raises objections," wrote Nasz Dziennik.

Although there is friction between Rydzyk and Poland's Episcopate, he still has broad support among Polish priests and certain members of the church hierarchy.

"Most people in Poland traditionally vote after going to Sunday mass," said the ISP's Kucharczyk.

"Without over-estimating the church's influence, it is certain that the words of priests pronounced at the altar can influence on the votes of a number of faithful," on June 7, he said.

An ex-communist country of 38 million which joined NATO in 1999 and the EU in 2004, Poland has 50 seats in the European parliament.

An estimated 375 million voters across the 27 nations will elect 736 deputies for a five-year term in the European Parliament, the only directly-elected EU institution.

The parliament, which has struggled to strengthen its standing in the continent, is expected to stay under centre right control.

AFP/Expatica

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