Radio Maryja · The Catholic Voice in Your Home
|Type||Wholly owned subsidiary of Fundacja Lux Veritatis|
|Key people||Fr Tadeusz Rydzyk - Founder and Director; Fr Jan Król - Vice-director|
Radio Maryja [ˈradjɔ maˈrɨja] is a religious and political socially conservative Polish radio station. It was founded in Toruń, Poland, on December 9, 1991, by the Redemptorist Tadeusz Rydzyk, often called "Father Director". The Radio Maryja Family is a religious movement led by Fr Rydzyk. The name "Maryja" is a traditional Polish form of the name "Mary", referring to the Virgin Mary.
- 1 Programme schedule
- 2 Ownership and finances
- 3 Audience
- 4 Related enterprises
- 5 Criticisms and controversies
- 6 Supporters and their response to criticism
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Radio Maryja's programmes consist of broadcasts from the station's news agency; frequent recitals of the rosary, the breviary, and the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy; the unction to the Black Madonna of Częstochowa; discussions on the Catechism of the Catholic Church; a daily transmission of the Mass; coverage of papal trips; and sociological and political programmes.
Ownership and finances
The station is owned by the Warsaw Province of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, and is financed through donations from its audience. This is an unusual characteristic in Poland, where most radio stations 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 is not required to disclose the exact sources of its financing or enterprises, and does not pay taxes. Radio Maryja has disclosed that it is financed by Jan Kobylański, a Uruguay-based billionaire  and by Edward Moskal, the chairman of the Polish American Congress.
In February 2011, the local district court of Toruń issued a fine of 3,500 zlotys to Fr Rydzyk, finding that he illegally used Radio Maryja broadcasts to raise funds for his television station, Telewizja Trwam; his University of Social and Media Culture; and a geothermal drilling project run by Fundacja Lux Veritatus. Fr Rydzyk denounced the verdict, calling it an "injustice" and claiming that Polish law ran "contrary to natural law." To date, he has refused to pay the fine. In August 2012, a political controversy transpired when Anna Sobecka, a Law and Justice MP and close ally of Fr Rydzyk's, applied to pay the fine from her own pocket despite not having the authorization to do so. The district court of Toruń requested that the police investigate her action. Later in 2012 Radio Maryja was fined by the National Broadcasting Council for “hidden advertising”.
Radio Maryja's audience is reputed to consist mostly of rural, elderly listeners. The station claims that it has "millions of listeners"; market research indicates approximately 1.2 million people daily. 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".
The Economist has 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 Family
The station has gathered a large group of committed listeners, the Radio Maryja Family (Rodzina Radia Maryja), of which Fr Rydzyk is a leader. As of November 2006, the Radio Maryja Family network had six-hundred clubs and offices across Poland. The movement holds a pilgrimage to Częstochowa every year, which in 2006 attracted about 500,000 people. Representatives of the Radio Maryja Family visited the Vatican five times during the papacy of Pope John Paul II.
While the conventional greeting in the Roman Catholic Church is, "Praised be Jesus Christ", the Radio Maryja Family uses, "Praised be Jesus Christ and Mary, ever Virgin."
Enterprises related to Radio Maryja — and independent of Vatican authorities — initiated by Fr Rydzyk, include the television station Trwam ("I Persist"); a daily newspaper Nasz Dziennik ("Our Daily"); the Nasza Przyszłość ("Our Future") Foundation; the Lux Veritatis Foundation ("The Light of Truth Foundation"); and the Wyższa Szkoła Kultury Społecznej i Medialnej ("The College of Social and Media Culture") in Toruń. Until recently, the rector of the College was Fr Rydzyk.
Criticisms and controversies
Radio Maryja sparked many controversies and is frequently being criticized both in Poland and abroad. Damian Thompson, the Editor-in-Chief of The Catholic Herald, described Radio Maryja as "one of the creepiest radio stations in the world".
Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek, the former secretary general of the Episcopate of Poland, said that Radio Maryja is "a real and growing problem", adding that the station "offers a reduced view on Christianity" that is "extremely compromising and shameful, sick and dangerous."
Conflict with the Vatican
The Vatican has expressed concern about the station, with the Episcopate of Poland warning Radio Maryja about engaging in "political broadcasting". Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz of Kraków and the country's then Primate, Cardinal Józef Glemp, have urged fellow bishops to take immediate action against the station. In 2002, the Primate ordered Radio Maryja to close its operations in his archdiocese. Press commentators suggested that a schism could occur, but a group of Polish bishops rejected those speculations, which they said "bore no relation to reality". In 2005, Cardinal Józef Glemp said that Radio Maryja was causing a rift in the Church.
In 2006, the papal nuncio to Poland, Archbishop Józef Kowalczyk, wrote to Polish bishops requesting their aid "to overcome difficulties caused by some transmissions and the views presented by Radio Maryja." He also warned of sanctions against activity “considered unlawful or damaging to the Church”. According to the official Vatican web page, "Radio Maryja, a nation-wide radio system organised by the Redemptorist Fathers, became much more involved in spreading risky politics than in spreading the Gospel." Pope Benedict XVI warned Radio Maryja to quit engaging in politics.
Divisions in the Polish Church
However, the Polish bishops remain divided over Radio Maryja, given its considerable influence among its primary audience of the elderly rural poor. While some bishops have criticized Radio Maryja for spreading opinions incompatible with the official teaching of the Catholic Church, others voice support for the station. Critics note that the Polish bishops have been divided over Radio Maryja for a long time.
Lech Wałęsa, the Nobel Prize laureate and former president of Poland, has stated that Radio Maryja "is lying if it considers itself a Catholic station". According to a 2013 article in the Polish Roman Catholic weekly magazine Tygodnik Powszechny, Radio Maryja is destroying the Church in Poland.
Allegations of intolerance
Critics claim that the station uses propaganda which emphasizes nationalism, anti-Semitism, anti-communism and anti-German prejudice. A United States Department of State report refers to Radio Maryja as a "Catholic nationalist radio station".
Allegations of antisemitism
Critics argue that Radio Maryja propagates extreme anti-Semitism, including concepts such as żydokomuna — the conspiracy theory blaming Jews for the rise of communism in Poland. Poland's Media Ethics Council has referred to the station's "weakly documented accusations" against Jews as "primitive anti-Semitism" and condemned Radio Maryja. In January 2000, Radio Maryja aired an interview between Ryszard Bender, a historian from the Catholic University of Lublin, and Dariusz Ratajczak, a convicted Holocaust denier who claimed that Auschwitz was a labor camp rather than an extermination camp.
In April 2006, well-known Polish essayist Stanisław Michalkiewicz — a major personality on Telewizja Trwam — was reported in 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". Michalkiewicz responded by calling Gazeta Wyborcza "an unusual example of the Jewish fifth column in Poland" and "a Jewish newspaper for Poles."
The charges of anti-Semitism against Radio Maryja have 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 Center initiated a petition condemning Fr Rydzyk's alleged anti-Semitic statements. In July 2007, over seven-hundred Polish Catholic intellectuals, journalists, priests and activists signed a public letter of protest condemning Fr Rydzyk's anti-Semitic remarks.
According to a U.S. State Department report from 2008, "Radio Maryja is one of Europe’s most blatantly anti-Semitic media venues". In 2011 the Polish Broadcasting Authority Commission examined two programs on Radio Maryja and reprimanded the station for its antisemitic statements and "nationalistic racism".
Involvement in politics
Jarosław Kaczyński, the former Prime Minister of Poland, was a regular guest on Radio Maryja, as were other far-right-wing politicians such as Andrzej Lepper, Roman Giertych, and Zbigniew Ziobro. When it became aware of the station's service to conservative parties, the Vatican demanded that it "drop the politics." Asked whether Fr Rydzyk would himself form a party, Bishop Pieronek replied that he could not imagine a priest starting a political organization. Bp. Pieronek drew an analogy saying that Hitler also took advantage of religion for his political purposes with the use of the motto “Gott mit uns”.
Radio Maryja strongly opposed Poland joining of the European Union in 2004. The station promoted the political program of the Law and Justice party, which together with Lech Kaczyński sought to introduce the capital punishment in Poland and throughout Europe. The support for death penalty contrasts strongly with the mainstream teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
In February 2006, Law and Justice signed a key agreement with two other political parties. To the fury of the Polish press, only Fr Rydzyk and journalists from Telewizja Trwam — who actively supported Law and Justice during the election — were allowed in the room during the signing. The President of the Polish National Broadcasting Council, Elzbieta Kruk, stated that she had no authority to act in regard to these complaints, as she had been appointed by the Polish President Lech Kaczyński, a member of Law and Justice. Critics asserted that the government feared of alienating Radio Maryja's dedicated audience, which makes up a significant fraction of Law and Justice's political base.
In March 2006, Polish literary critic and television personality Kazimiera Szczuka satirized a girl who frequently recites prayers on Radio Maryja, not knowing that the girl used a wheelchair. Despite Szczuka's public apology, the Polish Broadcasting Council found her guilty of "insulting a disabled person and mocking her religion." 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, speculated that Radio Maryja's ties with Law and Justice was "the real reason" for Szczuka's punishment, noting that Szczuka was made to pay the stiff fine while Radio Maryja was allowed to disparage other religions with impunity.
In June 2011 Fr Rydzyk was invited to speak at the European Parliament. He spoke "in defense of media freedom in Poland" and drew attention to the situation of TV Trwam, the television arm of Radio Maryja, taken off the air due to a dispute over its broadcast license.
In September 2012, Radio Maryja and TV Trwam organized a "Poland awake!" demonstration with both Law and Justice and the Solidarity trade union to protest the centrist government's purported attempt to silence both stations by not including them on the country's digital television multiplex. The demonstration led to renewed criticism of the station's politicized message from high-ranking Catholic clergymen. Bishop Piotr Jarecki, a vice president in the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community, said in an interview that the stations' action was "not in accordance with the doctrine of the Church," and said that they were "entering a dangerous path of confusion and turmoil."
Remarks about President Lech Kaczyński and wife
In 2007, Polish first lady Maria Kaczyńska met with fifty female journalists for International Women's Day; the women signed a statement to protest a tightening of Poland's already strict abortion laws. Fr Rydzyk caused controversy when he described the meeting as a "cesspool". Later, the newsmagazine Wprost published a recording from one of Fr Rydzyk's lectures in which he allegedly called Kaczyńska "a witch who should perform euthanasia on herself." He also claimed that President Lech Kaczyński "cheated" him, and called him "a swindler who had bowed to pressure from the Jewish lobby." Fr Rydzyk suggested the tapes were doctored and called the story "fictitious".
Archbishop Jozef Michalik said that no disciplinary action would be taken against the director of Radio Maryja - "You can't judge a person from just one statement, or on the basis of some lack of tact".
In 2012, Radio Maryja, which has long criticized Freemasonry, broadcast an interview claiming that the plane crash which killed President Kaczyński two years earlier — among "many other acts" — was the result of a Masonic plot against the Law and Justice party.
Supporters and their response to criticism
Enthusiasts of the station claim that Radio Maryja is a target of the media which have waged a "smear campaign" and that bigoted statements transmitted by the station are very rare and originate from its listeners rather than employees.
The former cabinet of Jarosław Kaczyński openly supported Radio Maryja. In December 2006, Kaczyński joined the 15th anniversary celebrations of Radio Maryja and praised the station as a source of "comfort and hope".
Following international criticism in 2006, Poland's bishops’ conference assumed partial control of the station's new programme council and praised Radio Maryja. A Support Team of Radio Maryja has been formed "in the service of God, the Church, Homeland and the Polish Nation".
Support for Radio Maryja is often voiced in "Nasz Dziennik", which is related to the station.
- Tadeusz Rydzyk
- Mohair berets
- Politics of Poland
- Media in Poland
- Far right in Poland
- Religion in Poland
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