Benedict tells ultra-catholic broadcasters: ‘lay off the politics’. The highlight of the pilgrimage will be tomorrow when the Pontiff makes a highly symbolic visit to Auschwitz. Radio Maryja won't be pleased.
Pope Benedict has been getting good crowds for his first visit to Poland since taking over the pontificate but nowhere near as good as what John Paul II could muster. In Pilsudski Square in Warsaw yesterday about 250,000 turned out (in the pouring rain) for mass and homilies. Whenever JP II turned up in the same place, however, he could expect around one million.
Still, half way through the four-day pilgrimage, attended by over 4,000 accredited journalists, it can be said that the visit has already been a success.
Pope Benedict is aiming to do three things with the trip:
1) To try and fill the very large shoes of John Paul II and make sure that Poland remains the most Catholic country in Europe.
2) To come down hard on the anti-Semitic and politically motivated Radio Maryja. Benedict has said on this trip: “The priest’s work is to know humanity and God, not politics” – making it clear that the close involvement between Radio Maryja and the current Polish government must end.
3) To visit the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz as part of the Vatican’s attempt to bridge the divide between Judaism and Polish Catholicism.
Pope Benedict also made the comment that the “aggressive pose of attacking behavior of previous generations must stop”, or words to that effect. Many have interpreted this as to mean Germans; but many more think that he is referring to the present governments attack on communists and liberals in Poland (the now infamous uklad).
Anti-Semitism in Poland and the rest of Europe
There has been a bit of a hot discussion on this blog as to the extent of anti-Semitism in Poland and other European countries. So, just to put the record straight, here are the results of an international survey of 12 countries in Europe by the Anti Defamation League on attitudes to Jewish people.
In responding "probably true" to the statement, "Jews have too much power in the business world," the 2005 survey found:
Hungary – 55%
Spain – 45%, down from 47%
Poland – 43%
The United Kingdom – 14% down from 20%
In responding "probably true" to the statement "Jews have too much power in international financial markets," the survey found:
Hungary – 55%
Spain – 54%, up from 53%
Poland – 43%
The United Kingdom – 16% down from 18%
You can read the whole report yourself here
While it has been noted that anti-Semitism is on the wane in Poland (and about bloody time too) with 43% of Poles still apparently believing nonsense of international Jewish conspiracies there is still lots of work to do here, to say the least.
For more on Pope Benedict's trip to Poland check out b16.pl