Polish Catholic activists annoyed about Madonna concert

By Ecumenical News International
June 19, 2009

Catholics in Poland have formed a protest committee in a bid to stop a concert in Warsaw by the US singer Madonna on the day that the Catholic Church worldwide celebrates the assumption into heaven of Mary, the mother of Jesus - writes Jonathan Luxmoore.

"To make money by holding a concert on such a day by a singer with such a name is ethically dubious," said Grzegorz Kalwarczyk, chancellor of the Warsaw archdiocese. "Although it will probably go ahead, it is not surprising that people are voicing dissatisfaction and protesting."

The priest was reacting to plans for the concert at the capital's Bemowo airport on the 15 August feast day, which is a public holiday in Poland.

The word, "Madonna", from the Italian meaning "my lady", is a traditional way of referring to Mary, the mother of Jesus. The Catholic Church teaches that at the end of her life Mary, unlike other people, was taken up - or assumed - body and soul into heaven.

Kalwarczyk said his office had received numerous telephone calls from Catholics worried about the concert, which will form part of Madonna's 15-country "Sticky and Sweet Tour", opening in London on 4 July. "It may be a deliberate provocation, or just a case of thoughtlessness. It is hard to say," Kalwarczyk told Ecumenical News International.

A senior lay Roman Catholic, Krzysztof Zagozda, who is a spokesperson for Poland's Catholic Unum Principium association, said the newly formed protest committee would "do everything" to prevent the performance.

"We do not believe in accidents. Someone has chosen this date deliberately," Zagozda was quoted as saying on the Moje Miasto Web site. "Personally, I do not like Madonna's music or the way she builds her popularity, and we fear there will also be anti-Christian sentiments during the concert."

Fifty-year-old Madonna, who Guinness World Records rates the most successful female recording artist of all time, with 200 million of her albums sold worldwide, has frequently attracted controversy.

In 2006, the Vatican protested when she appeared crucified on a giant cross at Rome's Olympic Centre less than a mile from St Peter's Square.

In April, the director of St Petersburg's Hermitage Museum, Mikhail Piotrovsky, asked the entertainer to "guarantee there will be no blasphemy" during her planned August performance in the Russian city's Dvortsovaya Square.

A Roman Catholic from Poland's Mazowsze regional council, Marian Brudzinski, said he had threatened to sue the organizers for offending his religious feelings, and had asked the Polish Army, which owns Bemowo airport, to withdraw consent for the concert.

Still, the superior of Poland's northern Jesuit region, Dariusz Kowalczyk, said he disagreed with the protests.

"August 15 is not actually a bad day for a concert," the Jesuit priest was quoted as saying by Poland's Dziennik newspaper on 15 June. "I do not see why one cannot go to church first and have fun afterwards".

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]

Keywords:polish | poland | Madonna | catholic
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