by Jonathan Luxmoore
Monday, 20 July 2009 21:14
(ENI) — Poland's civil rights ombudsman Janusz Kochanowski has condemned plans for a massive Warsaw concert by the U.S. pop star, Madonna, on the Roman Catholic Church's traditional Assumption Day festival.
The church has, however, said it will not back plans to hold a mass to protest against the forthcoming show.
"Many people from the world of politics and culture have expressed indignation, as have circles of religious believers and numerous private individuals, who disapprove of such arrogance and provocation, which is not necessarily accidental," said Kochanowski. "There is no justification for citing constitutional freedom of expression in this case, nor liberty for artistic activity."
Kochanowski made his comments as a Catholic protest committee prepared a "public prayer crusade" against the scheduled August 15 open-air performance at the Polish capital's Bemowo airport.
In a letter to the mayor of Warsaw, Hanna Gronkiewicz-Walz, published on July 16 by the Polish Press Agency, Kochanowski said plans for the Assumption Day concert had caused "serious opposition and distaste," and risked violating the constitutional principle that "the rights of others should be respected, including their religious feelings".
Still, a senior Catholic official said that the Warsaw archdiocese had decided not to give consent for an open-air Mass and rosary service by protesters outside the city's government offices.
"Every valid cause will undoubtedly be supported by prayer as much by the clergy as by the faithful," said Henryk Malecki, one of the archdiocese's moderators. "But the laity's mission in the church is to defend and present proper causes in a worthy way, and the Holy Mass cannot be treated as a form of protest."
Madonna, who Guinness World Records rates the most successful female recording artist ever, with 200 million albums sold worldwide, has attracted controversy previously for using religious images during her shows.
In 2006, the Vatican protested when Madonna appeared crucified on a giant cross at Rome's Olympic Centre, less than 1.5 kilometers (one mile) from St Peter's Square.
Interviewed on July 15 by Poland's Radio Zet, the former president of the country, Lech Walesa, said he was "disgusted" by the concert, which will form part of Madonna's current 15-country "Sticky and Sweet Tour". Wales said he expected the singer to "make a joke" of the Catholic faith.
The protest committee organizer, Marian Brudzinski, said he had petitioned government officials and commercial sponsors to withdraw support for the Madonna concert, and he hoped local Catholic clergy would join the prayer crusade from July 31. Brudzinski said he had also asked Archbishop Kazimierz Nycz of Warsaw to suspend mayor Gronkiewicz-Walz, a Catholic, from church sacraments unless she called off the event.
The archdiocese spokesperson, Rafal Markowski, told Poland's Catholic information agency KAI on July 16 that masses could not be "used as a form of protest against someone," although he added that Madonna was "known for her anti-religious excesses."
The LiveNation consortium staging the show said the 20 000 tickets sold out months ago. Organizers have said this makes its postponement or cancellation "impossible."
From the Presbyterian Outlook