Poland PM Praises Catholic Radio Station

The Associated Press
Thursday, December 7, 2006; 3:58 PM

WARSAW, Poland -- A Roman Catholic radio station that has been accused of anti-Semitism and criticized by the Vatican was praised Thursday by the prime minister as a source of "comfort and hope" for Poles.

Joining the 15th anniversary celebrations of Radio Maryja, Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski said: "I'm standing here with the feeling that I'm taking part in something important. ... I'm taking part in the 15th anniversary of an institution ... that has played a great role in Poland's history," according to a speech broadcast on TVN24.

Kaczynski won office in 2005 elections partially helped by appearances on the station, reaching out to its largely rural and uneducated listenership, a constituency that helped his Law and Justice party sweep to power.

Critics of Kaczynski's government have chided the government for its coziness with a station often deemed anti-Semitic and xenophobic.

Earlier this year, the Anti-Defamation League and others blasted the station for a commentary that accused Jews of "trying to force our government to pay extortion money disguised as compensation payments" for property lost during World War II, saying it was part of a "Holocaust business."

The station drew censure from the Vatican earlier this year for what the Holy See deemed inappropriate political involvement, such as broadcasts taking defined positions on issues during the election.

Kaczynski and his nationalist conservative party came to power on promises to wipe out what he perceives as cronyism and corruption since communism's fall in 1989.

The changes "would not be possible without the Radio Maryja family," he said, adding the station has supported his mission to bring about moral renewal in society.

© 2006 The Associated Press