Church admonishes priest who said “Jews are taking over Poland” and praised anti-Hanukkah MP

A Polish bishop has admonished a priest who used his church’s website to claim that “Jews are taking over Poland” and to express support for a far-right MP who attacked Hanukkah candles that had been lit in parliament.

On Thursday last week, two days after MP Grzegorz Braun had used a fire extinguisher to put out the parliamentary Hanukkiah, parish priest Wiesław Florczuk published a post about the incident on the website of his Catholic church in the village of Miszkowice, southwest Poland.

“Jews are taking over Poland,” he wrote, before describing the speaker of parliament, Szymon Hołownia, as a “Jewish altar boy”. Hołownia is, in fact, a practising Catholic.

A far-right MP has been expelled from parliament after using a fire extinguisher to put out Hanukkah candles lit during a ceremony involving Polish-Jewish leaders and Israel’s ambassador.

His actions have been condemned across the political spectrum

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) December 12, 2023

“Do Szudrich [sic] and his colleagues have no shame?” continued Florczuk, referring to Poland’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich. “These are not ‘real’ Jews. Real Jews (the first being the Mother of God and apostles) accepted the Messiah Jesus and do not celebrate Hanukkah, only Catholic holidays.”

The priest also noted that Catholic holidays are not celebrated in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. “We support Mr Braun and pray for him,” concluded his message.

The Gazeta Wyborcza daily notes that the parish priest has also used his church’s website to share speeches by politicians from the national-conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party and Braun’s Confederation (Konfederacja) party.

A copy of the priest’s post (which has since been deleted) on the parish website (via Nowiny Jeleniogórskie)

In response to questions from the newspaper, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic diocese of Legnica, in which Miszkowice is located, said that “the entry by the parish priest in question is his private opinion [and] certainly should not be on the parish website, just like any other comments related to political life”.

He added that the bishop of Legnica, Andrzej Siemieniewski, had spoken to Florczuk and ordered him to remove such posts. They have since been deleted.

The spokesman also noted that the church’s position on Braun’s actions had been made clear by Cardinal Grzegorz Ryś, the head of the episcopate’s committee for dialogue with Judaism.

Immediately after the incident in parliament, Ryś issued a statement in which he “declared that I am ashamed and apologise to the entire Jewish community in Poland”.

Kard. Grzegorz Ryś: „W związku z wydarzeniem w Sejmie, którego dopuścił się pan poseł Grzegorz Braun gasząc świece chanukowe i oświadczając, że nie jest mu wstyd za to, co zrobił, oświadczam, że jest mi wstyd i przepraszam całą społeczność Żydów w Polsce”.

— EpiskopatNews (@EpiskopatNews) December 12, 2023

Braun’s actions were also immediately condemned by all other parties in parliament and he was expelled from the Sejm by Hołownia. Later, Braun’s own Confederation party also condemned his actions and suspended him from its parliamentary caucus.

On Thursday, two days after the incident, Hołownia organised a second ceremony to light the Hanukkah candles. It was attended by politicians from across the spectrum (though not Confederation), President Andrzej Duda, as well as Schudrich, the Israeli ambassador and other Jewish leaders.

Today, parliament voted to remove Braun from two committees on which had previously sat. Prosecutors have also opened an investigation into whether the MP’s actions constituted a crime.

Jewish leaders and politicians from across the spectrum, including the president, joined a ceremony in parliament to light the Hanukkiah that was put out with a fire extinguisher by a far-right MP.

“This is the true face of Poland,” said the chief rabbi

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) December 14, 2023

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Main image credit: Slawomir Kaminski / Agencja

Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign PolicyPOLITICO EuropeEUobserver and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.

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