Local prisoners get day release to see Jesus

Isn’t that an awesome headline? And it’s totally true. Well, almost. Yesterday local prisoners got a day release in the Polish town, Swiebodzin, to see what the Catholic Church hopes is the world’s largest statue of Jesus, finally complete.

Father Sylwester Zawadzki had driven on site in his Mercedes, rosary beads hanging from the rear view mirror, but he didn’t want to talk about his heavenly monolith. “I’ve had enough of talking,” he said. Previously when asked why he decided to erect the gargantuan saviour, he said, “It was Jesus’s idea: I was just the builder.”

Quietly, though, and rarely on the record, many locals find the statue an embarrassment. They see the odd gaggle of tourists pull up in their cars, jump out and have their photos taken, giggling as they mimic the Lord’s outstretched arms, before driving off again, never even venturing into town to spend some money.

“I read in the press that He cost six million zloty (£1.5m) and I think we could spend that money far better. We need schools, we need hospitals, we need better roads,” said one young woman in Swiebodzin, who refused to give her name for fear of incurring the wrath of the church.

Isn’t it sad to know the locals are petrified of getting caught criticizing their church leaders about this colossal waste of money? Gazeta Swiebodzinska’s Editor in Chief, Waldemar Roszczuk, has never held back his thoughts on the project.

When he publicly questioned the value of the statue last year, he received silent phone calls. “We are still a very Catholic town in a very Catholic country and the church wields a lot of power. But talk to young people and you will see that many do not want to go to church any more. They are of a more rational mindset and question everything the church tells them,” he said.

Good for them. Hurrahs all around. Unfortunately, their rationalism does nothing to fix the fact that millions were wasted by their elders on what tourists ultimately think is a laughing stock fit only for the classic “Snap and Split.”

Poland is slow to get secular, by the look of the rest of the article. Good news on the atheist front, though: they have a Young Freethinkers Association whose members are keen to promote the notion of being good without god and arranged a “Coming Out” march in Krakow last year. Poland also has a national radio station and newspaper run by priests who aren’t taking that Out stance very well at all.

In a café in Krakow last week, the group explained the trouble they caused when they idly discussed with a journalist the possibility of copying the UK atheist bus campaign which advertised on London buses with the slogan: “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

“I just said it was a nice idea, but that got twisted and all of a sudden Nasz Dziennik, the newspaper run by Radio Maryja, was urging readers to write to the Krakow tram operating company to insist they did not take an advert from us. We never even got as far as booking an advert, but 200 people wrote in,” said Ewelina Podsiad, one of the group.

They’ve got a long road ahead of them but I’m glad to see they’re trying.

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