Priests at a Catholic parish in northern Poland have drawn criticism after they burned books, including some from the Harry Potter series, and other items that their owners said had evil forces.
Images from the burning at Gdansk’s Mother of Church parish on Sunday were posted on Facebook by Catholic foundation SMS z Nieba (SMS from Heaven), which uses unconventional means to carry out its religious work.
In the pictures, flames consume an African wooden mask, a small Buddhist figure, figurines of elephants and books on personality and magic, as well as some by J.K. Rowling.
They were all brought in by parishioners, who were encouraged by the priests to clear their homes of objects that had evil forces. Influential in Poland, the Catholic Church objects to Harry Potter books, which are international bestsellers, saying they promote sorcery.
In some of the photos, priests and altar boys watch the burning objects.
The foundation said the book burning was intended to alert parishioners to bad influences that it says come from magic and the occult.
‘A bad influence on human life’
Many comments under the Facebook postings condemned the book burning, recalling that also happened in Nazi Germany before the Second World War. Some said this taught hatred and asked if the next in line for burning were witches, like in the Middle Ages.
The event was criticized by Rev. Wojciech Parafianowicz, spokesman for the diocese of Koszalin, where the foundation is based, who said he “did not like this form of priestly activity, which is wrong.”
But, speaking with the wpolityce.pl news portal, Parafianowicz argued that the occult and magic “have a bad influence on human life.”
A popular commentator on religion, Pawel Guzynski, a Dominican friar, said on Facebook the burning was “rather the fall of wise faith than of unwise superstition.”
The church enjoys great authority in predominantly Catholic Poland because of its historical and political backing. It has the support of the conservative government, many of whose members are Catholic.