Controversial Polish priest to participate in Calgary mass

A controversial Polish priest who was known as anti-Semitic and homophobic will speak in front of a Roman Catholic parish in Calgary this week — sparking criticism from a former deputy premier.

After diocese approval, Father Tadeusz Rydzyk will speak at Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish

Diocese of Calgary Bishop William McGrattan says Father Tadeusz Rydzyk has shown signs of reform after being reprimanded by the pope. (Canadian Press)

A controversial Polish priest who was known as anti-Semitic and homophobic will speak in front of a Roman Catholic parish in Calgary this week — sparking criticism from a former deputy premier.

His name is Father Tadeusz ​Rydzyk and he's well-known in Polish political and Roman Catholic circles.

The Rydzyk​, who believes in using technology to convey God's message, helped found Radio Maryja, a conservative and religious radio station broadcast out of Torun, Poland.

The station and Rydzyk have been known over the decades for spreading anti-Semitic and homophobic views.

'Theology of ultra-nationalism'

Thomas Lukaszuk, who served under several PC governments in Alberta including as deputy premier under Alison Redford, saw the contentious priest was coming to Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in northwest Calgary on the weekend and took to Twitter to voice concerns.

"You know, it's sort of a theology of ultra-nationalism," he said. "But also very much opposing gay marriage, and having some very strong views about the role of Jews in politics."

In his view, Rydzyk​​ is popular for all the wrong reasons and stands out because his views don't fall into line with other clergies.

Lukaszuk went so far as to suggest the priest's views could be considered on the fringes of hate speech.

He wants the diocese to explain why Rydzyk is being allowed an audience in Calgary.

"We have this ongoing debate about free speech in our country," he said. "But his views, they are so extreme that they warrant papal intervention."

Visit to include dinner speech

On Tuesday, Rydzyk's visit to Calgary's parish was approved by the archdiocese, which said the priest will participate in five masses and speak at a dinner to be held at the parish hall.

Diocese of Calgary Bishop William McGrattan found that Rydzyk​​ is in good standing with his religious order and that there are "no areas of concern" within the ministry.

"We are aware that Father Rydzyk​​ has been seen as a controversial figure in the past," read the statement.

The response, provided to CBC News, outlined that Rydzyk provides pastoral care for Polish immigrants and is a "strong witness" to Christian life and is passionate about uniting the immigrant community.

Bishop says priest shows signs of reform

McGrattan wrote that since 2006, when it was reported Pope Benedict XVI had reprimanded Rydzyk​​, the priest has shown signs of reform.

"He is the founder of a new museum in Poland, which will exhibit over 40,000 accounts of Polish Christians who saved Jews during the Holocaust," read the statement.

"In 2016, he met with Israeli Ambassador to Poland Anna Azari. He also collaborated with Jonny Daniels, founder of the From the Depths foundation dedicated to commemorating Jewish heritage."

With files from Tim Devlin