A documentary that accuses Pope John Paul II of covering up cases of sexual abuse by Polish priests has sparked a diplomatic row between Poland and the US.
The documentary, titled “Poland Pop”, was aired on March 6 by TVN24, a Polish news channel owned by Warner Bros Discovery Inc., a US media company.
The film claims that Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, who later became Pope John Paul II and was canonized as a saint by the Catholic Church in 2014, knew about several instances of paedophilia among the Polish clergy and did nothing to stop them.
It also alleges that he protected some of his close associates who were involved in abuse scandals, such as Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, his former secretary and archbishop of Krakow.
The documentary features interviews with victims, journalists and experts who accuse the late pope of turning a blind eye to the crimes committed by priests under his authority.
It also shows footage of Pope John Paul II praising some of the accused priests during his visits to Poland.
The film has caused outrage among many Poles who revere Pope John Paul II as a national hero and a moral leader who helped end communism in Eastern Europe.
Some have called for a boycott of TVN24 and Warner Bros Discovery Inc., while others have staged protests outside their offices.
The ruling Law and Justice party (PiS), which has close ties with the Catholic Church and promotes conservative values, has condemned the documentary as an attack on Poland’s identity and sovereignty.
PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said that the film was part of a “hybrid war” against Poland waged by foreign powers who want to undermine its culture and independence.
He also accused TVN24 of being biased and serving foreign interests.
On March 9, Poland’s Foreign Ministry summoned US Ambassador Georgette Mosbacher to express its dissatisfaction with TVN24’s activities.
Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau said that he expected “an explanation from our American partner” about why TVN24 aired such a “provocative” film.
He also said that he hoped that Warner Bros Discovery Inc. would respect Poland’s laws and values when operating in its territory.
Mosbacher said that she had received Rau’s message but declined to comment further on the matter.
She said that she respected Poland’s right to express its opinion but also defended TVN24’s right to freedom of expression.
She added that she hoped that both countries would continue their strategic partnership based on common interests and values.
The diplomatic spat over “Poland Pop” comes at a time when relations between Poland and the US are already strained over other issues such as defense cooperation, energy security and democracy standards.
Poland is one of Washington’s closest allies in Europe but has recently clashed with it over its plans to buy Russian gas through Nord Stream 2 pipeline, its refusal to host more US troops on its soil and its judicial reforms that have been criticized by the EU and human rights groups as undermining the rule of law