Charge of profanation for rainbow-halo Madonna

A 51-year-old woman was charged with insulting religious feelings after she was found in possession of images of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa with the rainbow colours of the LGBT movement painted over her halo.

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On Monday morning, 51-year-old Elżbieta Podleśna was detained by police on charges of insulting religious feelings by the profanation of a religious item. She was later released. The officers also seized her phone, computer, USB pen drives and CDs. If found guilty, she faces a fine, and up to two years in prison.

The woman told private news station TVN24 that she denies the charges. “This was not an attack on religion or faith. This was not a form of attack at all. How can someone attack anyone with a picture?”

Her lawyer said: “This is a situation when the state does not respect the liberty of its citizens by actions of its functionaries.”

A viral protest

Over the period of Easter, it is traditional in Polish churches to prepare highly decorated tombs which contain a spiritual message. In recent years, some parishes have introduced social and political commentary in the scenes.

In St. Dominic church of St. Maximilian Kolbe parish in Płock, central Poland, the tomb this year was created of a cross surrounded by boxes covered in “sins”. Among them, apart from “hate,” “greed,” “aggression” and others, were “LGBT” and “Gender.”

The placement of these two words among the other traits was criticised by LGBT activists, who said it was “calling for hatred.” A homosexual man asked the parish priest whether homosexualism is a sin, the reverend answered “yes, it is a deviation” and “it should be treated.”

In response to the controversial tomb, posters presenting the image of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa with a rainbow-coloured halo were hung in the area around the church and its parish.

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‘Painful depiction’

The Episcopal Conference of Poland (KEP) criticised such activity. “The profanation of the image of Black Madonna of Częstochowa was really painful. It causes pain and anxiety in Poles, for whom the Icon of Jasna Góra shrine is a holy thing,” a KEP spokesperson said in a statement. He also called for “respecting religious feelings of faithful people, regardless of the personal views.”

Joachim Brudziński, Poland’s Interior Minister, also responded to the posters. “As I have learned, the image of Black Madonna of Częstochowa, holy for all generations of Poles for centuries, has been desecrated. The Police will investigate. We cannot accept such [events] in name of pseudo-tolerant ‘happenings’,” he tweeted. The police was investigating hanging such posters and stickers around the church, also on trash cans and portable toilets. After analysing the evidence, the police found out who might be responsible.

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (HFPC) released a statement regarding the development. “In the opinion of HFPC, the activities of the law enforcement in case of Elżbieta Podleśna violated the constitutional rule of proportionality and norms of penal procedures code,” the statement read.

On the night between Monday and Tuesday, more posters depicting the image were hung in Warsaw. They were placed on the premises of St. Faustine sanctuary and the Cloister of Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in the capital of Poland.

The Image of Black Madonna of Częstochowa is one of the most recognisable symbols of Christianity in Poland. The original of the 14th-century painting is kept in the Jasna Góra shrine, southern Poland, the most popular pilgrimage destination of Poles.