Catholic priests in Poland burned books they say are sacrilegious this weekend, including tomes from British author J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series of fantasy novels.
“We obey the Word,” priests said in a Facebook post showing photographs of the public book burning and quoting Biblical passages from the book of Deuteronomy in the Old Testament.
One passage exhorting believers to destroy the enemies of God includes the command to “burn their idols in the fire”.
The post, on a page run by the Catholic “SMS from Heaven” evangelical group, stirred controversy and has gone viral.
Photographs show three priests carrying a basket of books and other items, including an African-styled face mask through a church to an outside fire pit.
Priests are seen saying prayers over the fire pit where other items, including a book from the Twilight vampire-themed fantasy romance series, a ‘Hello Kitty’ umbrella and a Hindu religious figurine, are also burning.
Father Jan Kucharski, the priest in the Gdansk parish where the book burning took place, told the natemat.pl news website on Monday that they had burned items “linked to the occult and magic.” “Aside from the books, there were talismans and amulets. Parishioners brought them to put things in order” as part of spring cleaning, added the priest, who is also listed as an exorcist on the Gdansk diocese official website.
The burning took place in front of his church after Sunday mass.
Kucharczyk dismissed comparisons to the cultural censorship of totalitarian regimes like Nazi Germany.
“We know what’s harmful to our faithful so that’s why we held an event like this. I’d even call it evangelical,” he told natemat.pl.
“I’d like to believe this is a joke... Seriously? Are people burning fantasy literature in the 21st century in some kind of sick ritual?!” one Facebook user said in a comment underneath the post.
Originally published in Dawn, April 2nd, 2019