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 CNS Story:

SOLIDARITY-ROMNEY Sep-5-2012 (530 words) xxxi

Solidarity spokesman criticizes Romney for using pope images in TV ad

By Jonathan Luxmoore
Catholic News Service

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- Poland's Solidarity trade union criticized U.S. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney for using images of the country and Blessed John Paul II in his campaign.

"Every election campaigner uses various methods and devices," said Marek Lewandowski, the union spokesman. "But in exploiting pictures of the pope, Mr. Romney is clearly going against the church's social principles. Voters should see the huge contrast between what John Paul II taught and the kind of business practices Romney engages in."

An August TV ad for Romney said President Barack Obama had declared "war on religion."

In a Sept. 4 Catholic News Service interview, Lewandowski said the United States' 15 million ethnic Poles were "wise voters" and would know whether Romney's "espousal of Christian values" reflected his record.

"I don't think he should be appealing to John Paul II," Lewandowski added. "It's up to Americans to decide whether his religious declarations and identification with the Polish pope fit what he's done up to now."

Romney visited Poland July 30-31 at the invitation of former Polish President Lech Walesa, who was quoted by CNN and other media as wishing the Republican candidate success.

Romney's TV ad, titled "Be not afraid," showed him warmly greeted July 30 by Walesa in Gdansk and invoking Blessed John Paul in a speech at Warsaw University.

Referring to the Obama administration's mandate that would require employers to cover contraceptives and sterilization in their health plans, the ad said Obama had "used his health care plan to declare war on religion, forcing religious institutions to go against their faith."

It said the late pope's appeal, "Be not afraid," during a 1979 Polish pilgrimage had helped "bring down an empire."

"When religious freedom is threatened, who do you want to stand with?" the ad concluded.

Walesa's Warsaw-based spokesman, Zdzislaw Wojcik, told CNS Sept. 4 the former Solidarity leader had invited Romney to Poland before he became the Republican nominee and had not "given support directly" to his campaign.

Lewandowski said members of the 700,000-member Solidarity had "strongly objected" to Walesa's meeting with Romney, who he said was "known for fighting trade unions," and to his use of the late pope.

"As a Christian union, whose statute is based on Catholic social teaching, we have a negative view of Obama's stance on abortion, euthanasia, gay partnerships and other issues," the Solidarity spokesman said. "But we can't engage in the U.S. elections by declaring for either side, so we're stressing this was a private meeting which Solidarity opposed."

In a July 31 letter, the current Solidarity chairman, Piotr Duda, told Walesa his "shocking meeting" with Romney had "once again convinced us of your hostile attitude to trade unions."

He added that it would be viewed as "far-reaching ingratitude" to the American AFL-CIO, which "supported us in the hardest times" when Solidarity was outlawed under communist rule.

The spokesman for the Polish bishops' conference, Father Jozef Kloch, told CNS Romney had not met church representatives during his Polish visit, adding that the Republican's references to Blessed John Paul and religious freedom were "a purely American matter."

CNS made several attempts to reach the Romney campaign for comment but received no response.

END


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