Madonna’s Sticky and Sweet tour in Poland alienates worshippers and Lech Walesa

Warsaw, Poland - Madonna, who was brought up as a good Catholic girl, is taking her Sticky and Sweet tour to Poland, the heartland of European Catholicism — where the faithful, backed by the Solidarity founder Lech Walesa, have made it clear that they will not welcome the pop star.

“It’s a Satanic provocation,” said Mr Walesa, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his part in establishing the first free trade union movement in the communist world.

The problem is one of timing. The Madonna concert, at an old Warsaw airfield, is to be staged on August 15, the Feast of the Assumption, the day Roman Catholics believe that the Virgin Mary was taken to Heaven.

It is the climax of a season of pilgrimages; across the country hundreds of thousands of mainly young people have been sleeping rough in cornfields on their way to the Jasna Gora monastery in southern Poland which shelters a darkened icon of the Virgin Mary, known as the Black Madonna.

The Virgin Mary is supposed to have saved Poland in two moments of peril: in 1655 against marauding Swedes and in 1920, when the Soviet Red Army cavalry tried to attack the country.

As a result, August 15 is also Armed Forces Day, a deeply patriotic as well as religious occasion.

“I am a man of faith and ask for such events not to happen on such an important feast in my religion,” said Mr Walesa, who wore an emblem of the Madonna when fighting against the Communists.

Prayers are being said in the centre of Warsaw every afternoon, calling on God to stop the singer in her tracks; open-air masses are planned to mobilise support; priests will thunder from pulpits this Sunday. The 70,000 fans are to have a solid phalanx of loudly praying Catholics pitted against them when she takes to the stage.

“This is an attack by the devil on our immaculate Catholic nation, “said Father Stanislaw Malkowski, one of the protest leaders. “This concert is a profanity and blasphemous.”

Some protestors even believe that the collapse of the stage on the French leg of the tour last month — killing two technicians including a British man and injuring eight — was an omen, a sign of divine displeasure.

The thrust of the campaign is to ensure that Madonna of Bay City Michigan and Notting Hill( twice divorced, mother of Lourdes) is not confused with the Madonna of Czestechowa(Virgin, mother of Jesus Christ) and thus lead young Poles up the wrong path.

In truth there does not seem much risk of that. Madonna Louise Ciccone (First Communion 1965) has built much of her career on upsetting the Catholic Church. The Like a Prayer music video featured burning crosses and a scene in which she kisses alive a Christ-like figure.

On her Confessions tour three years ago she appeared on stage strapped to a crucifix, wearing a crown of thorns. Various milestones in her career have included masturbating on stage in a golden Gaultier corset and merging sado-masochist imagery with a mockery of Catholic ritual.

A German prosecutor investigated whether she should be charged with deliberately offending religious communities (she wasn’t); at least one Cardinal has called for her to be excommunicated, and her photo album “Sex” was banned in several countries.

The Polish protest groups too are considering taking legal action, although against the organisers rather than the singer herself.