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Meet Poland's Pat Robertson

Despite anti-Semitic comments, Father Tadeusz Rydzyk has expanded his media empire.

Rydzyk's reach even spreads to the Americas, where his station has an avid audience among the Polish diaspora. He is a close ally of Jan Kobylanski, the controversial head of Polish organizations in South America who is accused of handing a Jewish family over to the Gestapo during the war. In the United States, he was supported by Edward Moskal, the former head of the Polish American Congress who ended up getting his organization ostracized for his anti-Semitic comments.

Although Rydzyk’s political influence has waned since 2007, when the pro-business Civic Platform party ousted Law and Justice, his skills are increasingly turning to business. An effort earlier this decade to save Poland’s troubled shipyards, the birthplace of the anti-communist Solidarity labor union, from bankruptcy by raising money from his supporters collapsed with the shipyards getting no funds and his foundation failing to account for the money it had raised.

His new project is to build an enormous church in Torun for about $35 million, where the focal point will be a replica of the Vatican chapel used by John Paul II.

He also has undertaken a project to look for geothermal energy near his radio station, and recently signed a contract with one of Poland’s leading businessmen to set up a cell phone network for his followers. One of the early subscribers is Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of the Law and Justice party and a former prime minister.

“I think it’s a great idea that this great family be even more tightly linked,” said Kaczynski during a pilgrimage this summer of more than 200,000 Radio Maryja supporters to Czestochowa, Poland’s holiest shrine.

Rydzyk’s dabbling in politics and business has left some members of Poland’s Roman Catholic hierarchy cold, but even attempts by the Vatican to rein him in have proven to be unsuccessful.

Over the last two years, the dominance of Civic Platform, led by the current Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, has pushed Rydzyk into the background, but his political influence is sure to begin growing again as Poland prepares for presidential elections in 2009 and parliamentary elections in 2011.