Poles Pray for Peace at Border; Some See Anti-Muslim Agenda

GDANSK, Poland — Polish Catholics held rosaries and prayed together Saturday along the country’s 3,500-kilometer (2,000-mile) border, appealing to the Virgin Mary and God for salvation for Poland and the world in a national event that many felt had anti-Islam overtones.

The unusual “Rosary on the Borders” event was organized by lay Catholics but was also endorsed by Polish church authorities, with 320 churches from 22 dioceses taking part. The prayers took place from the Baltic Sea coast in the north to the mountains along Poland’s southern borders with the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and all along the border of this country of 38 million where more than 90 percent declare themselves Roman Catholics.

Organizers say the event commemorated the centenary of the apparitions of Fatima, when three shepherd children in Portugal said the Virgin Mary appeared to them.

But the event also commemorated the huge 16th-century naval battle of Lepanto, when a Christian alliance acting on the wishes of the pope defeated Ottoman Empire forces on the Ionian Sea, “thus saving Europe from Islamization,” as organizers put it.

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