The Polish Church's chief representative in England and Wales has said his mission is still expanding and dismissed suggestions it could be reduced by Britain's departure from the European Union.
"Brexit hasn't started yet, and many more people attended church and received sacraments in Polish parishes during 2017 than in 2016", said Mgr Stefan Wylezek, rector of the London-based Polish Catholic Mission. "We've bought two new churches in Swindon and Corby, so Polish Catholic life is flourishing and we certainly aren't expecting any end to our presence here".
In a Tablet interview, Mgr Wylezek said 120 Polish priests were currently working full-time in England and Wales, with separate missions operating in Scotland and Ireland. He added that England itself was home to 220,000 school-age Poles, with an annual Polish birthrate of up to 23,000.
"Though it's hard to see how negotiations with the EU will end, Poles aren't afraid at all - while some are leaving, plenty are staying", Mgr Wylezek told The Tablet. "Nor have we noted any attacks or acts of hostility against Polish Catholic communities around the country".
Up to 1.5 million Poles came to Britain in search of jobs after their country joined the European Union in 2004, around a tenth of whom attend Masses via the Mission, which runs 90 parishes and 127 separate pastoral centres.
The chairman of London's Polish Social and Cultural Centre, Wojciech Tobasiewicz, told The Tablet the 2016 Brexit vote had been a "knock to Polish confidence", especially in England, adding that the largest turnover of Poles occurred at the end of the school year each summer, with family ties and improved economic prospects at home combining with the poor exchange rate and high property prices in Britain to persuade some to return to Poland.
While many Poles were now "feeling at home" in more accessible English Catholic services, Tobasiewicz said, the rise in Polish Mass attendance could reflect the fact that most Polish children born in Britain after 2004 were now reaching Confirmation age.
PICTURE: Polish Catholics take part in the procession of the Magi - the Feast of the Epiphany - in Wroclaw, Poland ©PA