27 July 2016, The Tablet

Poland plays a waiting game: how senior clergy are biding their time for a more conservative pope

The more liberal Francis was always going to have a problem with Poland's more traditionalist Catholic hierarchy


The Polish bishops will have given Pope Francis a suitably polite welcome on his arrival in Krakow this week. But behind the scenes, they are determined to ignore most of what he says and sit out his papacy in the hope of getting a more conservative successor

Months of diplomatic and logistical preparations lay behind the arrival of the Pope in Poland this week, drawing inevitable comparisons with one of his predecessors, John Paul II. Yet, Francis’ visit to celebrate World Youth Day has also been a test of his diplomatic skills, as it has prompted speculation about the opposition to his reformist stance within Poland’s powerful Catholic Church.

That Church is firmly wedded to the conservative teachings of Francis’ revered Polish predecessor, and there have been hints of unease since the former’s papal election in March 2013. It is unlikely to have been allayed during this pontiff’s private meetings with Poland’s bishops.

The Polish Church remains important in world Catholicism. Admissions to seminaries have dropped sharply, halving the number of priests in training. However, the country still provides at least a quarter of all the priestly vocations in Europe, and it has supplied clergy for Russia and Central Asia, as well as for dioceses further afield.

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User Comments (2)

Comment by: Pat
Posted: 01/08/2016 11:11:34
I for one would be very grateful if we were all more like the Poles in every way especially in terms of the practice of our faith. I am still somewhat amazed at the common belief that Pope John Paul II was some bastion of conservatism. I still have nightmares with the image of him reverently kissing the Koran. He was a good and holy man but proof that even saints don't get everything right.
Comment by: Leo Sprietsma
Posted: 29/07/2016 18:57:07
There seema to be a sort of "circular thinking" between JP2 and Polish Catholocism.

JP2 was very much formed by his Polish background. For him, the Church stood in opposition to Communism and presented a cultural identity.

That's the sort of Pope he was. Very authoritarian. No diverse thinking permitted.

No wonder the Polish Bishops want to enshrine Pope John Paul 2 as the "definitive Pope" They would be making the entire Catholic world into a mirror image of the Polish nation and Polish Catholicism.