27 July 2016, The Tablet

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

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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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