The Pope has appointed a conservative 67-year-old to replace the retiring Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz as Archbishop of Krakow, the traditionally liberal Polish province once headed by Pope John Paul II.
"As far as Catholic teaching's concerned, he certainly isn't a liberal but a person strictly upholding orthodoxy", said Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, president of Poland's Bishops Conference. "He's someone from our first diocese, created in 968, who's now moving on to the Krakow archdiocese, which is almost as old, with huge traditions and achievements. This will beautifully continue the spirit of the Krakow Church from which St John Paul II came."
The Church leader was speaking after the nomination of Archbishop Marek Jedraszewski, currently Archbishop of Lodz, to the southern see, which commands 450 parishes and over 2000 clergy. Meanwhile, the appointment was welcomed by Poland's Catholic Primate, who also praised the "huge service" of Cardinal Dziwisz, who was St John Paul II's private secretary for almost four decades.
"These years of service confirmed what was deep in the heart of this cardinal - love for the Church and St John Paul II", Archbishop Wojciech Polak of Gniezno told the Polish Church's Catholic Information Agency. "Creating its Papal Centre and Papal University, and latterly its World Youth Day and many other enterprises and initiatives, he showed how bravely and faithfully he'd taken up and realised St John Paul II's heritage".
The Poznan-born Jedraszewski was appointed archbishop in 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI, and has served as Polish Bishops' Conference vice-president since 2014, as well as heading the Catechesis and Education Commission of the Swiss-based Council of Catholic Episcopates of Europe (CCEE) and serving on the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education. Meeting journalists on Monday, he made no comment on media reports that he had courted controversy as a Poznan auxiliary, by defending the disgraced Archbishop Juliusz Paetz when he was forced to resign in 2002 after molesting seminarians.
Cardinal Dziwisz, whose 2005 appointment was criticised by Krakow clergy as a shortsighted gesture by Benedict XVI, gained a controversial reputation during 11 years as Krakow metropolitan, for unveiling statues and monuments to himself, as well as for distributing blood and relics from the late John Paul II and publishing the late pontiff's private notebooks in 2014, in defiance of his final will, which became a flop with foreign publishers.