Catholic leaders trying to correct sins of Poland’s gov’t
WARSAW, Poland — Standing at an outdoor pulpit at Poland’s holiest Roman Catholic site, the nation’s top church leader delivered a message to the president and prime minister seated before him: Poland must show compassion to refugees and respect its own Constitution.
Archbishop Wojciech Polak’s words were understood by many Poles as criticism of the country’s conservative leaders. Though manifestly Catholic and attached to the church, they have pursued policies so hostile to migrants that they would seem to contradict the principle of compassion their religion teaches. They also have pursued reforms widely viewed as undemocratic.
The archbishop’s admonition, along with disapproving remarks from other religious leaders in the homeland of sainted Pope John Paul II, signal that the influential Catholic Church sees a need to correct the path of the country’s governing politicians.
The church’s reproach, while so far delivered diplomatically, raises the question of whether the ruling Law and Justice party could be at risk of losing some of its wide support among believers in a country where nine out of 10 citizens identify as Catholic.
“We must be open and compassionate and ready to help those most needy, weak and persecuted, migrants and refugees,” Polak said during a mass celebrated at the Jasna Gora shrine in the city of Czestochowa to honour church-state relations.
Another prominent bishop, Tadeusz Pieronek, went further recently, accusing leaders of consciously “violating the Constitution” as they overhaul the judiciary system. He called it “villainy.”
Law and Justice party came to power in 2015 thanks in part to the support of the church.
At the height of Europe’s migrant crisis, which came during Poland’s 2015 election campaign, Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski advocated anti-migrant attitude, saying migrants posed a threat because they might carry “parasites and protozoa,” a comment criticized for inciting xenophobia.
A 2016 visit from Pope Francis did little to budge the Polish authorities from their unyielding refusal to accept refugees or migrants.