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'World at war,' says pope in Poland

July 27, 2016

The pope has arrived in Poland. As Catholics met up in Krakow for World Youth Day, a day after the murder of a priest in France, eyes will be on how the liberal pope plays his hand in conservative Poland.

Polish President Andrzej Duda (R) and his wife Agata Kornhauser-Duda (L) welcome Pope Francis (C) as he arrives in Krakow.
Polish President Andrzej Duda (R) and his wife Agata Kornhauser-Duda (L) welcome Pope Francis (C) as he arrives in Krakow.Image: picture alliance/dpa/R. Pietruszka

Echoing French President Francois Hollande's reference to France "being at war" after several attacks in recent weeks, including the murder of a priest in Normandy on Tuesday, Pope Francis clarified he was not talking about a war of religion, but rather one of "domination of peoples and economic interests."

The pope arrived in the southern Polish city on Wednesday afternoon. Some 39,000 police and other security officers have been deployed for the three-day event where Francis will meet with hundreds of thousands of young pilgrims at the World Youth Day, an event that takes place every two or three years.

Poland is one of Europe's most devout Catholic nations and many remain devoted to the memory of the late Polish pope, St. John Paul II.

Some in Poland have also been vocal in their opposition to the EU's policy on refugees from the Middle East. Francis is seen by many in Poland as too liberal in this regard.

Later on Wednesday Francis urged Poland's leaders "to overcome fear" and show compassion to migrants. He noted that many Poles had emigrated. "Also needed is a spirit of readiness to welcome those fleeing from wars and hunger, and solidarity with those deprived of their fundamental rights, including the right to profess one's faith in freedom and safety."

Francis's first visit to Poland will also see him meet Holocaust survivors at the former Nazi death camp Auschwitz on Friday.

Lech Walesa persona non grata?

Meanwhile, Polish opposition icon Lech Walesa said on Wednesday he would not be meeting Pope Francis, saying invitations from the president and episcopate had arrived too late.

"I can't change my plans," the devout Catholic Walesa wrote on Facebook, saying he had an engagement 300 kilometers (186 miles) away in Czestochowa, which Francis is visiting on Thursday.

President Andrzej Duda is closely allied with the governing right-wing Law and Justice party (PiS), led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, a long-time Walesa critic.

jbh/kms (AP, AFP, Reuters)