Pope urges Polish churchmen to open up, shun worldly ambitions

Pope Francis leads a mass at the Sanctuary of John Paul II during the World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland on July 30, 2016.
Pope Francis leads a mass at the Sanctuary of John Paul II during the World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland on July 30, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

POLAND (Reuters) - Pope Francis urged Poland's Roman Catholic churchmen on Saturday (July 30) to live more simple lives, focus on those most in need and shun worldly ambitions.

On the fourth day of his trip to Poland for an international gathering of Catholic youth, Francis addressed some 2,000 Polish bishops and priests gathered at a shrine dedicated to the late Pope John Paul, who died in 2005 and was made a saint in 2014.

In the homily of a Mass, he told them not to lead "two-track lives" or to "remain enclosed, out of fear or convenience, within ourselves ..." Archbishop of Krakow Stanislaw Dziwisz, addressing Francis at the end of the Mass, said: "We are not closed within ourselves".

Some media commentators have accused Polish Church leaders of enjoying a lifestyle protected from the difficulties of Poland's economic transition from communism to capitalism.

They have also criticised what they see as the Polish Catholic Church's attempts to influence the conservative government, including supporting its coolness towards migrants for fear that they might dilute Poland's Christian identity.

"The Church has forged an alliance with the government because, using law, it can exert more control," Jaroslaw Makowski, one of Poland's best-known theologians and a frequent critic of the hierarchy, said before the visit.

Francis also told the Polish clergy that as "Jesus' closest disciples," their lives should be marked by modesty and humility.

"The house where they live does not belong to them," Francis said. "Their wealth is to put the Lord in the midst on their lives and to seek nothing else for themselves.

"They flee the satisfaction of being at the centre of things, they do not build on the shaky foundation of worldly power."

The modern shrine to the memory of John Paul was built on the site of a stone quarry on the outskirts of Krakow where German occupiers forced him to work during World War Two.

Francis' five-day trip to Poland is taking place in the shadow of the Polish pontiff, who has cult-like status in Poland for his role in inspiring his native country to stand up to communist rule in the 1980s.

The shrine houses relics of the late pope, such as the blood-stained white cassock he was wearing on May 13, 1981, when he was shot and nearly killed by Turkish gunman Mehmet Ali Agca in St. Peter's Square in the Vatican.