(Note: This week the Pope celebrates World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland. How will his gentler style go down in a country that idolises the muscular approach of his predecessor, John Paul II? – james kottoor).
On Wednesday Pope Francis is due to travel to Poland, a country where one of his predecessors, John Paul II, is an icon – the national hero and saint who helped to free the Poles from communism, the man who created the template for a bold and strong pope. And just to make his legacy loom even larger, the reason for Francis’ visit is to celebrate World Youth Day, a mass global gathering of young Catholics which was established by John Paul II.
But here’s the difficulty: Francis’ papacy is taking a very different course from the one ploughed by Karol Wojtyla during his nearly 27-year pontificate, from 1978 to 2005. In a host of areas – from Catholic sexual teaching to papal infallibility – Francis has opened up debate where John Paul II wanted to shut it down. To compound matters, Francis’ critique of the capitalist system has led to accusations of him being a communist – not a helpful perception in a country that battled so hard to overthrow the influence of Soviet rule.
So what sort of reception is Francis likely to receive? As is expected at World Youth Days, he will be rapturously greeted by young pilgrims, including Poles: a Win/Gallup survey last March showed 78 per cent of the country view him positively.