Polish Catholics Get New Leader as Church Struggles to Reckon with Sexual Abuse

The leaders of Poland’s influential Catholic Church on Thursday chose moderate Archbishop Tadeusz Wojda to be their new principal, at a time when the church is still struggling to reckon with the abuse of minors by some Polish clergy, while the number of Poles going to church has fallen sharply.

At a two-day conference, bishops and archbishops elected Gdansk Archpishop Wojda, 67, to replace the conservative Archbp. Stanislaw Gądecki, of Poznan, as the head of the Polish Episcopate, for a five-year term, a communique said.

More than 90% of Poles, a nation of some 38 million, are still officially members of the Catholic Church, but figures from 2022 showed less than a third of Catholics attended mass, according to the church’s statistical institute.

For 27 years, from 1990 until 2017, Wojda served at the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelizations of Peoples, during the terms of three popes: Polish-born John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis. He was then appointed archbishop of Bialystok, in eastern Poland, bordering Belarus. In 2021, he was made archbishop of Gdansk.

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