Pope, Poland Differ on Migrants

Pope, Poland Differ on MigrantsPope, Poland Differ on Migrants

Pope Francis' advocacy of refugee rights faces a diplomatic test on Wednesday when he begins a five-day visit to Poland, where a populist government has slammed the door on most asylum-seekers.

Francis is scheduled to meet Polish President Andrzej Duda and will hold a question-and-answer session with Poland's bishops behind closed doors, AP reported.

Ahead of the pope's arrival, Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Blaszczak defended the ruling Law and Justice Party's opposition to immigration by citing the Bastille Day truck massacre of 84 people in Nice, France. Blaszczak argued that such violence was an inevitable consequence of multiculturalism. Addressing a large crowd in Vatican City earlier this month, Francis said that ultimately "we will be judged on the basis of works of mercy".

"The Lord will be able to say to us: 'Do you remember? That migrant, who so many wanted to kick out, was me."

Seeking to inspire by example, Francis in April brought 12 Syrians back with him to Rome after visiting a migrant camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, where tens of thousands were stranded after perilous crossings from nearby Turkey in often overcrowded boats.

A Polish commentator, Adam Szostkiewicz, said he expected the pope to raise Poland's opposition to aiding refugees during this week's visit because "this is the central theme of his pontificate in Europe. This is a European problem."

Most of Poland's refugees come from Russia, Ukraine and other neighbors in the former Soviet Union, not from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq or Africa, major sources for people trying to gain European Union protection.