• Freedom icon Walesa snubs invite to meet Pope Francis

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    KRAKÓW, Poland: Poland’s freedom icon Lech Walesa said on Wednesday he would stay away from a meeting with Pope Francis, insisting that invitations from the Polish president and episcopate had arrived too late. “I can’t change my plans,” devout Catholic Walesa announced on Facebook, saying he had an engagement 300 kilometers (miles) away from the Polish religious shrine of Czestochowa that Francis will visit on Thursday. Walesa also posted on his page both the presidential and episcopal invitations, which he appears to have received on Tuesday. President Andrzej Duda is closely allied with the governing rightwing Law and Justice party (PiS), led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, long known as a harsh Walesa critic. Kaczynski has questioned Walesa’s role in negotiating a bloodless end to communism in Poland in 1989. Most historians accept that as leader of the freedom fighting Solidarity trade union, Walesa was a key figure in the country’s peaceful transition from communism to capitalism.

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