Pope John Paul II and the Church

By Peter Hebblethwaite | Go to book overview

electing a Polish pope? Whether they did or not, they are still discovering further consequences of their action. □


13
Hints surface of papal role in Polish events

( September 19, 1980) Lech Walesa, the mustachioed leader of the free labor union in Gdansk, Poland's principal Baltic seaport, last week indicated he plans to go to Rome "to pay homage to the Holy Father." Sources here say Pope John Paul has extended an invitation to the labor leader.

The trip to Rome could merely be the conventional tribute of a pious Polish Catholic to the world's most famous Pole. But it could also be a recognition that John Paul has been more active in recent Polish events than was at first apparent.

Protocol demands that the pope should not interfere publicly in Polish affairs. But his heart is still there. "It is hard to leave Kraków behind," he said on leaving the city the last time June 10, 1979. The tears flowed abundantly.

It is some measure of how much Poland has changed in the past few weeks that Walesa, who has become a national hero, attended a mass this month celebrated by Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski in his private chapel and then gave the cardinal a progress report on the Free Labor Union and the likely response to it of Poland's new Communist Party leader, Stanislaw Kania.

The Catholic church channels between Poland and the Vatican have been kept open throughout the August strikes.

Pope John Paul has been exceptionally well informed about events in Poland because his Polish-language secretary, Fr. Stanislaw Dziwisz, has been "on holiday" in Poland throughout August. John Paul could hardly remain indifferent as a new Poland struggled to emerge.

It is possible to guess at the exact nature of his discreet involvement. On Aug. 26, Wyszynski's sermon at Czestochowa was, against all precedent, televised and repeatedly broadcast throughout

-45-

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