So recognizing the "reality" of religion in Poland is part of "the new political thinking" in the U.S.S.R.
John Paul read that interview, too. It may even have been set up during his meeting with Jaruzelski three weeks before. It is important to get the right signals from Moscow. They seem to be saying that what was once said about religion as "the opium of the people" no longer applies. There has been retreat from this interpretation of Marxism.
If that is true, then this 1987 visit to Poland comes at a crucial turning point in 20th century history. I believe it is true, and offer as evidence the following statement from the Polish official press agency: "The Polish People's Republic is a secular but not an atheistic state."
It remains to work out the consequences of this dramatic change. One is that John Paul could conceivably go to Moscow next year for the 1,000-year celebration of Christianity in Russia.
( September 11, 1987) As Pope John Paul II arrives on U.S. soil, he is at work to reshape the Roman Catholic church to meet the needs and challenges of the 21st century. This trip is part of that effort. The pope is having an important influence on the church, yet even after nine years as bishop of Rome, he remains a mystery. What makes him think the way he does? What fuels his faith? How does he view his pontificate? How is he doing as Peter's successor?
It was, I am fairly sure, in 1971 that I first met Karol Wojtyla, then the future Pope John Paul II. I was a regular visitor to Poland in those days and had many friends in the Znak (Sign) group of Catholic intellectuals in Kraków. "You should go and meet the cardinal," they urged.
I was not in the habit of talking with cardinals, preferring to seek the truth about a local church on humbler levels. Why should I go see Cardinal Wojtyla?