It was evangelism, ecumenism, and a ministry of peace. That’s how president Withold Benedyktowiez of the Polish Ecumenical Council summed up the ten-day preaching visit of evangelist Billy Graham to Poland last month.
Graham preached to some 25,000 people at nine churches in six cities. Thousands raised their hands upon his invitation to receive Christ. The meetings brought Roman Catholics and Protestants under the same church roof, many for the first time. At Poznan, a bustling industrial city of 500,000 in western Poland, the evangelist preached in a Catholic church for the first time in his nearly forty years of ministry. And in meetings with church and government leaders, Graham called for world peace—a theme that pleased his listeners since their land has been a battlefield over the centuries.
Visitors came from East Germany, Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union, and Bulgaria. An entire brass band from Czechoslovakia played at pre-rally services in two cities. Many people brought cassette recorders in order to let people back home hear the meetings. A new Christian named Angelika came from East Germany: she had leukemia and wasn’t sure whether she would live long enough to hear Graham preach in her own country.
Crowds ranged from nearly 1,000 at Baptist churches in Warsaw and in the northeastern city Bialystok, to about 6,500 in a Roman Catholic church in Katowice, Graham also preached in Krakow, a city of 670,000 whose bishop was Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, who would become the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. (See the news story on page 60.)
Graham’s visit began just several days after the death of Pope John Paul. But the election of Cardinal Wojtyla as Pope John Paul II wasn’t announced until after Graham’s departure. Before ...1
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