Pope John Paul II braves Poland’s political storms.

For months, Polish citizens had awaited with high spirits the visit of their most revered countryman. Pope John Paul IPs historic eight-day trip in June to his native Poland was everything his people hoped it would be. Literally millions of Poles heard the Pope’s inspiring message, calling for unity and love, offering hope to a nation that has perceived its liberty slipping away.

Especially since the installation of martial law in December 1981, Poland’s masses have made known to their government their disenchantment with communism. Apparently coming to grips with the internal unrest, the Polish government, headed by General Wojeiech Jaruzelski, allowed the visit. Most analysts believe this was a necessary risk to ease the tension. Poland’s official press described the visit as evidence of the “legitimization of the Polish Government by the Vatican and the church.”

The Pope’s trip highlighted the historical tension that has existed between Polish Catholicism and communism. Characterizing this tension is the outlawed Polish labor union, Solidarity, which has made an indelible mark on Polish history. When Solidarity began to emerge in 1980, one of the first acts of the striking shipyard workers was to arrange for the availability of the sacraments. The union, through public proclamations, has consistently tied its roots to the Catholic church.

Tiptoeing through Poland’s political minefield, the Pope carefully dressed his criticism of the government in nuance and buried it in the context of his message to the people. He encouraged his comrades to seek a “moral victory” in the midst of political defeat. In part, he said, this moral victory entails “love of neighbor” and “fundamental ...

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