DAILY CATHOLIC     MONDAY     June 7, 1999     vol. 10, no. 109


On-going coverage of the Holy Father's marathon trip to his homeland

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Lech Walesa's Statements on Eve of Papal Visit to Poland

          WARSAW, JUNE 6 (ZENIT).- The Pope's visit to Poland, which began yesterday, coincides with anniversaries full of meaning and emotion. The trip takes place twenty years after his first historic trip in 1979 and ten years after the decisive one in 1989, when the communist regime disintegrated. Lech Walesa, an electrician from Gdansk, is the man who lit the flame of hope in the whole of Eastern Europe. Friday, he commented on the Pope's visit to his native land.

          Walesa will meet the Holy Father this afternoon, in the building of the Oliwa Curia where, twelve years ago, the head of the Catholic Church and the leader of an underground labor union had a long conversation. The historic movement resulting from that meeting was unstoppable.

          The former Polish president admits that this visit provides a good opportunity to evaluate what has happened over the last few years. "The road we have traveled can be judged in different ways, but I, myself, try to be faithful to the ideals which inspired Solidarnosc [Solidarity] and which were very well expressed in the Pope's encyclical on work: man is above capital and he cannot be reduced to a mere instrument of an ideology or a State. It is a message that guided us in the struggle against communism, and it remains very timely today."

          The Solidarnosc epic began two decades ago, but in the minds of Poles it started a century ago. Walesa believes that the "real Solidarnosc phenomenon lasted only fifteen months, from its foundation in August, 1980 until the state of war imposed by Jaruzelski in December, 1981. Of course it was reborn and came to power in 1989, but it no longer had the heroism, generosity and solidarity it had in the beginning. Later, with the advent of the free market, many mistakes were made, ultraliberalism took over, but this was not the economic ideal that had inspired us. We could destroy the old system, but couldn't build a new one."

          In Poland, the government, Parliament and public opinion have been in favor of the NATO bombings in Yugoslavia. Poland is a singular case in Europe. Walesa explains why: "We Poles have lived through the methods of the old communists, and we saw them happening again in Kosovo, exacerbated by the crimes of ethnic cleansing. Poland has lived in her own flesh the drama of refugees, deportations, changing borders. It is necessary to be courageous and to put an end to this barbarism."

          Walesa does not think that the bombings can solve the problem, however. "Please," he said, "I have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. I hate war. But it has been proved that with people like Milosevic kind words and threats are of no use. Moreover, Poland has just joined NATO, and it cannot afford the luxury of remaining aloof at a time when difficult decisions must be taken." ZE99060409


Pope Begins Longest Trip of Pontificate

          WARSAW, JUNE 6 (ZENIT).- Yesterday, John Paul II began his seventh pastoral visit to his native Poland. It will be the longest pilgrimage in one country of the 87 international trips he has undertaken as Bishop of Rome. His first visit to Poland was exactly 20 years ago, at the beginning of his pontificate. The current trip is taking place a decade after the decisive one in 1989, which sparked the disintegration of communism in Europe.

    Pastoral Marathon

          Over thirteen days, the Pope will visit 20 localities, and will complete his tour of pastoral visits, having visited more than 40 Polish dioceses as Pope.

          During this new pilgrimage, which crowns the twenty years of his pontificate, John Paul II will celebrate 11 Masses for the people, two beatifications and one canonization; he will give 30 addresses and will emphasize ecumenical and social topics.

          The religious dimension of the visit is centered on the theme, "God Is Love," in harmony with the third year of preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. It will be the theme of the entire papal trip and is in response to the need for unity and reconciliation in a country lacerated by social tensions, in the difficult period of transition from decades of communist dictatorship to a democratic system and market economy.

          In fact, just a few days ago, miners and farmers joined labor union protests, which are being manifested in this difficult process of transformation. The bishops appealed for social peace.

    Poland in the New Europe

          At the international level, Poland is poised to enter the European Union, although not everyone believes it has reached the maturity necessary to avoid the possible impact on the less favored sectors of the population.

          In the religious realm, John Paul II will find a Church regarded as an example of dynamism, committed to the task of reconstruction, including in the material dimension, following the long dictatorship.

          Among the most important events of this trip is the beatification of 108 martyrs of the second World War, some of whom gave their life to save Jews from Nazi persecution, the remembrance of the victims of the Holocaust and the communist regime, and the meeting with deputies and senators during the Pope's first visit to a national Parliament, in respect for the institutions of the democratic State.

    Highlights of the Visit

          The first papal stop was Gdansk, the Baltic city that was the birthplace of the Solidarnosc labor movement, with the shipyards and labor struggles of the historic independent union which opened the first breach in the communist regime's wall.

          The whirlwind tour continues today with stops in Pelplin and Elblag, where the Pope will make an act of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Monday, he visits three cities, ending in Torun, where he will beatify Fr. Stephen Vincent Frelichowski.

          This trip also sees the diversity within the Church in Poland. Tuesday's Mass at Elk will include faithful from neighboring Lithuania. Thursday, the Holy Father will celebrate the Mass in Siedlce in the morning with the Greek Catholic community, and in the afternoon will participate in an ecumenical service in Drohiczyn.

          Friday is dedicated to activities in Warsaw, including a visit with the President and a moment of prayer at a monument for victims of the Holocaust. Next Sunday morning is the beatification of 108 martyrs of World War II and two confessors of the faith.

          In Krakow, on Monday, June 14, the Pope will celebrate the Mass in celebration of the 1000th anniversary of the diocese. On Wednesday the 16th, in Stary Sacz, the Pontiff will formally declare the sainthood of Cunegunda. Finally, on Thursday the 17th, he will privately visit the tomb of his family in Krakow. ZE99060408


800,000 People Attend John Paul II's First Mass in Native Country

          GDANSK, JUNE 6 (ZENIT).- Having returned to his native land "for reasons of the heart," as he himself admitted, John Paul II began his longest pastoral visit in Poland Saturday in the city of Gdansk. There the Pope celebrated Mass for an estimated 800,000 people to commemorate the one thousandth anniversary of the canonization of Saint Adalbert, the patron of this region.

          On his eighth pilgrimage to Poland, the Holy Father could not have chosen a more significant door to open onto his country. Gdansk is a name with intense connotations in 20th century European history, like Sarajevo. It was in Gdansk that the first spark was ignited that engulfed the European Continent in the Second World War. It was also in this city, that the flame of liberty was lighted, ending in the disintegration of atheist marxism. And it was here that twelve years ago, the Polish Pontiff openly challenged general Jaruzelski, fixing solidarity as the alternative to the class struggle.

          It is in this context that the Pope's words, addressed from a 26-foot platform in the horse racing track five miles from the city, overlooking the Gdansk Bay, are best understood.

    Solidarnosc's Role

          In the presence of ex-President Lech Walesa, the Holy Father said that Solidarnosc "opened the doors of freedom to countries enslaved by the totalitarian system, tore down the Berlin wall, and contributed to the unity of Europe after the divisions that followed World War II."

    New Civilization

          The Pope, however, did not come on this visit simply to recall the past. Instead, he came to his country to propose a new future. Referring to the slogan the people of this city recited during his visit in 1987, the Holy Father said, "There is no freedom without solidarity," and then drew new conclusions for the new millennium: "there is no solidarity without love."

          "Indeed, there is no happiness, there is no future for the individual and the nation without love, without that love that forgives yet does not forget, which is sensitive to the misfortunes of others, which does not seek its own advantage but seeks the good of the other person; that love, which is ever ready to help, which is selfless and disposed to give generously," the Pope added.

          This is, in a word, the "civilization of love" that John Paul II wished to bring to the new Poland.

          Shortly after his arrival, the Holy Father made it clear that he came to his country to explain how the love of the Father, which is the theme of his visit, must become a social project. This proposal was akin to the one he made in 1991 when, shortly after the fall of the Berlin wall, he reviewed the Ten Commandments with his compatriots, who were already being attracted to the temptations of Western consumerism.

          "Today the world and Poland need great-hearted men, who serve with humility and love, who bless and do not curse, who conquer the land with blessing. It is not possible to build the future without reference to the source of love, which is God."

          The Poles have responded to John Paul II's first appeals with affection. The people streamed out into the streets separating the airport from the Gdansk archdiocese to greet the Pope. The windows of the houses in the city were adorned with the papal flag, pictures of the Pontiff and Marian icons. For Poland this will likely be the most intense week of 1999. ZE99060604


Pope Recalls Testimony of Priests Killed by Nazis

          PELPLIN, JUNE 6 (ZENIT).- On the second day of his visit to Poland, John Paul II left the Baltic coast, the cradle of Solidarnosc, to travel to the interior, to the green fields of Pomerania. It is an area of tragic memories. It was here that the Nazis killed half the priests of the area -- over 300.

          This was his first visit to the diocese of Pelplin as Pontiff, an area that knows what it is to struggle to maintain one's Catholic identity. During the Prussian domination of the 19th century, this region faced the challenges of the "Kulturkampf."

          300,000 people from the whole diocese came to the hills of Biskupia Gora, where a 108-foot cross was erected. It will remain as an unforgettable memory of the place where the Holy Father offered Mass.

          During the homily, the Pontiff made a brief review of one thousand years of Christianity in these lands, the conclusion of which he celebrated yesterday in Gdansk. He referred specifically to the murder of the priests at the hands of the Nazis, which took place here seventy years ago.

          "If today we remember these martyred priests, it is because it was from their lips that our generation heard the word of God and, thanks to their sacrifice, experienced its power."

          As the Pope usually does on such occasions, he drew lessons from history for the future. "We need to recall this historic sowing of the seed by word and witness, especially now as we approach the end of the second millennium. This centuries-long tradition must continue in the third millennium. Yes, given the new challenges confronting the individual and entire societies today, we must constantly renew our awareness of what the word of God is, of how important it is in the life of the Christian, in the life of the Church and of all humanity."

          In order to reach this objective, the Pontiff gave his fellow countrymen some personal advice. "Cross into the new millennium with the Book of the Gospels! Let there be one in every Polish home! Read and meditate upon it! Let Christ speak!"

          Near the altar was an old statue of Mary, the Virgin of Pomerania, crowned 35 years ago, in 1964, by the then Cardinal Karol Wojtyla. At the end of the Mass, everyone turned to the image of Our Lady. It was the moment when the Pope spoke freely and intimately, to honor the Mother who gave us the Man who revealed, "in a manner most tragic from the human point of view, the truth that God is love." Before his farewell, John Paul II recalled the wonderful holidays he spent in this area when, as a young priest, he canoed on its rivers.

          During the first 24 hours of his visit to Poland, John Paul II had been with more than 1,100 million compatriots. The television is covering live every hour the public events presided by the Holy father. The front pages of the newspapers talk about nothing. But the new evangelization, the most important gift the Pope brings his people, is nothing other than the oldest message of Christianity: "God is love." ZE99060605


      WARSAW (CWNews.com) - Poland's bishops' conference on Friday called for the whole country to reach for a new unity and end political and social quarrels during Pope John Paul II's 13-day visit which began on Saturday.

      The Holy Father will make his longest and most grueling trip home yet since his election to the papacy in 1978. Millions of people are expected to turn out at the papal events, and the bishops have warned against trivializing the religious meaning of the trip by politicizing it. Among the quarrels that are expected to try to take advantage of the high profile of the papal visit are protests by farmer, miners, doctors, and nurses.

      "I hope that during the Pope's visit a bit of an angel will enter each of us and we will reach out our hands to one another," visit organizer Bishop Jan Chrapek told state radio. He added that the government must also do all it can to resolve the disputes with justice. "The bishops appeal to the government to start solving these dramatic problems and not to avoid burning social issues," he said.

      Polish primate Cardinal Jozef Glemp of Warsaw also rebuffed the Polish Peasants' Party's attempt urge the Holy Father on behalf of farmers. "The Holy Father will not resolve our woes. He can only remind us of the principles on which we ourselves must base the settlement of our difficulties," he told PAP news agency.


VATICAN CITY, 5 (NE) Today at 8.45am local time, Pope John Paul II will depart from Rome to Poland. It will be the Holy Father's 87th pastoral visit out of Italy, and the 8th time he travels to Poland after his election to the See of Peter. It is officially the 7th visit to his natal country, for in 1991 he divided his 4th visit in two parts, the first one in June and the second one in August.

      The pastoral pilgrimage that begins today will be the longest that the Pontiff has ever made to a single country. Starting today, Saturday June 5, the Pope will stay in Poland for 13 days, returning to the Vatican next Thursday, June 17.

      The Pontiff will visit 20 different places of his country during the trip, completing in this way his visit to all Polish dioceses. He will preside over 11 Eucharistic celebrations, including two ceremonies of beatification and one of canonization. One of these is the beatification of 108 martyrs from World War II.

      Poland has a population of 38,6 million of inhabitants. 95,4 % are Catholic, that is, approximately 36,8 million. It is divided into 43 Church circumscriptions. It has more than 26000 priests and about 27000 religious.

Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

June 7, 1999       volume 10, no. 109


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