40 Years Since St. Pope John Paul II’s Historic Visit To Poland

Tags: Currents Faith, Inspiration, Pope Francis, Pope John Paul II, World News

Currents News Staff

It is 40 years since St. Pope John Paul II first visited Poland from June 2-10 in 1979.

It was a historic moment, as at the time the country was ruled by the oppressive regime of the Soviet Union.

The Polish Ambassador to the Holy See, Janusz Kotański, fondly remembered St. Pope John Paul II’s visit to Poland.

He recalled the hope this pope brought to the many people who despairingly believed the Soviet Union would last forever.

“Right in the middle of Warsaw there were around a million Poles,” Kotański said.

“We were listening with tears in our eyes to the words of this Polish pope. He treated us seriously. He was telling us, ‘you must do this and that. You mustn’t be afraid. You are Catholics. You are Poles. You are are young. The future belongs to you.’”

He noted how St. Pope John Paul II’s visit helped bring about peaceful change and ultimately, the collapse of communism.

This is because soon after his visit, millions of Polish people formed the Solidarity trade union.  

“The Communist party was always saying, ‘Yes we are here for you! We are for the workers! For the poor people!,’” Kotański said. “However, these people were now saying ‘no.’ It was a kind of revolution that was absolutely peaceful, absolutely peaceful.”

The people were praying the rosaries and on the gate of the Gdansk shipyard, there was a great portrait of John Paul II,” he recalled.

“I know it was also of course the weakness of the Soviet economy, Ronald Reagan’s very good and strong policies. However, who started it? Who did it? St. John Paul II, Karol Wojtyła and the millions of Poles who were not afraid.”

One of the reasons St. Pope John Paul II wanted to visit Poland was to mark the Millennium of the baptism of Poland. In 1966 the Communists had not permitted Pope Paul VI to visit to celebrate this important occasion for Catholicism in Poland.

According to the Polish Ambassador, the Soviet government warned St. Pope John Paul II not to visit, and afterward sought ways to destroy solidarity among the Polish people.

“The first secretary of the Soviet communist party, Leonid Brezhnev, had said to Gierek, first secretary of the Polish Communist party, before John Paul II’s visit, ‘Oh we know Wojtyła is a wise man,’” Kotański said.

“‘Tell him he must announce he is sick. It would be better for him not to come to Poland.’ They tried during the martial law. Jaruzelski was trying to destroy our solidarity, our liberty, but he couldn’t. It was impossible.”

Kotański also said it is important that people do not to forget St. Pope John Paul II, who strongly stood against the violation of human rights and life.