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BY Jim Cosgrove
Communists Feared Pope from Beginning
DIE WELT, July 10—Former East Germany's secret police files illustrate how communist regimes reacted to Pope John Paul II's “hostile activities,” according to an article in the German daily by historian Michael Wolffsohn
One document from the secret police, known as the Stasi, branded John Paul “a pope, Pole and anti-communist” and predicted his 1979 Polish homecoming would bring a “mixing of religious, political and national interests.”
As a next-door neighbor to Poland, the Stasi reacted to the trip by tightening border controls and dispatching 24 agents to mingle with the crowds at papal Masses.
In a separate story for Poland's Tygodnik Powszechny Catholic weekly, journalist Wojciech Pieciak said files in the Stasi's Polish section showed the secret police made “great organizational efforts” to monitor all the Pope's visits to Poland.
Pieciak said the Pope's activities were also viewed in “nationalist categories” in East Germany, which feared their likely impact on relations with West Germany.
And those fears had merit. “Under Pope Paul VI, [the East Germans] had come close to persuading the Vatican to bring the Church's diocesan borders into line with East Germany's state frontiers,” Pieciak said. “But under John Paul II the talks were frozen.”
From Selected Sources
BY Jim Cosgrove
There Will Never Be Another Like ‘Our Pope’
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, June 21—Pope John Paul II's absence from one of his scheduled Masses during his recent trip to Poland “showed exactly how much this nation … will lose when history's only Polish Pope is gone,” said correspondent Tom Cohen. “Poles know it, they accept it, but they don't like it,” said Cohen.
“One of history's best-loved popes, certainly its most traveled one, John Paul is considered by Poles to be sent by God to help them regain their freedom — both political and spiritual. His papacy brought Poles the spiritual honor of a native son leading the planet's 1 billion Catholics,” observed Cohen
The pace of positive change in Poland is, “to a great extent, the Pope's and the Church's doing,” said President Aleksander Kwasniewski, a former communist.
The intense love Poles have for the Pope shows in the faces that strain for even the briefest look as his motorcade passes. “More telling are the subtle possessives that creep into discussion,” said Cohen.
“Our Pope will always be remembered for what he has done,” insisted Pawel Maciejewski, a 26-year-old geology student who waited for hours for a spot up front at the opening Mass of the pilgrimage in Gdansk.
“There will surely not be as much excitement as for a Polish Pope,” admitted Zofia Hiro. “We've joined Europe. Communism is over. Many countries have now heard of Poland,” she said. “You can't take that away, all that he's done.”
While Poles accept his time on earth may be limited, they unabashedly demanded the Pope's energy at every chance throughout the 13-day pilgrimage. “It seemed they wanted a final personal connection, particularly young people who have never known any other spiritual leader,” said Cohen.
A new pope “will be a real shock to us,” said Agnieszka Kaliszewska, who was born the year of John Paul's election. “We've gotten used to the fact that the Pope is Polish.”
From selected sources
BY Jim Cosgrove
Blessed John XXIII?
NEWSWEEK, June 21—“In the last 900 years, the … Church has found only three popes worthy of veneration as saints,” observed religion editor Kenneth Woodward in an article on the possibility that Pope John XXIII may be the next pope to “make the grade.” John, who was elected in 1958 and called the Second Vatican Council, may be beatified by as early as next year, said Woodward.
John's story is all the more interesting in that “normally, Vatican officials do not consider potential miracles until after the Pope has declared the candidate ‘heroically virtuous.’ In John's case, however, Vatican officials recently announced that a miraculous cure had been attributed to him: a young nun recovered from a life-threatening stomach ailment after a relic of John's was placed on her body.”
While a panel of nine theologians agreed earlier this year that Pope John did exhibit the virtues required in a saint, “their judgment has yet to be ratified by a panel of cardinals — and confirmed by the Pope,” said Woodward
“Never before,” said Jesuit Father Peter Gjmpei of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, “have I seen this happen [in reverse order].”
However, treating the Church as a political entity, Woodward obscured the question. He claimed that “liberal” participants at Vatican II, which was still in session at John XXIII's death in 1963, wanted to canonize him by acclamation, bypassing the usual process. This was checked by “conservatives” who “wanted Pius XII to be the next pope canonized,” said Woodward.
Woodward reported that Pope Paul VI, who succeeded John, “to please both sides,” introduced both causes, thereby “yoking the fate of [John XXIII and Pius XII] together: both would be canonized or neither would.”
While Paul VI might have seen the merit of introducing both causes at the same time, it should be noted that Woodward's comment leaves the impression that an arrangement was made that would have binding consequences into the future. It stretches credulity to think that the two causes could be “yoked” and follow identical tracks.
The premise of Woodward's own report is that the Church has expedited John XXIII's cause due to a miraculous event, and is generally at a more advanced stage than Pius's, which, according to Woodward, still lacks the completion of the third in a three-volume study of his life and virtues. Should it be assumed that the “yoke” has been removed?
The Pope's Mission, Not His Homecoming
THE PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, June 11—According to Msgr. Bernard Witkowski, 64, of Bridesburg, Pa., the Pope's latest visit to Poland has more to do with pastoral concern for a nation in transition than nostalgia.
“With the fall of communism and the introduction of Western culture, there are things happening I don't think [John Paul] likes,” said the Polish-speaking priest, a pastor in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. “He wants them to remain faithful and avoid some of the pitfalls of freedom.”
Msgr. Witkowski said the Pope had undertaken his latest “extensive pilgrimage” to shore up Catholicism in a 95% Catholic nation where the faith has been weakening, said the Daily News's Ron Goldwyn.
“I'm hoping to spend a little time with the Pope, at least say hello to him and offer the greetings of my people here,” said the priest prior to his departure.
Msgr. Witkowski has been traveling to Poland for such meetings since 1976, when he served as a translator for the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, then serving as president of the American bishops’ conference. It was on that trip that he met the future pope, Cardinal Karol Wojtya of Krakow, for the first time.
“He was an outstanding man, hearing him talk, with his command of language,” said Msgr. Witkowski in the article.