National Catholic Register


Vatican Notes & Quotes

BY Jim Cosgrove

August 1-7, 1999 Issue | Posted 8/1/99 at 1:00 PM


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.”