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Pope John Paul II: Pilgrimages to Poland

Every pope's visit in Poland was a festivity, a very special event for almost all Poles. Every time he was leaving - it was hard to go back to the everyday routine.

During his first pilgrimage to Poland in June 1979, the pope was talking about human dignity. He prayed: "Spirit, come and renew the face of the earth". He was referring also to Polish Christian heritage, to our rich history before communism. He also built amazing bond with young people because of his sense of humor, energy and youthfulness. When people listened to the pope, they realized that they have inner strength. They looked around at the countless crowds and they realized they have also power because there is so many of them who want the same! The pope breached a strict censorship in mass media since his sermons were often broadcast live.

But mass media still tried to cheat people by avoiding showing the huge greeting the pope and participating in huge open-air services. The camera was focusing only on the altar, one could not see millions of people participating in the service. This was done for a reason. Communists did not want publicly to admit that the process of atheisation of the society was a failure. During the first years after archbishop Wojtyla became the pope, Polish Church grew in power, the amount of vocation increased so much Polish priests became one of the most important product exported all around Europe. Polish Church became also a main force behind the resistance against the communism, for all Poles - Catholics and non-Catholics.

In less than two years the communist leader Edward Gierek was gone and the Solidarity was established as a legal workers union.

The second pope's visit in Poland was a year after martial law was established, June, 1983. With Solidarity gone, also our dreams of freedom and democracy seemed unrealistic. The pope was our only hope. John Paul II in his sermons was awakening us from a feeling of hopelessness, he was comforting us.

He was right. In a consequence there was a free election in 1989 in Poland and the new democratic government was chosen. Poland was a free country. Then, the pope came back again. He was cautioning us that the freedom needs solid foundations and values. His every pilgrimage contained a specific message, as like he was anticipating the dangers ahead of us as a nation and he wanted to warn us about it and help us. I do not want to talk specifically about every pope pilgrimage to Poland. Every pilgrimage was unusual in its own special way. So, let us do the summary of the most important ideas of pope's pilgrimages to Poland which we mentioned already before.

There are three main tasks which the pope accomplished with his pilgrimages to Poland:

Every pope's pilgrimage to Poland had a specific message which was related to what was going on in that time. When communists try to cut peoples' roots by focusing on recent communistic history he was emphasizing the Christian roots of Poland. When people needed hope after martial law he was comforting them. When we just started to live in a freedom and democracy for the first time and they did not know exactly how to deal with it, the pope was cautioning us.

The pope made us aware how many of us are there in Poland. He was able to attract millions. I still remember a very good organized group of Polish gypsies dressed in their folk costumes, praying during an open -air service. I never saw so many hippies as during white march which was spontaneously organized in my hometown Krakow after the pope was shot in St. Peter's Square in 1981.It was amazing to see how all Poles could unite in solidarity with this pope.

John Paul II showed us that we are not hopeless. That there are some values and nobody can take it away from us.

Recommended reading(s):

A Pilgrim PopeA Pilgrim Pope: Messages for the World, by II Pope John Paul, Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul IIOver 200 texts from messages issued on 85 apostolic journeys made by the most traveled pope of the century: Pope John Paul II: In My Own Words, by Pope John Paul II

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