Most Poles hope Pope's visit will bring modest gains
Poland's mood is joy as it awaits the Pope's arrival this week. But the joy is more sober, less emotionally euphoric than on John Paul II's first return to his homeland in 1979.Skip to next paragraph
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For most people, the dominant feeling seems to be relief. They are pleased that a friend who understands their experiences of the past three years is coming to see them again.
Many are skeptical that the visit will have any beneficial, tangible results. Some profess to ''fear'' that the Pope's presence will do no more than bring aid and comfort to a still untrusted government, but that view seems to underrate the man himself.
But most people exude a sense of quiet satisfaction. Beneath this one discerns a vague, undefined hope that ''something'' might change as a result of his talking with a leadership that antagonized virtually the whole nation by imposing martial law 18 months ago.
The military grip on day-to-day life was relaxed at the start of the year. But the regime has not yet felt bold or confident enough to risk removing it altogether.
Recent official pronouncements on the visit have given an impression that the leadership is counting on the Pope's trip to help make the removal of martial law possible.
The former Gierek regime accepted John Paul's first visit with considerable apprehension. Only about halfway through that visit did the authorities wake up to the political mileage they might derive from it.
By contrast, Edward Gierek's successors are trying hard to ensure this visit is successful, even in the face of obvious disfavor on the part of the Russians and hard-line allies like Czechoslovakia, which currently is harassing local churches.
''They really are pulling out all the stops,'' a Western observer who lives here commented, pointing to the care with which the program is being organized jointly with the church and to the obvious official respect for this Polish Pope.
In his speech to the Communist Party Central Committee at the end of May, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski spoke of a need to emphasize ''once again'' that ''we are building socialism in a country which has a thousand-year-old Christian tradition strongly tied to the complex history of nation and state.''
Not all Poles, or Polish Catholics, are enamored of that kind of talk. There are those who say that when General Jaruzelski speaks of a ''vast area'' in which the fundamentally different Christian and Marxist philosophical motivations ''do not clash in the search for proper moral attitudes,'' he is indulging in a tactical ploy.
Even within the Catholic Church a minority has questioned the wisdom of the Pope coming just now. These people, many of whom are lay intellectuals and younger priests, have been critical of the role their primate, Jozef Cardinal Glemp, has played in bringing the visit about.
As in 1979, this second visit will be more than a passing distraction from the economic vicissitudes and political contraints that press even harder on the Polish people now than they did then.
Conventional wisdom says Solidarity was a direct result of the 1979 visit. (The East bloc's hard-liners have been depicting the Pope as the calculating creator of the union.) Obviously there was a connection, but some who are close to the Pope say he was as surprised as anyone else when the strikes of August 1980 mushroomed into a gigantic national movement. Moreover, they indicate, he was later concerned by the more political aspects of the union's development.