Most Poles hope Pope's visit will bring modest gains
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What the Pope really did in 1979 was to bolster Poles' confidence in their own ability and strength - and right - to press legitimate social and economic aspirations. This second visit may do no more than give that confidence - which was shaken by martial law - a new lease on life.Skip to next paragraph
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But if the Pope's eight-day pilgrimage is not marred by political disturbances, it could conceivably convince the authorities of the wisdom of concessions. Both the Pope and Cardinal Glemp have said that at least some concessions are necessary if the authorities are ever to convince the people they are sincere when they talk about national conciliation.
The principal points are amnesty for political prisoners, an end to political discrimination against former Solidarity activists and supporters, and a return to genuine trade unions.
The Pope never set these as conditions for his visit. But he has made it clear that he will introduce such questions when he meets Jaruzelski and other leaders Friday morning.
There is no prospect that the government will yield any ground on Solidarity per se. The regime is in enough trouble with the Soviets without appearing to make even tiny concessions on what Moscow considered the most obnoxious of all the Polish backsliding.
The regime will try to convince the Pope that, under the law that eliminated Solidarity, opportunity does exist for ''independent, self-governing'' unions that have substantial though limited autonomy from the government.
Nevertheless, recent official statements that there are ''at present'' no plans for general amnesty have seemed to hint that it can be an option later. Obviously that will depend on the final outcome of the visit.
Similarly, it has been hinted that July 22, the Polish national holiday, could bring an announcement about the termination of martial law. But that in itself would not do much to change the social climate or ease public discontent.
Apart from the immediate crisis issues, however, there are important questions on which the Catholic Church has pressed for many years for adjustments in its overall relation with the state.
Of primary importance for the church is its claim to ''legal status.'' That is, its recognition by the communist regime as an institution with accepted moral and religious prerogatives and full freedom to exercise these within the communist political system, a formal status in place of the largely undefined and often vulnerable basis on which modus vivendi has been conducted thus far.
Over the years, the communist authorities have made many concessions to the church (the removal of restraints on trainees for priesthood, enlarged media outlets, and the Sunday radio mass that Solidarity fought for). But they have balked at extending ''legal status'' to it because of sensitive questions of politics and ideology. Any potential ''rival'' to the Communist Party is feared and excluded.
Another issue is the government's desire and readiness (judging by several recent statements) to move toward diplomatic relations with the Vatican. Now the church is said to be chary of any such move without substantive action by the authorities to ease tensions within Polish society generally.
The time allotted for talks between Jaruzelski and the Pope will allow for little more than pleasantries and general exchanges on the wisdom implicit for each side in a less troubled relationship between church and state.
Many Poles are skeptical that such exchanges can yield meaningful results, but they as well as the Catholic Church - and the government - would all seem likely to gain if some understanding were to emerge.