Pope likely to stand up to Polish regime - prudently

During his trip to Poland, Pope John Paul II is expected to leave no doubt of his abhorrence of martial law and of the liquidation of Solidarity, to which a vast majority of the nation pinned hopes of reform, as well as repression of many of the gains of August 1980.

But he will do so in terms that do not pose a direct challenge to or affront Polish leaders. Nor is he expected to detract from his mission, as he sees it, which is to try to bring a society at odds with itself into a realistic national agreement.

''Prudence'' is a word much heard now both in Roman Catholic Church and official quarters. It was stressed in an interview by a respected Catholic journalist and historian, Andrzej Micewski, in an interview in the weekly Polityka.

''What Poles need now is a sense of dignity, a strong moral backbone, hope and freedom from fear, but also political wisdom and prudence. No one can force anything on anyone in Poland, but the segments of society which are at odds can and should agree.''

It is this Catholic publicist's view that the search for agreement must embrace ''new forms and platforms'' - a proposal that apparently was hotly disputed by radical lay churchmen, who read it as implying a ''writing off'' of Solidarity. ''The point is,'' Mr. Micewski argues, ''to realize society's aspirations for freedom but, at the same time, not to weaken the state. I believe the Pontiff's visit will give new impetus to this cause.''

The Pope personally wrote to the Catholic episcopates in all the East European countries - including the Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian republics of the Soviet Union - asking them to send bishops or other representatives ''to meet me'' in Poland.

How many, or which of them will be able to respond to the invitation remains to be seen. The most likely is the Hungarian primate, Lazslo Cardinal Lekai.

Interestingly, the independent newspaper Zycie Warszawy Tuesday ran a long story from its Budapest correspondent describing a Budapest television interview in which the cardinal commended the modus vivendi built up between church and state in Hungary since the 1960s. ''The key to understanding,'' he was quoted as saying, ''is respect for the opinions of the other side.''

Another focus point here in the coming week will be the Vatican's ''Eastern'' policy, which assumes significance in the light of present East-West tensions. Catholic thinkers like Micewski say the Pope's presence in an East bloc country just now might conceivably contribute to breaking down the ''mutual isolation'' of two of the world's different ideologies.

More immediately feasible than any role as an ''inter-mediary'' between East and West, however, is the Pope's potential diplomatic contribution toward breaking Poland's isolation vis-a-vis the West. The regime is clearly counting on the Pope's visit to help in this regard.

The expectation is strong and widespread here that - if the visit is peaceful - it will be very difficult for the United States and Western Europe not to relax their attitudes - at least to the extent of removing economic sanctions.

The Pope plans to open his tour of Poland with a religious ceremony honoring the late Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski, who, as primate of Poland for three decades, steered Poland's Catholic Church through bitter conflicts to a modus vivendi with the communist authorities that is unique in the communist world.

In this way, an informed source close to authoritative church circles said, the Pope would ''be giving the authorities assurance that the church has not moved away from Wyszysnki's realism. At the same time he will also be holding him up to the present church leadership and the faithful as an example. . . .''

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