Polish regime counts gains from Pope's visit
Now that some of the tumult and fervor has ebbed, the Polish Pope's visit to his homeland can be seen to have provided his communist hosts with some modest and perhaps unexpected gains.Skip to next paragraph
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It marked a first break in Poland's isolation from normal international contact with the West.
It helped strengthen Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski politically against internal hard-liners opposed to the visit.
It boosted church-state cooperation within the Communist Party Politburo and other top leadership echelons.
It may have helped open the way for progress in next month's talks on rescheduling Poland's huge foreign debts. If so, that implies a greater readiness of Western nations to consider lifting the sanctions that the government here says have cost the country $12 billion so far.
Pope John Paul II's outspoken public comments as he traveled around the country and the adulation with which he was received were themselves a rebuke to the Polish authorities.
But, as the visit concluded, the Pope's second meeting with General Jaruzelski and the phrasing of his departure speech implied confidence in the ''moderate'' line pursued by the general and his supporters in the hierarchy.
And the overall papal message was that although major responsibility for putting things right rests on the regime, all Poles share in that responsibility; that there are moral and practical obligations for individual Poles as well as for the government, duties as well as rights.
The big loser in all this appears to be Lech Walesa. A straw in the wind was the extraordinary episode of the editorial in L'Osservatore Romano relegating the leader of the dissolved Solidarity trade union to history. The brutality of publication so soon after the Pontiff had met with Walesa shocked Poles - even though the writer of the editorial resigned before they got around to voicing their feeling.
The editorial was, of course, a windfall for the authorities here. Although they were not displeased to have a source so close to the Vatican echo what they themselves have persistently said about Walesa, Polish officials seem to have been as surprised as anyone else. Saturday's papers published summaries but without comment and not with any prominence or big headlines.
It still has to be adequately explained how l'Osservatore Romano's article came to be written and published just now. The journal is not an official Vatican mouthpiece, but it is close enough to the Holy See to make its opinions seem authoritative.
The cause of the Pope's later reported anger may have been the manner, tone, and timing of the editorial's dismissal of Walesa - rather than the suggestion that, at this juncture, the independent-minded union leader no longer has a significant role.
The essence of the situation seems to lie in the Pope's advocacy of gradualness toward national understanding and agreement - ''inch-by-inch'' progress, as he called it in one homily.
The Pope is seen as having come and spoken out on all the issues dividing the nation. To that extent there is some force in what the Rome editorial writer said: that his mission was to build a bridge between Poles' spiritual values and their daily aspirations; that his calls for a reduction in differences were addressed not only to the authorities but also to the nation as a whole.
For the government, however, among the most welcome current news is the announcement that Poland's Western government creditors are to go ahead with a meeting in Paris July 7 to discuss the nation's foreign debts.
Poland has asked repeatedly for a rescheduling of those debts, but this will be the first move toward rescheduling them since martial law was invoked here and the West imposed economic sanctions.
The Paris gathering is to be a preliminary meeting to discuss possibilities. Assuming it ends positively, another meeting a month later will map the course of hard negotiations. But even this tentative start suggests Western nations are willing to contemplate the lifting of NATO's economic pressures at a reasonably early date.
The Polish authorities say that sanctions have forced many factories to change techniques to adapt to East-bloc and third-world markets. They say that it will be difficult, and in some cases even ''impossible,'' to switch back.
But Poland's need for Western technology and Western markets obviously is unchanged. And if indeed sanctions are lifted by the West, this will have some impact here on those who contend that the country has been irrevocably attuned to the East.