Polish Catholic Church's support for human rights keeps church-state ties cool
Warsaw — The Polish primate has repeated the Roman Catholic Church's stand on human rights and called for an end to trials of political dissidents and clerics. In an audience in Rome for visiting Polish Foreign Minister Stefan Olszowski, Pope John Paul II, is reported to have dismissed a hint of Polish readiness for diplomatic relations with the Vatican. The time, the Pope is reported to have replied, is not ``appropriate.''
Both these events came shortly after:
The sentencing at Gdansk of three former leaders in the banned Solidarity trade union and the imprisonment of a priest in the continuing controversy between church and state over the display of crucifixes in state schools.
A five-hour meeting between the primate, Jozef Cardinal Glemp, and Poland's leader, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski.
The church is also concerned at the time it is taking authorities to finalize the legislation needed to allow a church-sponsored agricultural fund to start operating. The fund, supported by Roman Catholic charities in the West, is intended to assist private farmers here.
It seems clear that the Jaruzelski-Glemp talks did little more than signal the resumption of contacts at the highest level.
``A little green light,'' an episcopate source called it.
Later, Adam Lopatka, Poland's minister for religious affairs, conceded that point. But he stressed there is a long way to go before relations improve significantly.
Cardinal Glemp returned to the theme of human rights in a communiqu'e from a conference of bishops at the Baltic port of Szczecin, marking the 40th anniversary of the liberation of western Poland and its church diocesan regions at the end of World War II.
While reaffirming a desire for dialogue and social peace with the regime, the communiqu'e said the church is seeking an accord that will ``lead to real national agreement.'' It rejected government charges that some of Poland's 23,000 priests misuse their pulpits for ``political'' sermons against both the government and the communist system in Poland and against Marxism and communism generally.
``The church has not and does not want to be a political force,'' the statement continued, ``but the church should always and everywhere have real freedom to voice its moral judgment even in political issues where it is essential to basic human rights.''
The Pope's reported comment on Warsaw-Vatican relations was something of a surprise. Professor Lopatka had told the Monitor that this is not currently an issue.
``What is cooling our relations,'' Lopatka said, ``are certain statements by the Vatican which reflect a kind of rebirth of anticommunism and the open support given by some priests to [opposition] protests about living standards and price increases under conditions likely to create a dangerous atmosphere of public unrest.''
The agricultural fund, he said, had been held up by church demands that the equipment it is designed to provide for individual farmers be exempted from customs duty when brought into the country.