The crowd had gathered hours in advance. Entire families came. Parents hoisted toddlers above their shoulders. Grandparents leaned on their adult children. Soon the people stood six deep. Yellow-capped church security guards kept order; blue-uniformed Zomo riot police stayed off to the side. A Roman Catholic priest with a loudspeaker started singing. Picking up the rhythm, the crowd chanted, ``I count on you, my Father. I have confidence in you.''
The crowd began swaying. Many cried. One young woman wiped away tears and whispered, ``I'm an athiest.'' A police car passed. There was a hush. A black limousine, 1950s style, passed. Then the flash of white, the square white Popemobile, and the Pope himself.
He was gone almost as soon as he arrived, and within minutes on Monday, the crowd dispersed. It was back to daily life, 5 years after the declaration of martial law and the banning of the independent trade union Solidarity. Lines formed in front of butcher stores. The tearful young atheist named Hanka talked about how she must wait 20 years for her own apartment.
``We need the Pope's encouragement, we need to do something together, to form big masses, to feel each other,'' she said. ``But then the Pope leaves and I fear nothing will change.''
A Western diplomat expressed the same feeling.
Although the US recently removed its remaining economic sanctions on Poland, the diplomat said, relations are far from warm. He was pessimistic that Polish leader Wojciech Jaruzelski can reach an understanding with the opposition and reinvigorate his dejected and politically apathetic countrymen.
When the singing began outside, the diplomat lost his concentration. He pulled up the window shades.
``There's as many people as in 1979,'' he muttered, referring to the Pope's first visit to his homeland after his election. ``The same emotion.''
As the Pope passed, one section of the crowd right in front of the embassy started chanting, ``Solidarity, Solidarity.'' A squadron of Zomos arrived. Then a second. And a third. One hundred policemen formed a solid block. But the crowd melted away and no one was arrested. Obviously, said the diplomat, the police had orders to avoid embarrassing arrests.
(For Vatican expectations of the trip, see story, Page 32.)
General Jaruzelski was on best behavior for the Pontiff. Ramrod straight, dressed in civilian attire, not his general's uniform, the Polish leader greeted the Pope at the airport Monday, and later welcomed him at the royal castle with the gift of a 16-piece coin collection and a rare 16th-century Polish manuscript.
It was an incredible paradox: a communist leader embraced religion, which according to traditional Marxist ideology is the opium of the people. But Jaruzelski knew that he needed the Pope's blessing to satisfy, to motivate, and to calm his countrymen.
``We appreciate the grandness of the moral teachings of the church,'' Jaruzelski told his guest. ``Enterprise, laboriousness, co-ownerlike concern add power and wealth to nations. In this area, joint action of the state and the church could prove particularly fruitful.''
The Pope listened respectfully, his hands clasped. When his host finished speaking, he gave a powerful speech. Before the visit, church officials had stressed the pastoral nature of his pilgramage. But the Pope's words rang sharp and clear with political meaning.
``The message of the [UN] Charter of Human Rights is unequivocal,'' he said. ``Bear man in mind, man's right to religious freedom, to the freedom of association, and the freedom of expression.''
Human rights looks like the Pope's central message during the rest of his week-long stay. At the Catholic University in Lublin yesterday, the Pope scorned Marxist materialism. ``We must not allow man to be reduced to an object,'' he said. ``I think this is the final reason and sense of that which is currently called human rights.''
What will Poles make of these ringing words? Outside the royal castle on Monday, the crowds were forming once again, the singing started. This time, the song was ``God save Poland.'' The tears flowed. And the Pope passed in another flash, leaving the onlookers both exhilarated and exhausted.
``This is better than any holiday,'' whispered Jolanta, a young mother with her five-year-old daughter. ``But I fear it won't have any political consequences, that it won't change anything.''