Pope John Paul II visited Poland in 1979.
Words do not do justice to the feelings of joy and happiness that the papal visit brought to the Polish people. Thousands of people opened their homes to strangers to give travelers places to sleep. Churches remained opened around the clock for prayers and the practical necessities of the pilgrims. Homes, storefronts, and huge apartment houses were decorated as if the Holy Father were going to inspect the decorations himself.
An estimated 13 million people saw Pope John Paul II in person, and he left them with the gift of hope. For the first time, they felt there was a real opportunity to change their lives through peaceful means. The sacrifices made by so many to travel to the different places where the Holy Father would be showed them how many they were in numbers compared to the government troops. Suddenly the Polish people realized how they outnumbered those who supposedly were in the majority and in charge of the country.
The following year, August 14, 1980, saw the birth of the Solidarity Movement in Poland. Pope John Paul’s address to Parliament was the first from a Roman Catholic Pontiff to a national parliament. We honor the memory today of Saint John Paul II and the gift of his life to the history of Poland at this time.
Saint John Paul II, Pray for Us!
Pope John Paul II urged Poles to put ethics and faith at the core of their young democracy, during an unprecedented speech in parliament on Friday.
The Pope’s speech was the first address by a Roman Catholic pontiff to a national parliament.
He offered the most political comments so far of his 13-day pilgrimage to Poland, giving the Vatican’s full endorsement to Poland’s efforts to join the European Union.
Pope John Paul II met Poland’s president Alexander Kwasniewski on Friday morning, before his speech to parliament.
The pontiff’s meeting with Kwasniewski, a former communist, is being seen as a gesture that symbolizes the kind of reconciliation John Paul is seeking on what could be his final visit to his homeland.
On his way to parliament to become the first Roman Catholic pontiff to address a national parliament, the Pope was greeted by hundreds of flag-waving Poles.
They lined the route to catch glimpse of him, as they have done throughout his visit.
Before arriving at parliament, the Pope stopped at a monument to soldiers killed during World War Two to give a blessing.
The 79-year-old Pope has greatly influenced recent Polish history, inspiring the birth of the Solidarity movement that eventually toppled communist rule a decade ago.
At parliament, he spoke to an audience of legislators, judges, religious leaders, diplomats and other dignitaries, including former communists who tried to crush the Solidarity movement.
He called on Poles to put ethics and faith at the core of their young democracy,
John Paul said politics and economic development must be based on ethical principles and spirituality, a theme with particular resonance in a country where many people
equate national identity with Catholicism.
At the end, he echoed his prayer from his first pilgrimage home 20 years earlier, when he asked the Holy Spirit to “renew the face” of Poland.
Those words are credited with helping spark the birth of Solidarity a year later, leading to the end of communism in 1989.
Solidarity founder Lech Walesa, the first popularly elected president after communism, was among the audience that gave the Pope standing ovations.
Those applauding also included former communist leader Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, who imposed martial law in 1981 to try to crush the Solidarity democracy movement the Pope helped inspire.
John Paul smiled warmly during the lengthy applause at the end.
He then held out his arms in a gesture of wonder and said, “Oh, what’s happened to us!”
The audience laughed and began clapping rhythmically.