For inspiring dignity, hope and freedom
By Robert Strybel
WARSAW–As Poland marked the 40th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s triumphant 1979 homecoming and the 30th anniversary of partially free elections that ended communist rule, US President Donald Trump joined the celebration with a special Presidential Message. In it he hailed the late Polish-born Pontiff for “his extraordinary life as a follower of Jesus Christ and as a champion for human dignity and religious liberty who helped tear down the Iron Curtain of communism in Europe.”
“As we remember the long struggle of the Polish people against communism, we also acknowledge that millions of people now live in freedom because of St Pope John Paul II,”, Trump said. He recalled “the powerful message of hope he delivered to the crowds gathered in Warsaw, to all of Poland, and to the world.”
Standing beneath a huge cross, the Holy Father addressed a revertible sea of humanity in Warsaw’s Victory square with the words: “From the depths of Polish history, I, a son of this nation, call out: May Your Spirit descend and renew the face of the land…(adding after a dramatic pause)…THIS LAND!” Those words were not lost on the people of Poland.
After 35 years as a captive nation under Soviet-style misrule, millions of Poles across the country turned out to see, listen, pray with, applaud and cheer their Polish Pope. For over three decades the Soviet-installed regime had controlled the government, economy, media, education, healthcare and most every other field except the Catholic Church. But the country’s red rulers had done their best to discriminate Catholics and marginalize the Church.
In the huge congregations that turned out to welcome their best-known Native Son, many Poles realized that it was the country’s rulers who were isolated from the nation by serving Soviet interests and imposing their alien ideology. Western radio stations beaming uncensored news to Poland and other Soviet satellites recalled Stalin’s cynical remark: “How many divisions does the Pope have?” In Poland, Catholics counted up their ranks and found their forces to number many millions.
Other papal pilgrimages followed and each helped give hope to and uplift the spirits of the nation. Poland was briefly hopeful, even euphoric during the Solidarity heyday of 1980-81, only the be crushed by the troops and tanks of Genral Jaruzelski’s martial-law crackdown.
Throughout the 1980s, a disgruntled nation would chafe under poverty and widespread shortages. Following Pope John Paul’s 1987 pastoral visit to his homeland, labor unrest resumed, and a fresh strike wave erupted like that which had sparked off the peaceful Solidarity revolution in the first place. Unable to contain the protests, the regime agreed to talks which set the stage for the partially free elections of June 4, 1989, followed by a fully democratic ones in 1991.
Many Poles and foreign observers alike agree that none of that would have been possible were it not for the Polish Pontiff’s inspriing 1979 homecomimg. A decade later, in surprise, awe and disbelief the world watched the domino-tyle collapse of Europe’s communist regimes and of the Soviet Union itself.
0th Anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s First Pilgrimage to Poland
On this day, we commemorate the 40th anniversary of St. Pope John Paul II’s historic celebration of the Mass on June 2, 1979, in Warsaw, the opening of a nine-day visit to Poland that changed the course of history. As we remember the long struggle of the Polish people against communism, we also acknowledge that millions of people now live in freedom because of St. Pope John Paul II and his extraordinary life as a follower of Jesus Christ and a champion for human dignity and religious liberty.
In his homily forty years ago, St. Pope John Paul II delivered a powerful message of hope to the crowd gathered in Warsaw, to all of Poland, and to the world. His words stood tall against the repressive forces of communism throughout Poland and the rest of Europe. He inspired courage in the hearts of millions of men and women to seek a better, freer life.
Today, we celebrate this historic moment and reaffirm our commitment to ensuring that freedom always prevails. The United States and our allies stand united against the shackles of communism and as a beacon of liberty and prosperity throughout the world.
Melania joins me in remembering St. Pope John Paul II, whose poignant address stirred the soul of the Polish people and eventually helped tear down the Iron Curtain of communism in Europe. May we continue to be strengthened by his words and his call to God’s abundant compassion, strength, and glory.