POPE John Paul's third home visit as Pontiff has been billed as primarly pastoral — the official reason for his presence is to lead a Eucharistic Congress — and hence his encounters with officialdom will be severely limited. Yet his dimension, particularly with glasnost in the eastern air and Mikhail Gorbachev casting a fresh and some would say exciting spotlight on east-west relations.
would say exciting spotlight on east-west relations.
The Pope's own interest in this developing situation both as Polish patriot and as an international statesman is well known. So too is his desire to reach out to embrace Christians oppressed in the Soviet Union. If he were able to use his good offices to hasten a formal agreement between the Polish state and the Catholic Church, an accord much desired by General Jaruselzi as he struggles to legitimise his own authority, then the Pope would create an opening with the Soviets to begin and promote dialogue. For any concordat between the Polish Church, the Polish state and the Vatican would have not only national but regional and global implications too.
Such a path would seem to be the Pope's chosen one. Yet he has to tread carefully for fear that such pragmatism may open him to criticism from his Polish compatriots who expect him to voice their discontent at life under a communist regime. This need to appear true to his people accounts for the Pope's tough talking at the official reception earlier this week when he dwelt at length on the issue of human rights — and incidentally belied the myth that his visit was pastoral.
And there is a further factor to take into the equation. Cardinal Glemp may have pioneered a careful and guarded policy of accommodation with the regime, but traditionally the hierarchy have opposed any formal Poland-Vatican ties that would give Roman curial boffins a say in the running of one of the Catholic Church's most fiercely independent local churches. Right now they may feel safe the Polish wishes would not be trampled or their particular circumstances misunderstood as the Vatican strives to be a force in the international arena, but they are aware that the Polish Pope can not go on forever, and his successor is unlikely to come from their shores.