The Pope is to visit Poland in June. Terence Sheehy examines what the Pontiff will find in his nativeland
Two Polish Catholics: Pope John Paul and General Jaruzelski during a previous visit to Poland
ONE of the current political jokes in Poland is about two dogs crossing the Czech border, in opposite directions, the lean and hungry looking Polish dog tells his Czech dog comrade that he is heading for the land of Husak to get himself a good feed of the Czech equivalent of "Pedigree Chum".
The sleek and well fed Czech dog explains to his Polish doggy pal that he is heading for the land of Jaruzelski to have a good bark.
The economy of Soviet occupied Poland is in a most difficult state, and it is at its worst in the field of medicine. As Cardinal Basil Hume OSB pointed out last week: "The medical situation in Poland remains very grave. Most basic drugs and medical equipment are lacking."
"More than ever before, we should, therefore give our support to such organisations as the Anglo-Polish Medical Foundation. The Polish people, particularly the children, are in need of our prayers and they are not forgotten."
In this respect, one of the most beautiful of gestures is the forthcoming visit to Poland of some 54 young members of the internationally famous Schola Cantorum of Ampleforth Abbey, directed by Jonathan Leonard, and led by Fr Leo Chamberlain OSB and Fr Henry Wansbrough OSB.
They will give a concert in Poznan Cathedral on Wednesday July IS, a Mass arid concert in St Anthony of Padua Church, Warsaw, on Thursday July 16, a Mass and concert in the Holy Redeemer Church, Warsaw, on Friday July 17, a Motet at the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, on Saturday July 18, a Mass at Mariachi Church Cracow, on Sunday July 19, a concert with the Philharmonia at Tyniec, on the same day, and, finally a concert in Wroclaw on Monday July 20.
The 54 boys of the Schola Cantorum of Ampleforth Abbey, and their conductor and priests, will bring with them fraternal greetings from His Eminence Cardinal Basil Hume OSB to His Eminence Cardinal Glemp, Primate of Poland, and to the Polish people.
Much of the Sacred Music performed by the Schola will be by British composers such as Byrd, Purcell, Britten, and Vaughan Williams.
The Pope will be in Poland in the month of June. He is due to visit the city which is the home of Solidarity, that forbidden free trade union which still represents the dignity of man. While the Holy Father will bring spiritual comfort and joy to his suffering people the visit will surely help improved relations between Church and State which Cardinal Glemp and General Jaruzelski have been inching forward on.
As the Holy Father said on the occasion of his pilgrimage to Our Lady of Czestochowa, "This nation cannot be condemned to live in oppression and without hope. See to it that it finds the courage for social dialogue through which the entire nation can recover the hope of sharing in the decisions about the form of its own life in common."
From conversations with our sources in Poland, and Poles in exile, it is apparent that the recent Russian "Glasnost" has had no meaning for the Polish People.
What has had real meaning for them is the aftermath of the nuclear power-plant disaster in neighbouring Chernobyl. Polish scientists, with out-dated equipment, reported on the aftermath of Chernobyl. The
Russians did not immediately inform the military and police high commands of the disaster when it took place at ).24am on Saturday April 26.
They left it until the afternoon of Sunday April 27 when Polish communications failed to pass on the news. In several towns, such as Wrocklaw, high-up party officials were hastily issued with iodine solution.
Warsaw University reported high radiation levels on Sunday, a warning which was ignored by the authorities who saw their instruments were wrong. Premier Messner was not informed of the excess of radiation until Monday. • Katowice was the only place in Poland with an up-to-date device to monitor correctly the safety limits of the contents of fresh milk. It reported radiation levels three to four times higher than official figures.
The Politburo took care to have its milk supplied from a special State Farm where all cows are kept permanently indoors. Due to a mix up, highly contaminated milk which had been turned into powdered milk for babies, was released for distribution instead of being put in for storage for at least four months.
Then there was the matter of "micro-hot-spots" ie particles of fuel from Chernobyl which penetrated as far as Sweden, and spread right across Poland.
Alerted by what had happened in Scandinavia, Polish scientists found, for example, that one in 10 of the inhabitants of Warsaw had particles of ruthenium in their lungs. The fact is that the Russians will never let it be known just how serious was the effect of the Chernobyl aftermath on the Polish people.
The enigma of Poland today is General Jaruzelski,' who chose the role of a military commissar in the Russian controlled Polish army. Lithuanian born, educated by priests in a Catholic school, he was deported as a boy to Siberia with his father and mother and sister.
He read the burial service at the grave of his father in Russia. He and his mother and sister returned to Polahd after the Great Patriotic War. His sister is today a devout Catholic, married to a staunchly catholic professor. • Jaruzelski is said to be a close friend and supporter of Gorbachev. The priest-killing days of the Polish secret police are over. The political prisoners have been released.
That does not stop the authorities from rationing the Catholic press to 1.2 per cent of the national supply of newsprint, so that the only official Catholic weekly permitted is strictly limited to 50,000 copies, when it could sell millions.
Whatever the results of the ritual game of political chess which goeS on between General Jaruzelski, Cardinal Glemp, and Pope John Paul II, one thing is certain, and that is that the Polish mother will teach in the home, and the priest in the sacristy, whatever is lacking in the educational system of the Soviet controlled State schools in Poland.
It is equally certain that the Polish Eagle, which has seen off the Russian and the Prussian vultures over the past two centuries of its history, will, one day, rise Phoenix-like from the ashes.
A free Poland is as certain as the fact that the Resurrection of Easter Sunday follows the Golgotha of Good Friday.
* Anglo-Polish Medical Foundation, 26 Campden House, 29 Sheffield Terrace, London W8.