How Pope John Paul II Created Solidarity

JohannesPaulIIOn October 16th 1978, Karol Cardinal Wojty&#322a, Archbishop of Kraków was voted by the Papal conclave as the successor of John Paul I at only 58 years of age. He was the youngest pontiff since Pope Pius IX in 1846 and the first non-Italian Pontiff in 455 years . During the ritual of swearing obedience to the pope, as was the custom, each cardinal kneeled before John Paul II and kissed his ring. When the Primate of Poland, thus up to the election the direct superior of Wojtyła, Cardinal Wyszy&#324ski kneeled before the sitting John Paul II, the pontiff stood up and embraced him. The election of John Paul II stunned the world but also brought a breath of fresh air for the pope’s native country.
Struggling with oppression from the government, as well as economic hardships, many Poles saw the election of their compatriot as a genuine miracle and a sign of hope and change to come. Many were old enough to remember the government’s refusal to allow the visit of Pope Paul VI in 1966, the year that the Polish Church celebrated its millennium. The population believed, rightly so, that the Polish Pope would not be refused the trip to his country. In his first pilgrimage to his homeland, Pope John Paul II uttered words known to virtually every Pole of that generation: “Let Your Spirit descend and renew the face of the Earth,” and then after a little pause adding: “This Earth.” This was the first of many instances in which the pontiff offered respite to the people. It must also be underscored that despite the official atheism of the party and state, as well as possible repercussions in professional life, millions of people greeted the Pope in each of the cities he visited.
Pope John Paul II visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier which was the symbol of anti-Communism. During the mass in the city’s Victory Square, he talked of the Warsaw uprising in 1944 recalling that:
“You cannot understand the city of Warsaw, which in 1944 decided to fight when it was abandoned by its powerful allies, to fight at the end of which it collapsed under its own ruin, if you do not remember that under the same ruins, was also the statue of Christ the Savior with His cross from in front of the church at Krakowskie Przedmie&#347cie.”
Pope John Paul II ascertained that the history of Poland is inseparable from the history of religion and of the piety of its citizens. After the end of this passage the crowd spontaneously erupted into the religious hymn: “We want God,” which proclaims (about God), that “he is our King, he is our Lord.” This was not the end to the symbology as the Pope continued: “The Church has brought Christ to Poland. That is, the key to understanding the great and basic reality that is man. Therefore, Christ cannot be kept out of the history of man in any part of the world.” Such things were never spoken of in Communist Poland. The pope pierced the very heart of the Communist ideology, which so vociferously denied the existence of God. Out of nowhere, in a mass being celebrated on public television of a Communist state a thunderous applause erupted. People started singing “Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat” (Christ conquers, Christ reigns, Christ commands) after which they once again erupted into applause which lasted for fourteen minutes.
In those fourteen minutes, the people experienced a freedom they had not known in many years. In those fourteen minutes, the power of truth vocalized by the thunderous applause overthrew the power of oppression and the people present could feel freedom for which they longed deeply. The people were repressed by fear and needed this emotional liberation. This expression of the power of the Church, which is the people, and is inseparable from the people combined with the charisma and presence of the Polish Pope who was able to bring this church together in such unity and solidarity, was instrumental in the eventual fall of the Communist bloc.
Also, there was a power in those numbers. There were millions of people and each of them represented not a crowd, but a nation. In each city, the millions gathered in great mutual and intuitive respect. There were no instances of violence and the crowds never turned disorderly. John Paul II singlehandedly created Solidarity fourteen months before it was actually established.