Soviets Weighed Plot Against Pope, Gorbachev Says

Favors a Visit by John Paul II to Moscow

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ROME, JAN. 23, 2001 (
For the first time, Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, confirmed that the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) considered a plot against John Paul II, in the first years of his pontificate.

On Jan. 20, in an interview with the Italian newspaper Il Tempo, Gorbachev addressed aspects of relations between the Soviet empire and the Polish Pope. Here, ZENIT presents a few questions from the long interview.

The revelations were made after evidence was found in the archives of countries that at the time were Communist.

–Q: Mr. Mikhail Sergeevic Gorbachev, in a reserved document dated Nov. 13, 1979, the CPSU´s Central Committee requested the USSR´s Foreign Ministry and the KGB to collect and publish material that would discredit the Vatican´s policy and activism, which endangered the solidity of the Soviet regime.

Among other things, the Central Committee requested the KGB to study the «ultimate actions» — as it is written — against John Paul II. The 10 signatories of the document were Suslov, Kirilenko, Chernienko, Ponomariov, Kapitonov, Dolgikh, Zimjanin, Rusakov and Gorbachev. Do you remember that document and how it was discussed in the Central Committee? Among those «ultimate actions» against Wojtyla, was there any whose direct object was the Pope´s person?

–Gorbachev: Don´t forget that in 1979 the Cold War had reached its culmination; and, on both sides, the logic of thought and action was guided by this fact. In that context, the Pope´s activity, geared to the struggle against totalitarian regimes, could only seem dangerous and hostile to the Soviet leaders.

The document to which you refer reflects precisely the climate of the time. There is talk of political actions (for example, the consultation of Communist parties that were governing in socialist countries), and of propaganda.

With reference to «ultimate actions,» remember that in the same document there were no orders of any kind. In principle, there was talk of similar initiatives, namely, policies and propaganda. There was no talk of any activity against the Pope´s person and it couldn´t be otherwise. At that time, actions of this kind had already been eliminated from the KGB´s arsenal and prohibited.

–Q: Isn´t it significant that the greatest external contribution to the dismantling of a regime, which symbolized materialism, came precisely from a man of great spiritual magnetism, like John Paul II?

–Gorbachev: His Holiness´ merit in the struggle against totalitarianism is undoubted, but don´t tell me that you don´t know that even Communists and adherents of Socialism fought against the regime. His Holiness has emphasized precisely that, despite the fact that it is not possible to underestimate the role played by Christian spiritual values, in the cause for overcoming those totalitarian regimes, which called themselves Communist, the principal reason for their dissolution must be found in internal defects.

In order to give a complete picture of His Holiness´ personality, one should also remember his extremely severe judgments on capitalism from the perspective of true humanism.

–Q: Eleven years after your invitation, why is the time not ripe for Wojtyla´s trip to Moscow?

–Gorbachev: Perhaps the hour has arrived, but conditions are still immature. I hope this will occur.

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