Why John Paul II Went Beyond Expectations in Poland

Expert Cites Big Crowds and a Message Reminiscent of 1979

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ROME, AUG. 20, 2002 (Zenit.org).- During his latest trip John Paul II again defied predictions and showed his extraordinary leadership in guiding the Church, says a leading Western expert on Poland.

«He may no longer be ‘God’s athlete,’ as he was known during the first years of his pontificate, but Pope Wojtyla continues to break records that astound the world,» said Luigi Geninazzi, journalist of the Italian newspaper Avvenire.

«Last Sunday, in Krakow, he succeeded in gathering the greatest crowd in the history of Poland, more numerous than the multitudes that listened to him when he spoke against the Communist regime,» added Geninazzi, who has reported on Poland and John Paul II since the start of this pontificate.

«Those who are determined to describe John Paul II in a melancholic decline, even to the point of announcing an astounding resignation, have once again been contradicted,» Geninazzi continued.

«During the days in Krakow a Pope was seen who, in contact with his people and beloved places, seemed to be reborn, happy, overwhelmed, scintillating, joking and overflowing with memories,» he emphasized.

And the Poles also «seemed to be reborn, crowding around their most illustrious compatriot with affection and tenderness in a festive climate,» the journalist stressed.

«Following the collapse of the Wall, Poles have found themselves fatally pursuing Western myths of accessible wealth and of a certain magic freedom,» Geninazzi stated. «Today they are tasting the first disappointments; they are confused and anxious, the road seems to be a hill and there are warnings of a new season of sacrifices.»

«John Paul II knew how to touch their hearts,» he added, «not only with memories of the past and the nostalgia of youth. He spoke severe words, he articulated exacting appeals. He condemned the noisy propaganda of a liberalism without truth or responsibility. … The only and infallible philosophy of freedom is the truth of the cross of Christ.»

«If one substitutes the word ‘liberalism’ for ‘communism’ one can rediscover the same motto Pope Wojtyla enunciated during his first trip to Poland in June 1979. It is interesting to note that many Polish newspapers, even the most secular, made this a front-page headline,» the journalist observed.

«For their part, Western newspapers preferred to emphasize the throng of over 2 million people present at the Mass celebrated by the Pope in Blonie Park. However, the two elements are united: the message and the audience; the profundity of the first and the greatness of the second,» Geninazzi stressed.

The journalist suggested that this was perhaps the Pope’s most intense visit to Poland. «He has put everything in the hands of Divine Mercy,» Geninazzi concluded.

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