John Paul II Recalls Historic '79 Trip to Poland

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 2, 2004 ( John Paul II recalled the anniversary of his first trip to Poland as Pope, a journey that changed the course of Eastern Europe’s history.

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«Today is the 25th anniversary of the day that for the first time as Pope I kissed Polish soil,» the Holy Father said in his native language at the end of the general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

«I always go back in thought to those days and I thank God for the gust of wind of the Holy Spirit that passed through that land and gave rise to a profound change,» he said. «I pray to God to bless our homeland and all Poles.»

During John Paul II’s visit from June 2-10, 1979, he delivered 36 addresses. At least 10 million of Poland’s 35 million people saw him in person, in the nine cities, villages and shrines that he visited.

At the start of 1979, Edward Gierek, first secretary of the Unified Labor Party of Poland, spoke by telephone with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, in which the latter advised him to impede the Pope’s visit.

In Tad Szulc’s book «Pope John Paul II,» Gierek reveals that, seeing the secretary’s opposition, Brezhnev told him: «Do whatever you wish, so long as you and your Party don’t regret it later.»

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