Tuesday, January 15, 2013
On Catholicism and Polish Solidarity
On Catholicism and Polish Solidarity: In October 1984, three members of the Polish secret police bludgeoned Catholic priest Jerzy Popiełuszko to death. It was the half-way point of what seemed like a ten-year strategy by the Catholic Church to put pressure on the Communist regime in Poland. In June 1979, Pope John Paul II visited his homeland for the first time since becoming the Bishop of Rome one year prior. And like Fr. Popiełuszko's funeral, hundreds of thousands of Polish citizens greeted the Pope in the streets. The Communist regime had planned to crush any riots that developed as a result of the Pope's visit, but no such action was necessary. Instead, the Pope's visit helped spark the Solidarity (trade union) movement in the shipyards of Gdańsk. In August 1980, future President of Poland, Lech Wałęsa, organized the first non-communist-party-controlled trade union in a Warsaw Pact country. At its peak, Solidarity had nearly 10 million members and represented about one-third of the entire Polish workforce. By the late 1980s, after enduring years of martial law and political repression, Solidarity succeeded in negotiating semi-free elections with the Communist regime, which resulted in a partial coalition government.