Walesa Credits John Paul II With Solidarity's Peaceful Side
At Ceremony Marking the Labor Union's 25th Anniversary
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WARSAW, Poland, AUG. 30, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Lech Walesa attributed the inspiration for the labor union Solidarity, and particularly its peaceful character, to Pope John Paul II.
"He did not ask us to make a revolution, he did not ask for a coup d'état; rather, he suggested that we define ourselves," said Walesa, when addressing the two Houses of Parliament during a commemorative ceremony Monday marking the 25th anniversary of the Polish labor union.
"Then the Polish nation and many others woke up," noted the electrician and one-time Solidarity leader, who helped to bring down the Communist regime in Poland. Walesa later became the country's first postwar democratic president.
Walesa said that John Paul II's visit to Poland in 1979 gave Poles the courage to rebel against the country's Communist leaders.
"Regardless of what is thought today or of the price we then paid, we succeeded in closing an era of division, blocs and borders, opening the way to an era of globalization," he said in his address.
Subsequently, in the context of the anniversary, Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, a former Communist minister, said: "Twenty-five years ago I was not on the same side of the barricade as you, Mr. President Walesa.
"But today I have no doubt that it was your vision of Poland which led us on the good path. We all live in a free Poland that, however, would not be free without you, Mr. President."
The strikes in the Baltic city of Gdansk and other areas of the country in the summer of 1980 led to the advent of the first independent labor union in Eastern Europe.
After being banned under martial law imposed by General Wojciech Jaruzelski, Solidarity struggled underground until 1989, when it led the Communists to negotiate the peaceful transition to democracy. That began the collapse of the dictatorships in the remaining satellite countries of the Soviet Union.
The celebrations of Solidarity's 25th anniversary will culminate Wednesday with a Mass in Gdansk, which will be attended by several world leaders.
The celebration will be presided over by Benedict XVI's special envoy, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, the longtime personal secretary of John Paul II.