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When Pope John Paul II arrived in Warsaw during his 1987 "pilgrimage" he drove from the airport to the Primate's palace. A huge crowd turned out to greet him and flowers were laid out along the street that he was scheduled to travel. This pattern was repeated throughout his visit, wherever he went. Though tens of thousands of people lined the roads just to see him pass by, and millions attended….

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In following letter, a Solidarity activist writes to Józef Cardinal Glemp, the head of the Roman Catholic church in Poland, to inform him of difficulties in setting up much-anticipated Round Table talks with the Communist regime. The correspondence provides some insight into the complicated relationship between Solidarity and the Catholic church. On the one hand, opposition leaders clearly saw….

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Anti-state demonstrations have traditionally taken place in the heart of Prague on Wenceslas Square. After the November 17 police crackdown, it was no accident that the Square became the central point for people to get information, meet others and, from November 21 on, to attend the daily "meetings" when opposition groups addressed citizens from the balcony of the Melantrich publishing house.….

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Adam Michnik is among the most influential figures in Poland. Part of the Communist Party in Poland in the 1960s, he was persecuted for his Jewish origins in 1968, and subsequently became part of the dissident movement for political change. In 1976, he was among the founding members of the Committee for the Defense of Workers (Komitet Obrony Robotników), which focused on providing….

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Poland was unique among Warsaw Pact countries in the degree of influence retained by the Catholic Church. But the church was also viewed as a powerful competitor to the state, and its leaders were among the first to be monitored and harassed during periods of social unrest. It is for this reason that the meeting transcribed in this document is so remarkable: Church officials proposed church….

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Photograph #6 from the Papal Visit of 1987

From June 8-14, 1987, Pope John Paul II made his third "pilgrimage" to his homeland (he had already visited in 1979 and 1983). As on the first two occasions, life in Poland seemed to stop during his visit, as nearly the entire country (at least, so it seemed) participated in this historic moment. These photographs were taken a week before he arrived, and the buildings were far from any of the….

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Photograph #2 of the St. Stanisław Kostka church in Warsaw

Father Jerzy Popiełuszko was one of the most vocal priests involved in the Solidarity movement in the early 1980s. Even after the declaration of martial law in 1981, Father Popiełuszko remained an outspoken opponent of the Communist regime, and his church in the Warsaw suburb of Żoliborz became a gathering point for those who wanted to hear anticommunist sermons. The monthly "Masses for the….

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This sermon was delivered in Podkowa Leśna, a small town in central Poland near Warsaw, on October 13, 1982. An émigré publishing house in the United States published a transcript in a collection of sermons that purported to present the views of the rank-and-file clergy during the period of martial law. Much more militant than the official pronouncements of the Bishops, texts such as these….

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This pastoral letter was issued on March 11, 1981, and sent to every priest in Poland. It summarizes the message that the bishops wanted the parish clergy to transmit to their flocks during their Sunday sermons. While not every priest faithfully replicated the tone of this letter, very few openly defied the instructions of the Church hierarchy. The goal of this letter is clear: to hold the….

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This prayer was composed by the Polish Episcopate shortly after Solidarity was legalized for the first time, in 1980. The bishops instructed that henceforth it be recited during every mass. In just one paragraph this text captures several important themes: the link between nationalism and Catholicism; the Church's desire to avoid confrontation and conflict; and the Church's support for basic….

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This sermon was delivered by Cardinal Stefan Wsyzyński, the Primate of the Roman Catholic Church in Poland, on January 25, 1976, in Warsaw's Holy Cross Church. Here we see the conservative political convictions shared by most members of the Polish clergy at the time (and today), according to which the Church, the nation, and the state must be tightly intertwined. The Polish Church, barely….

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This text was written by Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński in 1956 and used that year for a ceremony at the Marian shrine of Jasna Góra in the town of Częstochowa. Promoted heavily by the Polish Episcopate, the pledge became a mainstay of organized pilgrimages and remains popular to this day. Częstochowa was the site of a famous battle in 1655, when an invading Swedish (Protestant) army besieged….

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The information presented in this table highlights some of the ambiguities regarding the position of the Roman Catholic Church in the Polish People's Republic. The basic message in these data is that Catholicism thrived between WWII and the 1990s. These decades saw an expanding network of parishes and a dramatic surge in the construction of church buildings. However, by comparing the last….

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