Recollecting the pilgrimage of John Paul II to his Homeland in 1979
Fr. IRENEUSZ SKUBIŚ
This June reminds us of the extraordinary event, which took place 30 years ago in 1979 – the first visit of John Paul II to his Homeland. Just after his election to the Holy See the Holy Father, speaking to Poles, confessed, ‘I want to come to you very much...’. Those words were somehow a symbol of the time of the preparations to the papal visit to his Homeland. We, Poles, waited for our Pope very much although one could not see that. We did not have access to the news from the world and the authorities saw to it that the world did not know much about our reality. ‘Niedziela’ was not published in 1979. However, in those times, after the election of Cardinal Wojtyla to papacy, we began publishing the so-called second circle publications, i.e. independent materials without the consent of the Office of Control of Public Spectacles – censorship, without revealing the publishers’ names although my name as the person responsible for the publication was written. It was the weekly service ‘Monitor Koscielny’, containing the most important news from the life of the Church and short speeches of John Paul II, especially those directed to Polish people during the audiences and meetings, and then we published the most important fragments of the papal documents. We felt a big lack of contacts with the Holy Father. We could listen to his talks broadcast on the Vatican Radio. There were no other programmes. The Catholic papers included only ‘Tygodnik Powszechny’, ‘Gosc Niedzielny’ in Katowice and ‘Przewodnik Katolicki’ in Poznan. Of course, those weekly had small circulations and few people had accesses to them. Therefore, our small group decided to record the programmes of the Vatican Radio and to select the news that was most important to us, type it and make copies to distribute among those who wanted to subscribe ‘Monitor’. And so we made a small publishing form, which we distributed among believers who were hungry for the news from the universal Church, mainly among congregations, parishes and priests but also among individual receivers. We sent ‘Monitor’ by post. Therefore, ‘Monitor Koscielny’ was in some sense the beginning of ‘Niedziela’ when we were given the permission to start publishing ‘Niedziela’ in 1981. Then we had the department of the news concerning the Pope. Afterwards we gave the Holy Father a copy of ‘Monitor’ in white cover. We were extremely impressed by the words and the personality of the Polish Pope. We listened to each of his statements, his every thought. And the second initiative of our environment was conceived – to publish the most important papal thoughts in a small practical booklet entitled ‘Bardzo pragne przybyc do Was’ [I want to visit you very much] . I dreamt of publishing it on 6 June 1979 when the Holy Father ended his visit to Czestochowa. I submitted a copy of the booklet to the censor and he gave his permission, without even having read it, most likely being influenced by all what was happening in that time in Poland. Unfortunately, someone from the party authorities blocked the publication. It appeared after a year and was published in 20,000 copies by the Loreto Sisters’ Publishing House in Warsaw. It was sold out immediately. The booklet was a kind of unique event in the market since the Pope’s statements were not commonly known. Today we cannot believe this story and after all, it happened only 30 years ago. Now we are living in a free country where nobody forbids us to read the statements of the highest authority of the Church. Thousands of albums, thousands of the texts of John Paul II have been published. Many films about him have been shot since the Polish Pope deserved to be called ‘the Great’. John Paul II, the Pope of the significant turning point in the history, is loved by us also after his death and will remain in our hearts and activities, in literature and art. His person is still a phenomenon for the world and constitutes inspiration to what is best. Therefore, I invite you to concrete preparations to the 30th anniversary of the first papal pilgrimage to his Homeland. On this occasion ‘Niedziela’ has published a little album about the miracles made through the intercession of John Paul II. But each of us can celebrate this anniversary in his/her own way and first of all, let us offer prayers for John Paul II for which he always asked. May this little bit of good that can be released in each of us during these days help us build greater good on earth.