New Details Emerge of John Paul II's 'War' Against Communism
By John Thavis on Friday, Catholic Herald,
14 January 2011
That Pope John Paul II was a pivotal figure in the fall of European Communism is accepted as a truism, but many details of that drama have remained hidden in archives.
A US biographer of the late pope has now provided particulars of what he describes as the full-scale war by Communism against the Catholic Church, and Pope John Paul’s astute and successful counter-strategy.
The Polish pope displayed political savvy and "a shrewdness that combined steadiness of strategic vision with tactical flexibility," George Weigel told an audience of seminarians, diplomats and Vatican officials at the Pontifical North American College on Sunday.
One of Pope John Paul’s moves, Mr Weigel said, was to appoint as his own Secretary of State Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, the architect of the Vatican’s "Ostpolitik" efforts to reach workable compromises with communist regimes.
By doing so, he "created tactical advantages for the Church: as the pope preached moral revolution over the heads of Communist regimes, speaking directly to their people, [Cardinal] Casaroli continued his diplomacy, thus denying the Communists the opportunity to charge that the Church had reneged on its commitment to dialogue," Mr Weigel said.
Mr Weigel said he based his conclusions on previously secret cables and memos that have emerged from behind the former Iron Curtain. He came across the information while researching his latest book on the life of Pope John Paul, The End and the Beginning, which looks at the pope’s final years and evaluates his legacy.
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As a point of orientation, he quoted Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, Pope John Paul’s longtime secretary, who once remarked about the Church’s battle with Poland’s Communist regime: "You must understand that it was always 'them' and 'us'." What he meant, Mr Weigel said, was that “the struggle between Communism and Catholicism could not be understood as a matter of episodic confrontations… It was all war, all the time."
Certainly that was how Communist leaders from Moscow to Budapest saw it, Mr Weigel said. He catalogued efforts by Communist regimes to place spies in local Catholic hierarchies and the Vatican, to exploit the Church’s moves toward openness and dialogue, to create ecumenical confusion and to compromise Church leaders by planting false stories.
In 1983, Mr Weigel recounted, the Polish security police even decided to blackmail Pope John Paul...More
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