AT LEAST ON ONE issue the Polish Catholic Church, the Underground Solidarity Movement and Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski's government appear to be in complete accord: all three have expressed their strong desire for the long-planned visit of Pope John Paul II, now scheduled for June 16-23.
It is understandable, of course, that the Polish people would see in this visit a "ray of hope." But the fact that the authorities are allowing it to go forward poses a series of extremely intriguing questions to a veteran analyst-in-exile of Polish affairs. Why is the Warsaw government willing to have the Pope? And why has the Soviet government, which up to now has made no comment on the visit, apparently acquiesced in his coming?
The Pope's first visit to his homeland four years ago provided millions of Poles with an historic opportunity to openly display their true feelings to the world -- and to themselves. The vast crowds made clear to everyone the weakness and isolation of Poland's communist rulers. From this sense of unity and power Solidarity was born just four months later. The Soviet media branded the Pope "the father of counterrevolution."
Now, with preparations for the second visit in full swing, Moscow appears to be going along with plans to welcome its main ideological adversary in the middle of the Soviet empire. The reason for this paradox is that both Soviet leader Yuri Andropov and Gen. Jaruzelski apparently are confident that this time they can turn the papal visit to their advantage.
Their plans, however, may or may not be identical.
It is possible that Jaruzelski sees the Pope's visit as an opportunity to win a measure of respectability at home and to bring Western economic sanctions to an end -- a purpose that the recent invitation to world Jewish organizations to attend the anniversary of the uprising in the Warsaw ghetto was meant to serve. According to information from reliable sources in Poland, this objective was effectively sabotaged by the leading hardliner in the Polish government, foreign minister Stefan Olszowski. Olszowski reportedly arranged for members of the Palestine Liberation Organization to place a wreath in front of the monument of Jewish martyrs. Jewish delegations were enraged and left Warsaw in protest.
It was Olszowski who, earlier, established an anti-Semitic and anti-Solidarity group called Grunwald. He and his political allies are known for their strongly held belief that the pacification of Poland will not be possible without a drastic escalation of terror and a crackdown on the Church. Recently, this hardliner element in the Polish government received a boost from Moscow, when Olszowski's chief antagonist in the Warsaw government, Mieczyslaw Rackowski, was fiercely attacked in the Soviet magazine New Times.
That the visit is a high-risk venture for both the Vatican and the Polish regime is already plain. The Rome correspondent of the West German weekly Die Zeit has reported that the Pope has declined an offer to be personally welcomed by Jaruzelski and driven from the airport in an open car. At the same time, the Pope's plea for a general amnesty for political prisoners has been rejected by the Polish government -- but it is possible that he will repeat this request in his official meeting with the government on June 17 and in his sermons all over the country.
Church-state tensions have been rising. About a dozen priests are still in jail and according to the Underground Solidarity press a list of "extremist" priests has been prepared by the security forces. Jaruzelski himself recently criticized members of the clergy for acting "under the influence of irreconcilable anti-Communist emotions." And for the first time the Pope has become a target of sharp personal attacks in the party-controlled daily Zycie Warszawy, and in government radio broadcasts.
On the church's side, Cardinal Jozef Glemp has been increasingly critical of the government since plainclothesmen broke into a convent near his Warsaw cathedral and beat up members of a church organization created by Glemp to help victims of martial law.
The central question is whether Poles will be permitted to enjoy the same free access to John Paul II as in 1979. The authorities could strictly apply the martial law rules still in force, which forbid any public meetings or demonstrations. But the bishops are encouraging the faithful to attend the planned mass gatherings with the Pope.
Millions of people will walk on foot to the sanctuaries and cities visited by their Pope. Walesa's friend, Father Henryk Jankowski, has announced that he will personally lead a pilgrimage of workers from the Gdansk shipyards, the cradle of Solidarity, to meet the Pope in Warsaw.
In a nation where religious and patriotic feelings run high, any attempt to block the crowds, or other perceived provocations, could lead to clashes and confrontations. It is not inconceivable that the situation could get out of control. One theory is that hardliners in Warsaw and Moscow hope for this to happen--and may even be setting the stage for disorders that would discredit the Pope by holding him responsible for any harm which might ensue.
According to this theory, Moscow might want to use such disorders as a convenient pretext for replacing Jaruzelski with a far harsher regime with Olszowski as chief policymaker.
John Paul II is supremely well-tuned to the political developments in his homeland and is fully aware of these risks. He knows that Poland in 1983, once again ruled by the security police, is a different country from the one he visited in 1979. But in his determination to pursue his plans for this, potentially the most dangerous of all his pilgrimages, he is said by those closest to him to be motivated entirely by his religious concerns and responsibilities.
This is the Pope who has repeatedly turned away requests that he wear a bulletproof vest with the comment: "My fate and my life are in the hands of God." This fatih may well have been reinforced by the fact that the attempt on his life not only failed, but boomeranged against the suspected perpetrators.
This June, he may once again turn the tables on his enemies. But the risks almost certainly will be greater than any he has faced before.