Pope John Paul II spoke with dismay today about those Catholics from neighboring Communist lands who had been prevented by their governments from joining his pilgrimage to Poland.
The pontiff ventured to the pine forests and clear breezes of Poland's highlands where he captivated hundreds of thousands of persons with his warmth, humor and prayers. The congregation, the largest he has drawn in the first seven days of his nine-day visit, was composed of brilliantly costumed mountain people from the southern fringe of Poland.
The crowd, packed onto the airport grounds on a spectacularly beautiful plateau below the Tatra Mountains, was so huge that it took the pope more than 30 minutes to drive to the podium beneath an arched replica of a shepherd's hut.
But according to a Vatican priest who managed to get two of his relatives into Poland, thousands of Czechs and Solvaks hoping to cross the nearby border this morning from Czechoslovakia were turned away.
The priest estimated that 3,500 Slovaks had waited to cross the frontier for two days and then had been turned down on grounds they did not have Polish money and could not get any. It is the sort of technicality, the priest contended that easily could have been waived. Only a few hundred eventually made it, he said.
Speaking to the vast gathering, the pontiff attacked abortion by saying that "if man's right to life is violated at the moment in which he is first conceived in his mother's womb, an indirect blow is struck also at the whole of the moral order which serves to ensure the inviolable rights of man."
Reports of official obstacles to viewing the pope marred the otherwise overwhelmingly positive aspects of the pope's trip to his native land: the enthusiasm of the faithful, their obvious rapport with the pontiff, and the Pollish government's generally efficient, good-natured handling of the complex arrangements.
In his sermon today, the pope directly addressed those who were not here as well as those who were. He spoke of the natural barriers posed by the Tatra Mountains and said, "This has been the most closed and shielded frontier" in Poland but - because of its people - also "the most open and friendly one."
Then, departing from his text as he had in other homilies, the pope said, "The borders should not stop our brothers from coming. I want you to pray for them. They are special to us."
It is impossible to say with certainty how many people from other countries of Eastern Europe sought to enter Poland in recent days. Encampments were reported on the border with Soviet Lithuania and Byelorussia as well as Czechoslovakia. Clearly Polish government policy, in consultation with it's allies was to severely restrict entry.
The pope has often referred to himself this week as a "Slav," and on Monday he called out to the Catholics elsewhere in the Soviet Bloc, "I hope you can hear me." Today was the first time that he mentioned that some had tried unsuccessfully to travel there.
Each day of the pope's visit thus far has had its particular character. Today's was marked by the marvelous setting of the occasion, an open plateau on the foot of the Tatras. Mountain people had built a large arch skeleton with fine carvings on its facade as well as on the wooden papal throne.
Many in the crowd wore the bright hues of woven woolen jackets and trousers that are still standard garb for people of the region. It was here that John Paul II, as Karol Wojtyla, archbishop of Krakow, spent all his vacations, hiking, climbing and skiing in the mountains.
There was a wistful tone to the pope's recollections of his time in the Tatras. He seemed to be saying goodbye "for the last time," as he put it, implying that should he return to Poland his schedule would not permit another visit here and certainly there would be no chance to dawdle as in the past.
The pontiff's trip to Poland is entering its final stages. He leaves Sunday after a mass in honor of St. Stanislaw, patron saint of Poland. The pope's voice is giving way but nearly always he can still give worhshipers the impression that this mass is the one he's been waiting for all along.
The pope was accompanied to Nowy Targ, which is about 40 miles from his birthplace at Wadowice by Cardinal John Krol of Philadelphia, whose ancestral village is nearby. Several hundred Polish-Americans attended today's mass and presented the pontiff with a gift - a painting done on glass.
Thoughout this week, the pope has spoken about the need for greater religious and individual freedoms. On Tuesday, he said that the Polish state "must respect the convictions of believers, ensure all the rights of citizens and also the normal conditions for the activity of the church as a religious community to which the vast majority of the Poles belong."
During his visit to the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz Thursday, he cited the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, saying he was speaking "in the name of all the nations whose rights are being violated and forgotten."
At Auschwitz, the pope also singled out the Soviets as a people who had suffered greatly from Nazi tyranny and who had "fought for freedom" in World War II. The Communist Party newspaper Trybuna Ludu today published a lengthy report about the Auschwitz visit that included many of the pontiff's remarks as well as his praise for the Soviet contribution to ending the war.
When he arrived here today in a government helicopter, the pope was greeted by a welcoming prelate who said in highland dialect, "We have been waiting a thousand years for this" - a reference to Poland's millennium of Christianity.