Poland's Roman Catholic bishops, in one of their toughest statements since the military crackdown, called today for the resumption of talks between the Communist authorities and the suspended Solidarity trade union to extricate the country from what they termed a deepening catastrophe.
The statement of the 60 bishops from across Poland, issued after a two-day meeting in Warsaw, also demanded the release of all interned Solidarity activists, the lifting of martial law and an end to job discrimination against union members. They also appealed for the first time for an amnesty for hundreds of Poles jailed for crimes against martial law, including organizing strikes and distributing leaflets.
Despite the uncompromising tone of the demands, the communique was couched in terms that suggested that the bishops would be open to negotiation with the military government. One passage of the statement was addressed to "society" and called for "common sense and realism" in dealing with the authorities.
"We must not take an 'all-or-nothing' attitude. On the contrary, we should try to implement our goals systematically, persistently and gradually," it said in language that reflected the cautious approach of the Polish primate, Archbishop Jozef Glemp.
But the forthright support given to Solidarity by the church, which is widely regarded as the only independent institution left in the country, contrasted with the ambiguous position of the Communist Party's Central Committee at a meeting this week.
There, several hard-line Central Committee speakers made clear they would prefer to see Solidarity banned. The official government position, as expressed in a document last week, is that Solidarity's future remains open to discussion. If resurrected, however, "independent" unions would be required to refrain from all political action, organize on a craft rather than regional basis and acknowledge the leading role of the Communist Party.
These conditions were described as "unacceptable" by the senior Solidarity leader still at large, Zbigniew Bujak, in a message distributed to Western journalists here today.
"The government is imposing its own concept of trade unions onto society. They want trade unions subjected to the Communist Party. Such a union structure and the scope of its proposed responsibilities excludes outright the possibility of independent activity," he said.
Bujak, who is in hiding in Warsaw, said Solidarity members in factories should do everything in their power to keep the idea of the union alive.
Bujak's message was dated Feb. 24--two days after the publication of the government proposals for the future of trade unions. It reflected a growing mood of frustration among underground Solidarity activists at what they regard as the lack of progress toward lifting martial law.
The fear that social tensions could become uncontrollable in the absence of speedy reforms also appeared to be one of the main motives behind the bishops' statement. It followed consultations in Rome earlier this month between Archbishop Glemp and Polish-born Pope John Paul II.
In their communique, the bishops said they were obliged to speak out by the fact that the situation in which Poland found itself "bears all the signs of a real moral, social and economic catastrophe."
The only chance of avoiding the deepening of the crisis, they added, was for the authorities to reach agreement with the "trusted representatives of organized social groups" including Solidarity, "which enjoys wide social support."
"The bishops, together with the whole of society, expect martial law to be ended as soon as possible, the freeing of detainees, amnesty for those sentenced for acts connected with martial law, the guarantee of safety for people coming out of hiding and an end to dismissals of workers for union membership."
They called for the reestablishment of Catholic discussion clubs, suspended under martial law, and the ending of the practice of removing crosses from public places.