The head of Poland's powerful Roman Catholic Church, Archbishop Jozef Glemp, flew to Rome today in an apparent attempt to coordinate a strategy toward the martial-law authorities with Pope John Paul II.
Glemp's visit to the Vatican, which is expected to last until Thursday, came a day after an important meeting with Poland's military ruler, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski. An official communique reported that the two men discussed the current complex political situation in Poland and prospects for reaching "a national agreement."
The sudden increase in diplomatic activity by the primate of Poland reflects the concern felt on all sides here that the country's political and economic crisis is far from settled--despite the imposition of martial law in December. With the independent Solidarity trade union officially suspended and the Communist Party discredited, the church is the only national institution capable of commanding the loyalties of a majority of Poles.
Speaking to journalists at Warsaw Airport before his departure for Rome, Glemp said he planned to report to the Polish-born pontiff on his meeting with Jaruzelski. But he dismissed suggestions that the church sought a share in political power for itself.
"The church is always willing to act as an intermediary and wants to serve society as best it can. It does not want to be a partner for the authorities," he said.
Glemp held a meeting with the pope soon after his arrival in Rome, but Vatican officials released no details of the talks, Reuter reported.
Despite the fact that there has been no sign of an armed insurrection, as predicted by some Solidarity supporters, passive resistance to the martial-law authorities shows no signs of abating. The government's difficulties are compounded by disastrous economic results and a credit freeze imposed by Western countries.
At a Central Committee meeting last week, Jaruzelski predicted that even under optimistic assumptions it would take at least until 1990 for Poland to recover economic equilibrium and pay off its Western hard-currency debt. He added that this task would be much more difficult if the West maintained what he called an economic "iron curtain" against Poland.
The martial-law leader reportedly believes that the church could play an essential role in calming social tensions if, as expected, the Polish economy deteriorates even further. For its part, the church is still insisting on the need for a negotiated end to martial law allowing internees to be released and Solidarity reinstated.
The church's proposals for a way out of the crisis were set out earlier this month by a council of leading lay Catholics. The document accepted that Solidarity should bear some responsibility for the events that led to the military crackdown and that Poland's position within the Soviet Bloc should not be challenged.
While Glemp is certain to have raised these proposals with Jaruzelski, the statement issued after their meeting gave no indication that they had narrowed their differences.
Glemp, who became primate of Poland last year following the death of Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, is widely regarded as one of the most moderate and conciliatory church leaders. His relative inexperience in dealing with the government has, however, placed an extra burden on Pope John Paul, who served for many years as archbishop of Krakow prior to his election as pontiff.
Meanwhile, students staged more symbolic protests at Warsaw University today against the dismissal earlier this month of the democractically elected rector, Henryk Samsonowicz. The Education Ministry is understood to have warned the university authorities that, in event of continued protests, the university might be closed for one week.
Samsonowicz's removal was seen by some academics as a sign of an impending purge of higher education. While no further action has been taken at Warsaw University, it was announced last week that the rector of Gdansk University, Robert Glebocki, also had been dismissed