Warning of possible tragedy, Poland's Roman Catholic bishops today sharply criticized martial-law authorities for failing to take adequate steps toward national reconciliation.
A communique issued after a two-day meeting here of the Polish Episcopate expressed concern at "the multiple crises shaking Poland" and the lack of dialogue between the government and the suspended Solidarity independent trade union. The bishops condemned the beatings and arrests of Solidarity supporters by riot police during nationwide demonstrations at the end of August.
The bishops' statement was one of their most forthright since the imposition of martial law in December. It appeared to reflect the fear of church leaders that social tensions could become unmanageable if the present political stalemate continues.
The tough line taken by the Roman Catholic Church is likely to be unwelcome by the government since it undermines official attempts to blame Solidarity for the impasse. Polish televison news did not mention the bishops' statement in its main evening program tonight.
The government has said it sought talks with underground Solidarity leaders as early as April but was rebuffed. Government spokesmen have now ruled out negotiations with Solidarity's elected leaders, including detained leader Lech Walesa, on the grounds that they have yet to display "a reasonable political attitude."
Instead of negotiations with Solidarity, the authorities have sought to launch "a patriotic movement for national rebirth." Groups describing themselves as "patriotic committees" have sprung up all over the country.
Participants include several lay Catholics who were authorized to join the movement by the church on the understanding that its aim is to pave the way for the lifting of martial law.
Today's statement by the bishops makes clear that they do not regard the Communist-sponsored movement as an adequate substitute for the restoration of independent trade unions.
The bishops said they were concerned about the lack of any significant signs of improvement in the social situation. In a reference to the recent street demonstrations, the bishops warned: "The growing tide of violent events could assume a harmful, even tragic direction for the existence of our people and state."
The bishops' statement noted that the church had issued numerous calls in the past for a resumption in the national dialogue that was interrupted by martial law but that the government had failed to act.
They condemned the use of violence "by either side."
Pro-Solidarity leaflets were scattered in Warsaw's major shopping street, Marszalkowska, this afternoon, accusing the government of planning to outlaw Solidarity permanently. The leaflets, signed by an underground "interfactory" committee in Warsaw, said if that happened the union would use "the most radical means of defense."
Flags and banners were placed on the ground to commemorate Poles killed by riot police during the past nine months. One banner read: "Solidarity has survived, is acting, and will overcome."