Poland's Roman Catholic Church today renewed its call for an amnesty for political prisoners before the visit in June of Pope John Paul II, broadening the appeal to include urgent requests for the complete lifting of martial law, the restoration of civil rights and the return to work of people fired for political reasons.
The petition, issued after a two-day meeting of bishops in the shrine city of Czestochowa, follows an unequivocal declaration Tuesday by the government spokesman that Poland's Communist authorities have no intention of granting a blanket amnesty, although the pope personally asked for it in a recent letter to the Polish government.
It is now evident that the church intends to stress its civil rights charges against the Polish government, possibly through the papal visit, unless the authorities relax their stand.
Both church and state are firmly committed to continue with preparations for the important visit, the second for the Polish-born pontiff since he was elected head of the church in 1978. But the seemingly unyielding statements issued by each side this week have created an air of confrontation around the visit.
Adding to this is strain over the central role that church services played as meeting places this week for demonstrations supporting the banned Solidarity labor movement.
The bishops' statement made no mention of the May 1 or May 3 disturbances. Nor did it refer to the attack Tuesday night in a Warsaw convent housing a church aid center for Solidarity activists by 15 to 20 men who witnesses said resembled security agents. But a senior church official told a reporter that a formal protest about the break-in, in which several laymen were severely beaten, has been lodged with the authorities.
"The pilgrimage of the holy father becomes today the pilgrimage of national hope," the bishops' statement said.
In blunt terms, the bishops set forth what was described as their expectations prior to the pope's arrival June 16. These include the lifting of martial law, the release of those jailed under martial law, pardons for people who violated martial law, and the reinstatement of people fired for their political views.
Spelling out for the first time some specific concerns about the papal visit, the bishops also voiced the hope that no Poles who want to participate in meetings with the pope would encounter "obstacles."
"We expect that the administrative authorities, enterprises and schools will let their employes and youth participate in services and in all kinds of meetings with the head of the church," they said.
It also requested that summer holidays for young people be organized in harmony with the papal visit.
Asked earlier this week about the possibility of declaring a work holiday during the visit, the minister for religious affairs, Adam Lopatka, said no such plans were envisaged but that authorities in the regions where the pope is scheduled to visit may decide to give people time off to participate.
There also have been questions about whether Polish officials would try to block a meeting between John Paul and former Solidarity chairman Lech Walesa or other Solidarity activists. Spokesmen for the state and church say no such meetings have been officially considered.
The government news agency PAP carried a four-paragraph report on the bishops' statement that made no mention of the church's appeals. PAP said the program of the trip was fixed and approved by the pope and it quoted a sentence from the statement that said the visit would increase the sense of responsibility for the good of the country and efforts to settle Poland's numerous crises.