The visit this month of Pope John Paul II to Poland has left a trail of speculation about the next moves by state, church and opposition forces and has placed a large question mark over the future status of Lech Walesa, leader of the banned Solidarity union.
Although the pope gave eloquent backing to the ideals of the Solidarity movement during his weeklong pilgrimage, unconfirmed reports that he may have made a deal with the Warsaw government edging Walesa aside have added a troubling postscript to the visit for many Poles and raised doubts about the church's real intentions.
Amid this and other real or imagined fallout from the trip, there are signs that Warsaw's Communist leadership, which has tentatively called the visit a success, is still divided over how to respond to the enthusiasm and expectations it raised among the populace.
No conclusive statement about the trip has been issued by the authorities in the week since the pope returned to Rome, although the ruling Communist Party Politburo has met and the Polish leader, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, has traveled to Moscow and back.
Polish Religious Affairs Minister Adam Lopatka's statement to parliament that the visit had "positive value" was later downplayed by a government spokesman who described Lopatka's remarks as merely a "first impression."
Poland's Roman Catholic primate, Cardinal Jozef Glemp, seeking to hold authorities at least to pledges of an early rollback of military rule if the papal visit went well, asserted today that the church favors a lifting of martial law by July 22. That is Poland's national day and the earliest date reportedly being considered by the government for rescinding the martial law statutes.
Before leaving Warsaw today for consultations with John Paul about Poland, Glemp said he saw no likelihood of quick changes in the Polish political scene. "Nothing changes in Poland quickly, but in an evolutionary way," he told reporters at the airport.
Speculation that the pope may have tried to speed up a conciliation by encouraging Walesa to take a back seat has seriously embarrassed Vatican officials. They and Walesa have denied such accounts.
But a definitive picture of what was said by John Paul in separate meetings with Jaruzelski and Walesa has been obscured by a cover of secrecy. There are indications that the issue is still unresolved among Polish political forces and disclosures now could jeopardize negotiations.
Asked in Rome whether Walesa would be removed from the political scene, Glemp answered, "No." Asked whether he could return to the prominence he held before martial law was imposed in December 1981, Glemp replied: "At this moment I cannot be specific. There are things still in development."
Archbishop Henryk Gulbinowicz of Wroclaw, traveling with Glemp, was even more cryptic. "He is still important but not in the same way as before," he said of Walesa. "Perhaps he will return in another way."
What to do with Walesa has been a problem for the government following his release in November from 11 months of internment. While Polish authorities insist the former union leader no longer has a political role, his popularity and credibility among Polish workers are still high, in contrast to the absence of popular support for Jaruzelski's government.
If authorities eventually agree to the establishment of labor unions that are more independent than the ones they sanctioned this year, it could well be without Walesa's participation. The government has adamantly refused to enter new talks with him, and a number of Poles have been saying for months that Walesa is little more than a symbol for the nation of the Solidarity ideals still harbored by the vast majority.
But writing off Walesa overlooks the fact that political situations in Poland have been known to change suddenly.
One source close to both Walesa and the Polish church leadership said John Paul asked Jaruzelski what was to be done with Walesa. Jaruzelski is said to have suggested that the former union chief join the new official trade unions or the Patriotic Movement for National Rebirth, a new organization intended to draft political initiatives outside party channels. Both groups are considered by most Poles as tied to the Communist leadership.
The pope, in turn, is quoted as pointing to the August 1980 agreements between the government and striking workers that laid the basis for Solidarity. The agreements call for establishment of independent, self-governing trade unions, less press censorship, creation of self-governing farm groups and other political freedoms. Jaruzelski reportedly said he still respects those agreements but for the time being has had to suspend them.
It was this message that the pope is understood to have relayed to Walesa at their meeting. A senior Polish church official said privately that Jaruzelski gave John Paul little sign of yielding on the main elements of the regime's program. Jaruzelski has too much at stake personally, this official observed, in the creation of the new trade unions and the Patriotic Movement to abandon them now.
The church also wants to get involved directly in aiding Polish private farmers. Glemp today confirmed that Polish authorities have agreed in principle to a plan under which the church would channel aid from the West to Polish farmers.
The government, he said, "has opened itself toward the possibility to create a foundation that would be a help for agriculture." But he added that the question of who would administer the fund is not settled.
Under the plan, which could take effect by next year, farmers would get equipment, fertilizers, pesticides and seed through a fund financed by bishops' conferences in Western Europe, the United States and Canada, by private foundations and, possibly indirectly, by western governments. Polish church officials say they hope that more than $2 billion in assistance could be funneled this way over five years, which farmers would pay back with produce.
Still under church-state negotiation is whether the plan would include state-run farms, as the government wants, or just the small private farmers who till three-quarters of Poland's arable land.
Also at issue is who should have control over distribution of the agricultural means. The government wants to use existing rural cooperatives and state facilities to funnel the items, but the church says western contributors will want the church to control distribution in order to ensure that none will be misdirected or misused.
Such an arrangement, linking the church, western capital and private farmers, poses ideological problems for Polish party dogmatists. But it also loads the church with a share of responsibility for reviving a critically weak sector of the Polish economy.