Former Polish President Lech Walesa honored Pope John Paul II in Rome this week, where he noted that is was “the value of God and the Spirit” that won the war against communism. In his statements, he compared Poland to Cuba, suggesting the government remains as a “Jurassic Park of communism,” a reminder to the world.
Speaking at a gala hosted by Newsmax, Walesa argued that, without Pope John Paul II, dissidents in communist Poland would have never lost the fear to face their enemies. They were told, “whenever there was any attempt by dissidents and those opposed to the regime to get together, we would always be split and fragmented.” Describing the state of affairs for dissidents before John Paul II’s encouragement to fight communism as “totally helpless,” he noted that the visit of a Polish Pope revealed to the dissidents that those in communist uniform and beholden to the government could not help but pray alongside the dissidents.
“The world was amazed to see a supposedly communist country praying so fervently to the extent that even the secret police and the communists learned how to cross themselves,” he noted, and the dissidents themselves “were totally amazed.” “We had to come to realize that they couldn’t be true communists, and we were no longer scared of them,” he concluded.
Walesa took the opportunity to compare the situation to Cuba, where Pope John Paul II also visited and, according to Walesa, “worked even harder there.” “Quite simply, what was missing in Cuba was the leadership of dissident organizations which could lead the nation,” he noted, adding that it was “quite amazing” to him that a country ninety miles away from the United States could not overthrow the yoke of communism while Poland, in the shadow of the USSR, managed such a feat.
“The fact that the regime still persists there,” Walesa argued, “makes us suspect that maybe the United States wants to keep Cuba as a ‘Jurassic park of communism’ and that’s why it’s still there, because otherwise it’s impossible that it is still there.”
Walesa concluded that, without the Pope showing the dissidents that there was still a chance to convert the hearts of even the most fervent communist leader, a victory was highly unlikely. While the dissidents “were calculating… the troops, the tanks, the silos,” Pope John Paul II encouraged them to see “the value of God and the Spirit.”
Walesa spoke in Pope John Paul II’s honor after a milestone event last week in which the Vatican elevated both Popes John Paul II and John XXIII to sainthood. The event was the first time that not one, but two popes were declared saints in the same event, and the news that Pope John Paul II would receive such a beloved status triggered massive celebrations in Poland. Walesa, who worked with the Pope during his tenure, has long been a vocal admirer, crediting the Pope with much of the fall of communism in the early 1990s.