ROME (ZENIT) — Former Polish President Lech Walesa who, together with St. John Paul II, led the fight against Soviet Communism, spoke at a Rome dinner April 25 held in honor of Saints John Paul II and John XXIII. The dinner was hosted by Newsmax Media.
Below is the transcribed text of his speech, as provided by ZENIT New Agency. All rights reserved.
+ + +
When I was involved in my opposition and fight against Communism, we all fought against more than 200,000 Soviet troops permanently based on Polish territory and over a million Soviet troops in the surrounding satellite countries, plus nuclear silos as well.
At the same time, it was whispered into our ears that we stood no chance whatsoever of changing that status quo. The Communist regime never allowed us to integrate or get together. Whenever there was any attempt by dissidents and those opposed to the regime to get together, we would always be split and fragmented.
You may still remember the reality back then that no one really believed there was any chance whatsoever to overcome that situation in the world. I personally had the opportunity to consult all the big leaders of the world at that time: presidents, prime ministers, and even some kings.
And none of them — not even a single one — claimed there was the least of chance of changing the status quo other than through a nuclear war.
Why are we looking back at that situation now? Simply because when we raise the issue of globalization or of European integration, we also hear voices of objection against those projects. When we were involved in the struggle against Communism, as the end of the second millennium of Christianity was approaching, the world was totally helpless in the face of this reality.
We felt so helpless, even with the gift of a Polish Pope who actually broke down barriers in people. But a year after his election to the papacy, he came to Poland and I wonder whether you still recall the images of those events. We had almost all the Polish people flock, coming from all over the country, to meet him — almost all of them.
And 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. They never learned the proper words [In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen], so they would be saying “one, two, three, four, five.”
But we were totally amazed seeing them do these things and we had to come to realize that they couldn’t be true Communists, and we were no longer scared of them. We had a Holy Father calling us to pray, of course, but on that occasion we didn’t realize we were so many [who prayed]. Previously, we had heard there were few opponents to the regime and suddenly we realized there really were very few Communists.
Had it not been the Holy Father we would never have integrated, we would never have been able to realize we were so many. And once we suddenly saw how many we were, that really gave us confidence. Also the dissident movement already in existence in Poland, although not very big, was able to lead those crowds toward victory.
But let us not forget that a similar thing happened in Cuba, that the same Holy Father went to Cuba after our victory had been won. He even worked harder there and yet Cuba remains a Communist regime. Quite simply, what was missing in Cuba was the leadership of dissident organizations which could lead the nation.
This is quite amazing because Cuba is so close to the United States, and the fact that the regime still persists there, 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.
To conclude, let me make one appeal to you: We have been given such a wonderful example of how great victories can be won and we know that back then, in the 1970s and 1980s, we didn’t believe victory was possible because what we were calculating were the troops, the tanks, the silos.
When calculating like this, we underestimated the value of God and the Spirit — that was where the miscalculation was. And if we draw a proper conclusion from what we learned when we did win the victory and how we won it, we will begin establishing the third millennium basing ourselves on values.
Of course, we cannot reach immediate consensus on these values, but we have to agree on them. They have to be values accepted by all religions, all religious people, and [if] we’re successful in doing that then we will really construct a future much better than our past was. We have accomplished so much within the lifetime of this generation: We ended the era of wars, divisions, revolutions, and have opened up the era of information, the Internet, of globalization.
But for the moment these concepts such as globalization are empty, they are still new but without content, and a generation with as much experience as we have should really debate which content should be placed in these concepts to establish this third millennium.
I’m confident we can contribute to that, and by us I mean our generation, because the coming generation will no longer have the same experience. We really have the opportunity to enjoy peace, prosperity, and well-being, providing we reform the structures in which we organize ourselves, the platforms which we follow.
Our Pope, whom so many of us knew, will be a kind of spark or torch who can lead us toward solutions.
And I wish that you, and myself as well, will really take advantage of this beginning of the third millennium to establish the foundations of a future world based on values.
Thank you very much for your attention and I hope for another opportunity to speak more fully on this.