BY THOMAS D. WILLIAMS, PH.D.
President Donald Trump commemorated the 40th Anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s first trip to Poland, calling him Sunday “a champion for human dignity and religious liberty.”
In a Presidential Message released on June 2 “in Commemoration of the 40th Anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s First Pilgrimage to Poland,” Mr. Trump said that St. Pope John Paul II’s nine-day visit to Poland in 1979 “changed the course of history.”
“As we remember the long struggle of the Polish people against communism, we also acknowledge that millions of people now live in freedom because of St. Pope John Paul II and his extraordinary life as a follower of Jesus Christ and a champion for human dignity and religious liberty,” the president said in his message.
In that first homily as pope delivered on Polish soil, St. John Paul “delivered a powerful message of hope to the crowd gathered in Warsaw, to all of Poland, and to the world,” Trump said. “His words stood tall against the repressive forces of communism throughout Poland and the rest of Europe” and he “inspired courage in the hearts of millions of men and women to seek a better, freer life.”
On that occasion, while Poland was still under the rule of atheistic communism, Pope John Paul insisted that Jesus Christ is the key to understanding the nature and meaning of the human person and cannot be excluded from society.
“Christ cannot be kept out of the history of man in any part of the globe, at any longitude or latitude of geography,” John Paul said during his homily. “The exclusion of Christ from the history of man is an act against man. Without Christ it is impossible to understand the history of Poland, especially the history of the people who have passed or are passing through this land.”
When President Trump visited Poland in July 2017, he praised Pope John Paul’s heroic witness that helped the Polish people reassert their identity as a nation.
“And when the day came on June 2nd, 1979, and one million Poles gathered around Victory Square for their very first mass with their Polish Pope, that day, every communist in Warsaw must have known that their oppressive system would soon come crashing down,” the president said. “They must have known it at the exact moment during Pope John Paul II’s sermon when a million Polish men, women, and children suddenly raised their voices in a single prayer.”
“A million Polish people did not ask for wealth. They did not ask for privilege. Instead, one million Poles sang three simple words: ‘We Want God,’” Mr. Trump said.
In his presidential message, Mr. Trump said that the United States stands behind the religious freedom that John Paul fought for.
“Today, we celebrate this historic moment and reaffirm our commitment to ensuring that freedom always prevails,” he said. “The United States and our allies stand united against the shackles of communism and as a beacon of liberty and prosperity throughout the world.”
“Melania joins me in remembering St. Pope John Paul II, whose poignant address stirred the soul of the Polish people and eventually helped tear down the Iron Curtain of communism in Europe,” the president said.
“May we continue to be strengthened by his words and his call to God’s abundant compassion, strength, and glory,” he concluded.