Polish Catholics gathered in churches throughout the country last Friday to pray that the Pope would be allowed to visit them in the spring and that he would bring freedom to Poland's harassed Church.
Catholic intellectuals in Poland composed a special prayer to Our Lady for the main ceremony celebrated by Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski in Gniezno.
The prayer which reads almost as a manifesto of religious rights II sure to disturb Communist leaders In Poland and other Warsaw pact countries. "Let the priests return to empty temples,
bring holy icons from museums back to altars so that people stop suffering for their belief in Jesus Christ," it stated.
The prayer also summed up the growing hope among Polish Catholics that Pope John Paul will visit his native country in the spring. "Our Mother, make it happen that our Nation can welcome on Polish soli John Paul 11 ... Help the Pope aid not only Catholic Poland but also the whole east and all people yearning for God."
Pope John Paul has said that he would like to visit Poland for the May celebrations of' the 900th anniversary of the martyrdom of St Stanislaus who was killed by King Boleslaus whose tyranny he had denounced.
Unconfirmed reports in Warsaw suggest that the Polish government's initial unease about the impact of a papal visit has been overcome.
Neither Church nor state authorities will confirm details of the proposed trip but It is believed that Pope John Paul will arrive In Warsaw on May 11. The disclosures came after a four hour meeting between Cardinal Wyszynski and Mr Edward Gierek, the Polish party leader.
Cardinal Suenens of Belgium has already announced that he will visit Poland for the celebrations and an official announcement about the papal visit is expected soon, now that the Pope has returned from Latin America.
Another topic high on the list of discussion between Cardinal Wyszynski and Mr Gierek was the legal status of the Church In Poland. Currently the Church's legal status is unclear with diocese and parishes operating outside any legal framework.
The communist position Is that it is not ready to recognise the Church as a "legal person" because this would be incompatible with the socialist system which has no institutions independent of the state.
According to Church sources the government is not ready to abandon this position but is willing to discuss the issue. Any new agreement would be between the Vatican and the Polish Government.