GDANSK, Poland (CNS): A Polish archbishop said the same Christian values that led to the formation of the country’s Solidarity union movement in 1980 are needed to build a united Europe today.
“Solidarity was born out of concern for the human person and his spiritual and material needs and from a feeling of great responsibility for the nation’s common good,” Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow told a congregation of 30,000 at a Mass in Gdansk’s Solidarity Square on August 31.
Senior politicians and Church leaders from two dozen countries gathered in the northern port city to mark the signing of the Gdansk Accords, under which Poland’s Communist regime accepted 21 demands by 17,000 striking shipyard workers from the newly formed Solidarity union.
Solidarity gained more than 9 million members in its first weeks and won freedoms unprecedented in Communist-ruled Eastern Europe that included the right to free trade unions and industrial action as well as freedom of speech and media access for Churches.
Although outlawed after the December 1981 imposition of martial law, the movement survived underground and re-emerged to negotiate the peaceful end of Communist rule in 1989.
In a 25th anniversary message, Pope Benedict said Solidarity’s actions had a ripple effect on the rest of Eastern Europe, giving other people behind the Iron Curtain “the possibility to repair historic injustices”.
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