What Gorby said to the Pope…
In December 1989 Pope John Paul II met Russia’s President Mikhail Gorbachev behind closed doors in the Vatican. Today, Vatican Radio in German has the transcript of the 76-minute conversation. At the moment there is no English translation…
JPII wanted to speak to Gorby about perestroika and asked him when there would be freedom of conscience in the Soviet Union. He said: “We are waiting with longing and great hope that your country will pass a law for freedom of conscience. Man believes/ becomes faithful through a free choice. It is impossible to force someone to believe.”
Gorby in his turn said: “I assure you that our way–which we call “the new way of thinking”–is not just fashion or an attempt to win attention. It is the result of deep reflection about the situation in our country, in Europe and in the world. And I have to say that as soon as we accepted the “new way of thinking”, we breathed more easily.
He then pointed to the Helsinki process– the forum between East and West during the Cold war–which also dealt with human rights and religious freedom. He alluded to Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, who was the architect of the Vatican’s “Ostpolitik” and took active part in the Helsinki process.
Gorbachev said: “The Vatican can give a great contribution to the common goal. Not only because it’s signature is on the final document but also because I know what you have recently done in order to enrich it.”
The Russian president was worried by the West’s rush to implement its vision. He told the Pope he felt it was moving too fast.
Unfortunately I don’t have time to translate more… But rumour has it, that JPII will be declared venerable tomorrow. Christmas deadlines loom. So long for now.
Update: Pope John Paul II also told the Russian president: I am very grateful for your implementation of Perestroika. We see it from the outside. You, Mr President, carry the perestroika within yourself, in your heart and in your deeds. I believe to have understood that the strength of the perestroika lies in your soul. You are right when you say that the changes should not come too quickly. And we are of one mind, that not only the structures must be changed but also the thinking.”
A further sentiment that Pope John Paul II expressed which may seem somewhat prophetic today : “It would be wrong to demand that the changes in Europe and in the world should follow the Western models. This goes deeply against my conviction. Europe should breath with two lungs.”