Page 1300 - Week 05 - Tuesday, 5 April 2005

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be enabled to find a way out of their poverty. This will require a courageous reform of structures, as well as new ways of relating among peoples and states.

That is the pope that I would like to remember today. I am sure that, in days to come as the media moves its attention to the political processes involved in the choosing of the new pope, we will have a lot of thoughts about how the next pope will shape our era, just as the recently deceased pope shaped the last 30 or so years.

MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra): As I think one of the newspaper articles referred to him, the pope was a holy man of God. He was certainly a man who promoted dignity, peace and justice throughout the world. He achieved a great rapprochement between conflicting faiths, and other faiths, especially the Jewish and Muslim faiths.

As members have said, the pope grew up in very trying and difficult circumstances. Born immediately after World War I, he grew up in Poland, which had not been a state for 150 years. On 11 November 1918, it again became a state. His mother died when he was young and indeed his father and brother died as well, before he was anything more than just a young man.

The pope was only about 18 or 19 when the Nazis invaded Poland, and I think his early life experiences shaped a lot of what the man we saw as pope was. In the days after the Nazis occupied Poland, they ultimately intended to exterminate all the Poles and use them as they would use cattle. They were “untermenschen”; no Pole was to be educated after primary school because that was considered unnecessary for what the Nazis had in store for the Poles.

The pope survived. He studied underground and joined the church as a priest in 1946, having survived the terrible times in Poland where seven million Poles—three million Jews among them—were killed. Four million Catholics and 5½ million Poles were killed by the Nazis alone. One and a half million were killed when the Soviet Union, along with Germany, invaded and knifed Poland in the back in September 1939. He certainly had a very hard upbringing—and, of course, one tyranny was replaced by another.

He became an inspiration when he became pope. I can recall when he did become pope; it was a magnificent occasion. As the Chief Minister said, not only was he the first non-Italian pope for 450 years, but he was also the first Slavic pope. I recall that, even in Australia, I had a conversation with Jerry Daly at Royals about what this would actually mean for the world and for Eastern Europe. We were to find out very quickly indeed.

The pope returned to Poland in 1979. In that mass he celebrated in Warsaw, amongst hundreds of thousands of Poles, there was a prayer for the Holy Spirit to “renew the face of the earth”. Lech Walesa says it was that prayer that inspired the 10 million Poles who formed part of Solidarity.

Lech Walesa credits the pope with 50 per cent of the collapse of communism—he says that 50 per cent of the collapse of communism is his doing. As a result of the confidence and the hope given to the Poles by the pope, Solidarity was born very shortly after that. It was initially crushed and sent underground, but was never really too far from the surface. As a result of the pope’s efforts, particularly, we saw a speeding up, in a most peaceful way, of the ultimate collapse of communism.

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