Largest Solidarity Crowd in Nearly a Year Gathers at Shrine
CZESTOCHOWA, Poland (AP) _ The largest pro-Solidarity crowd to gather in nearly a year chanted slogans and carried more than 100 banners to a Mass ending an annual two-day pilgrimage to Poland’s holiest religious shrine.
Lech Walesa and other leaders of the outlawed trade federation joined about 50,000 others Sunday at the Jasna Gora monastery in Czestochowa, about 130 miles south of Warsaw, home of the Black Madonna icon.
The annual workers’ pilgrimage was initiated in 1983 by Jerzy Popieluszko, a Roman Catholic priest who was killed last year by three secret police officers. It was the largest pro-Solidarity crowd to gather since about 250,000 people attended Popieluszko’s funeral last November.
″I knew there were a lot of us, but I didn’t know there were so many,″ Walesa told The Associated Press as he looked down from the monastery’s parapets at the crowd in an adjacent field.
″It shows that we will never give back our August, that we will find methods and ways to defend August,″ he said, referring to August 1980 when the government signed the Gdansk agreements with striking workers that led to the formation of Solidarity, the Soviet bloc’s first independent trade union federation.
Before the Mass the crowd applauded and shouted Walesa’s name, and chanted ″There is no liberty without Solidarity,″ raising their hands in V-for- victory signs.
More than 100 Solidarity banners were on display in the crowd, many of them bearing the names of cities or combining political and religious themes. Among them were banners reading ″Let’s vote for our blessed mother,″ an indirect reference to Solidarity’s call for a boycott of Oct. 13 parliamentary elections.
Bishop Tadeusz Goclowski of Gdansk, who delivered the sermon, said Poland has ″the right to be responsible for its own fate.″
″As we are united in Solidarity, let the truth, freedom, justice and social love on which we will build a happier today and tomorrow win in our homeland,″ he said in a sermon interrupted at least 10 times by applause. ″Let us go back to our working places as hosts rather than slaves,″ he said.
Jacek Lipinski, a Solidarity leader from the Warsaw steel works, urged the crowd to pray ″for the strength to remain faithful ... to the ideals of Solidarity.″
A Solidarity source said that after the Mass, Walesa and Cardinal Henryk Gulbinowicz of Wroclaw, who celebrated the Mass, wrote a telegram to Polish- born Pope John Paul II saying workers have the ″right to establish independent trade unions as we did in August 1980.″
″We will not give up the fight to realize our rights to a sense of dignity at work,″ the telegram said.
The crowd sang the patriotic religious anthem, ″Boze Cos Polske″ (God, who watches over Poland), then left peacefully.
Many policewere in the streets surrounding the 14th-century monastery.
Pauline monks at Jasna Gora estimated 100,000 people were in the field and on the monastery’s grounds Sunday, but Western reporters present said the crowd was not so large.