Listen to this BosNewsLife News report via Vatican Radio, introduced by the network’s Linda Bordoni.
By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
WARSAW, POLAND (BosNewsLife)– Lech Walesa, head of the Solidarity movement that ended Communism in Poland, has knelt in prayer at a Catholic funeral mass for General Wojciech Jaruzelski, the Communist leader who for decades was his sworn enemy.
Not all Poles appeared ready to reconcile on Friday, May 30, with Jaruzelski, who died last week at the age of 90. A noisy crowd gathered outside the Cathedral of the Polish Army in the capital Warsaw where the mass was held.
Demonstrators shouting “shame” and “honor and glory to the general’s victims” recalled the up to 100 people who died when Jaruzelski imposed martial law as part of a crackdown in the 1980s on the anti-Communist Solidarity movement.
A furious woman was among the protesters. “Today, I am shamed about the army. They are honoring a traitor, a real traitor,” she said. “It’s a scandal for Poland that the army participates in this circus. Because that’s what it is. A circus.”
WALESA’S PEACE GESTURE
Yet, dressed in a black suit and black tie, former Solidarity leader and later head of state Lech Walesa was seen kneeling in prayer at the the Cathedral during the funeral mass, which was also attended by current president Bronislaw Komorowski.
When Bishop Jozef Guzdek, who was celebrating the mass, asked orshippers to offer each other the sign of peace, Walesa crossed the aisle and shook the hands, in turn, of Jaruzelski’s widow, Barbara, his daughter Monika and his school-age grandson.
Jaruzelski was an atheist but a clergyman at the cathedral said that, 13 days before his death, he had asked a Catholic priest to administer the last rites.
Former head of state Aleksander Kwasniewski said it was now up to God, and not other people, to judge Jaruzelski, who eventually led his nation towards more freedom.
Speaking from the pulpit, Kwasniewski explained that the general and president was also “”a politician who in the most difficult moment took the responsibility for the state in crisis.”
Jaruzelski, he said, “with sincere conviction chose the lesser of two evils, protecting us against a foreign intervention or a fratricidal confrontation.”
Jaruzelski was later buried at the Powazki military cemetery, near the centre of the Polish capital.
Once again, protesters could be heard, making clear that he remains even a divisive figure, even after his death.