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1983: Pope meets banned union leader Walesa
Pope John Paul II has held a private meeting with Lech Walesa, the founder and leader of Solidarity, Poland's independent trade union movement.

Solidarity has been banned since December 1981 when martial law was declared following social tensions in Poland.

It is the second time Pope John Paul II - who was formerly Archbishop of Krakow - has returned to his native Poland since he became head of the Roman Catholic Church in 1978.

Mr Walesa met the Pope in the Tatra Mountains in the south of the country towards the end of his eight-day visit to Poland.

This right is not given to us by the state...It is a right given by the Creator
Pope John Paul II
Solidarity sources say the Pope told Mr Walesa that he should rely on the advice of the Catholic Church, rather than organising street demonstrations as part of the trade union movement's campaign to bring about political reforms in Poland.

As Archbishop, Karol Wojtyla took an uncompromising stand against the Communist regime.

But the Pope has urged the country to try to resolve its differences through dialogue and not confrontation.

Officials close to Mr Walesa say the Pope also told the Solidarity leader that martial law could be lifted by the autumn.

This, they say, was indicated to the Pope by Prime Minister General Wojciech Jaruzelski during talks just hours before he met Mr Walesa.

Mr Walesa has said he was "moved and enthusiastic" about his meeting with the Pope, and is willing to take a "back seat" as a focus for opposition to the government in ending martial law.

The Pope has also addressed a congregation of two million worshippers in Katowice, Poland's industrial heartland in the south, and told them that workers should be able to join free trade unions.

He said: "This right is not given to us by the state. It is a right given by the Creator."

During his visit the Pope blessed the widows of workers killed when martial law was imposed.

The Polish Government has said it will cooperate closely with the Catholic Church in the future, and it is well known the Pope would like the church to be involved in any reconciliation process.

President Henryk Jablonski, who said goodbye to the Pope at Krakow airport, told reporters that "dialogue is possible and inevitable".

Before returning to the Vatican in Rome, the Pope made a televised address to the Polish people from the airport.

He said: "The nation must develop by its own means and resources."

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Pope John Paul II and Lech Walesa
The Pope met Lech Walesa in private for around 40 minutes



In Context
Lech Walesa, who won the Nobel peace price in 1983, was a devout Catholic and his rise to prominence came about at the same time as Pope John Paul II began his term in office.

The Pope served as an inspiration for many Catholics in Poland who wanted religious, political and economic freedoms.

Martial law was lifted a month after the Pope's visit - which also led to a government amnesty for political prisoners.

During the next five years gradual steps were taken to create a civil society in Poland.

In 1988 a grave economic crisis, coupled with the era of "glasnost" and "perestroika" under reformist Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, forced the Polish government to negotiate with Solidarity.

Elections were held in 1989 when Solidarity won a landslide victory and formed a coalition government.

The following year Lech Walesa was elected as Poland's president, transforming the country into a market economy.

The Pope died at 2137 (1937 GMT) on Saturday 2 April 2005 after he failed to recover from a throat operation.

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