When I learned of the May 31, 1981 attempt to assassinate Pope John Paul II I was on the way to church with my family. I spoke with the Pastor. In the Divine Liturgy we prayed for the Pope’s health and salvation.
That he recovered was a critical development on the world scene. As soon as I heard of the assassination attempt I thought of the Soviet Union. Who else would want him dead? He was a threat to the stability of the Soviet Empire. The Soviet Union Government in Moscow controlled the satellite countries of the Soviet Union, among other reasons, because that control assisted the Soviets in blocking availability to its citizens of news from the West. Further, any nation which sought to invade first would be required to overcome the Soviet Army stationed in the satellite states. All of that had worked rather well for the Soviets until a young shipyard worker named Lech Welesa helped to form a union called Solidarity. The Soviets suppressed Solidarity not long after Welesa had made what the Soviets called “provocative” speeches which riled up his fellow workers.
The Soviets understood that Welesa was a rather fervent Catholic. Moreover, Poland never was fully integrated into the Soviet system. Farms all over the country were privately owned. Polish people had more ability to resist than those in other Soviet client states. The Roman Catholic Church was more active and vibrant there than elsewhere in Eastern Europe. The Soviets, who made most of their foreign policy calculations out of fear, looked at a possible alliance between Solidarity and the Pope as potentially lethal to them. They were correct. Their intelligence proved to be more accurate than ours time and time again. So standing in church that evening I could not get my mind off of the Soviets. I knew in my heart that it was they who had perpetrated this dastardly deed.
Our Coalitions for America operation two years earlier, in 1979, had launched a defense/foreign policy coalition called the Stanton Group. It was chaired by Henry Walther and yours truly. The issues it considered had been handled at another meeting run by Coalitions but there was just too much action for those issues to remain there. (We also launched that year another group, Family Forum, for the same reason, dealing only with social issues. Both groups operate to this day). By the mid-1980s Stanton had become the hottest ticket in town. Even those outside the United States had heard of it. So, not surprisingly, two representatives from Solidarity were on the agenda. They gave a compelling presentation. They wanted help.