The “Media Pope” as a Challenger of Socialism: Pope John Paul II’s First Trip to Poland
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John Paul II’s first papal visit to his home country in 1979 is considered a key event that contributed to the decline and fall of communism. Drawing on Polish and international sources, this chapter shows how the Vatican negotiated in advance with the Polish government to determine the pope’s itinerary and aspects of the visit’s media coverage. While the Polish government made numerous concessions in order to garner prestige, it also sought to maintain control of the visit and its interpretation. However, the pope’s appearances at various locations around the country, which were attended by some 10 million people, ultimately engendered a shared identity that acted as a countermodel to socialism. As indicated by internal government surveys, the visit also promoted religiousness in Poland and was a catalyst to the future protest movement.