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Walesa Cheered by Thousands at Catholic Shrine

September 22, 1986|ROBERT GILLETTE | Times Staff Writer

CZESTOCHOWA, Poland — Thousands of Polish workers cheered Solidarity leader Lech Walesa and waved defiant banners of the outlawed labor union Sunday at a pilgrimage to Poland's most sacred Roman Catholic shrine.

Church officials, however, withdrew permission at the last minute for Walesa to read a brief statement to a crowd estimated at more than 20,000 massed outside the 14th-Century Jasna Gora monastery. The statement was edited to remove a critical reference to the government and read instead by a clergyman.

Solidarity sources said the church is scheduled to begin "delicate" talks with the government Tuesday and apparently wanted to avoid giving authorities a pretext for canceling them.

These sources said the talks are expected to reach agreement on details of Pope John Paul II's third visit to his homeland next June since he became pontiff. They said the talks may also discuss the terms under which Solidarity figures still in hiding could emerge without punishment, now that other opposition figures have been freed from prison.

Walesa told reporters that union leaders plan to issue a statement in the next few days outlining their plans in the wake of a sweeping government amnesty for political prisoners earlier this month.

"We will have a statement, but not here and now because we don't want to cause any harm to the church," Walesa said at the end of a two-day workers' pilgrimage to the monastery at Czestochowa, which houses the Black Madonna, Catholic Poland's most treasured icon.

On Saturday, Walesa met in Warsaw with a number of opposition activists, including the recently released underground leader Zbigniew Bujak, to discuss long-term strategy now that all are out of prison. Two potentially divisive topics of the meeting included relations with the church and whether Solidarity should maintain its national underground structure.

Bujak, along with some others freshly released from prison, is said to feel that Solidarity's close ties with the church have proved too confining. He also favors maintaining the underground, weak as it is. The church hierarchy, however, is said to regard the underground as more trouble than it is worth, providing the government with a pretext for repressive actions while offering little in return.

On Sunday, Walesa privately assured some Solidarity activists who had not attended the Warsaw meeting that an understanding was reached among the union's diverse leadership and that no split would occur among them.

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