VATICAN CITY — Pope John Paul II on Thursday urged his Polish compatriots not to emigrate from Poland "because the duty of looking after the well-being of our common homeland falls on all of us."
The Pope made his appeal during his traditional Christmas Eve audience in the Vatican's Consistory Hall for members of the Polish community in Italy.
The audience was a prelude to the Pope's celebration of midnight Mass before thousands of worshipers in St. Peter's Basilica.
"As your compatriot and as a pastor of the Catholic Church, I say to you today, and more than to you to those who in our homeland are considering the possibility of emigrating: Do not lightly take decisions that can lead to a personal drama," the pontiff told his countrymen. He continued:
"Let us all remember, those who live in our country and those living outside it, that there exist vast spheres of our life and national culture which have grown stronger, especially in the most difficult situations.
'Our Common Homeland'
"Nobody can feel himself exonerated from taking part in this activity, wherever he lives, because the duty of looking after the well-being of our common homeland falls on all of us."
The Pope restricted the special audience to 20 Polish priests and 60 representatives of the Polish exile community and refugees.
Last year, more than 3,000 Poles crowded into the papal audience. With more than 5,000 Poles flooding into Italy this year to await emigration to the United States and other nations, the Pope was obliged to restrict the number.
In his speech, he referred to the "disappointments, sufferings and many humiliations" suffered by the refugees, who have presented Italian authorities with a difficult problem in finding them temporary lodging.
Visa Rules Tightened
Most of the Polish refugees came to Italy on tourist visas, and last summer Italian authorities tightened regulations governing their entry into Italy.
The pontiff's midnight Mass at the 16th-Century Baroque church was celebrated with about 26,000 worshipers, among them cardinals, Vatican nobility and diplomats from the 117 countries that have relations with the Holy See.
In addition, the ceremony was telecast to 42 nations, including the United States, Canada and 17 Latin American countries, the Vatican said.
"I bring you good news of a great joy," John Paul told the worshipers, quoting from the Gospel according to St. Luke. "Today, the church echoes that voice in every corner of the Earth: I bring you good news of a great joy."
In his sermon, he said Christmas Eve is the night that brought light to "those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness," the night when "that love which gives of itself to the end and without end came into the world."
Walesa Backs Fasting
Meanwhile, in Warsaw, the capital of John Paul's homeland, Solidarity leader Lech Walesa expressed support Thursday for the goals of 12 pacifist hunger strikers, saying pacifists opposed to military duty should be allowed to perform an alternative service.
In a statement given to Western reporters, the leader of the outlawed labor union said he shares the goals of the 12, who have been fasting since Dec. 13 in a Warsaw apartment to demand freedom for 12 colleagues imprisoned for refusing to serve in the army.
The protesters, members of the illegal Freedom and Peace movement, vowed to continue their fast until Dec. 27.
It was also reported Thursday that a member of Solidarity has been jailed for one year for assaulting a policeman, despite claiming that he himself was beaten in detention
The activist, Krzysztof Wolf, and four other witnesses told a Czestochowa court that he was badly beaten by police and sustained cuts to the head, Zbigniew Romaszewski, chairman of Solidarity's human rights monitoring group, told reporters.