US president hails Polish-born pope for helping end communism in Europe

US President Donald Trump has hailed the late Pope John Paul II as “a champion for human dignity and religious liberty” and said that the pontiff’s 1979 trip to his native Poland “helped tear down the Iron Curtain of communism in Europe.”

In a presidential message released on Sunday, Trump said that St. Pope John Paul II’s first pilgrimage to Poland 40 years ago “changed the course of history.”

“As we remember the long struggle of the Polish people against communism, we also acknowledge that millions of people now live in freedom because of St. Pope John Paul II and his extraordinary life as a follower of Jesus Christ and a champion for human dignity and religious liberty,” Trump said in his message to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s nine-day visit to Poland in 1979.

The US president added that, in that first homily as pope delivered on Polish soil, St. John Paul “delivered a powerful message of hope to the crowd gathered in Warsaw, to all of Poland, and to the world.”

Trump said the pope’s words at the time “stood tall against the repressive forces of communism throughout Poland and the rest of Europe,” while inspiring “courage in the hearts of millions of men and women to seek a better, freer life.”

In his “Presidential Message in Commemoration of the 40th Anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s First Pilgrimage to Poland,” Trump also said that the pontiff’s “poignant address” in Warsaw four decades ago “stirred the soul of the Polish people and eventually helped tear down the Iron Curtain of communism in Europe.”

John Paul II led the Roman Catholic Church from October 16, 1978 until his death on April 2, 2005.

He visited 129 countries during his long pontificate and was a strong supporter of Poland’s anti-communist Solidarity movement. He is recognised as a key influence in helping to end communist rule in Poland in 1989.

Newly unearthed documents show that Pope John Paul II was seen as the main enemy of Poland’s communist-era rulers, according to a report.

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