John Paul II

The Pope We Never Knew

I am writing this because many people are using this article ( above ) as a basis of their understanding, for writing other articles and because my name has been associated with it. I was never interviewed by Christianity Today and the information about me was inaccurate in almost every point. I did notify them, but because I was just a small part of the article they probably did not want to contact me. Here are some brief changes I would make to this article regarding CT’s understanding of Pope John Paul 2. Dave Scott did a great job on difficult subject and about 18 years ago he interviewed me for some of the information in the 1990’s and recently Professor Curp interviewed me in 2014.  Some of the information he got from others who may have heard it passed down, as I never wrote all of these things down for anyone. Some of the information was not exactly clear and because I was the only one present at many of these meetings or the only one still alive from other meetings, I want to get the record straight.  In 1979 Ed Plowman called me from CT and asked for a detailed interview. I turned him down then as CCC workers were not seeking any publicity for several reasons back then. Here are some of the more important points I would clarify.

1. Cardinal Wojtyla or John Paul 2 did not oversee the Oasis movement in my understanding. He was informed and invited as a guest on an annual basis – as he was the benefactor in many ways of a stronger church. Blachnicki was showing off this great movement which was the largest Catholic youth movement in Europe. Poland had at least 50 Bishops back then and all of them had the title Vicar of Christ as do all RCC Bishops. They were all equal in many ways to all Cardinals and even the Bishop of Rome. One bishop is all you needed as a priest to do something like the Oasis movement. That Bishop for Blachnicki was the Bishop of Przemysl. Bachnicki was the one who ushered Campus Crusade for Christ ( under the leadership of Bud Hinkson and Bill Bright ) into Poland. Cardinal Wojtyla may have been aware, but this was not entirely new in Poland. The first official contacts by evangelicals were made by the Continental Singers in the mid-seventies, who sang to major crowds in Catholic Churches. It was a smaller commitment for the RCC to hold one time concerts, but their impact was great. They ( Continentals ) were led in Poland by someone on loan from Campus Crusade’s music ministry. Blachnicki was strong enough to do this with just one Polish Bishop backing him.

2. Blachnicki was not a typical Roman Catholic before WW2. His family was heavily into scouting and they attended church once or twice a year as a cultural obligation. In his close encounter with death at Auschwitz; He had a conversion experience in trusting God while on death row after hearing the Bible being read. He purposed to serve him after being spared and signed up to the only Church he knew. Most people cannot envision how invisible and small ” Bible Centered”  Church presence was in Poland. The Poles were Catholics and where he lived in Upper Silesia, the Germans were Lutherans. He signed up to help the Poles and knew precious little about the Church at that time.

3. In my four years of being around the Oasis movement I do not remember seeing a rosary.

4. When Karol Jozef Wojtyla came to visit the mighty Oasis gathering it was as if a politician was just going to where the happening was. The Oasis movement was Blachnicki and those he trained. In Polish culture it would have been too daring for a Junior Cardinal to do anything against Blachnicki who was the most popular youth leader in Poland and the number one enemy of the Communists.

5. It was written that I was an Oasis attendee in 1975.  Before coming with a team of Evangelical Protestants to minister in 1976 I never attended any Oasis camp.

6. I never knew Franciszek Blachnicki before I was introduced to him in Lublin where I was singing and leading students and the bishops of Poland in a few evangelical songs at the Catholic University KUL in Lublin. They gathered together for a now famous annual gathering called Sacro-Song. I was invited by the students of Cracow to sing and appear there as I had won an international award in singing earlier that year in Poznan, Poland. I was singing about Christ and news spread around that I had done so at the annual May 1, 1975 Communists Party meeting. ( Which does not make me a communist sympathizer, I hope ). I was invited to meet someone in a room all alone on the University Campus in Lublin. I still did not know who he was.

7. Blachnicki was informed by me that I was an Evangelical Protestant and that the great evangelistic movements in America were led by Evangelical Protestants. He knew that.  This is exactly what he wanted. He let me know over the years that they already saw at KUL what the American Catholic Church was now producing . In the  early 1970’s there was a wave of liberalism at Catholic Universities and faith in the historic resurrected Jesus was not important to some educated at Catholic Schools back then. We know that the Vatican took action on this later. Blachnicki along with many other professors at the University was deeply into reading the Bible and many profs there declared Luther right about salvation after reading the books of Romans and Galatians. The Roman Catholic Church professors in Poland turned to the Bible beginning in 1966 with the millennium translation done by the RCC. Before this they were taught very little Bible in seminary, according to many priests whom I talked with.

8. The Campus Crusade teams to the Oasis movement did not participate in the Mass. They sat in a side room overlooking the morning mass. A speaker would come to that mass who was also a priest  from Lublin and preach an Evangelical Protestant Message. We became friends in Lublin. He told me that he was opposed by all the Bishops in Poland except one and that he was ready to leave the Roman Catholic Church tomorrow. After preaching he would ask me with a smile, ” Was I a good Catholic or a good Protestant? “.  However, he also said he would then be speaking to only 100 Poles a week if he left, whereas now he was preaching the Gospel as clearly as M.R. De Haan or Hyman Appelman to over 10,000 weekly; Which to him was more important then impressing some conservative Bible expert in America.  He died in his thirties in Poland. He was a prince of a man.

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