– When you were flying to Mexico, in the plane journalists asked the Pope what countries he would like to visit. He answered that the biggest ones: Russia and China. Did he really have those visits in his heart?
– Yes, very. With Russia, it is known that the relationship with the Orthodox Church was very much at his heart. Every day, he was praying for the unity of Christians. But, he also knew who homo sovieticus is and how much they need hope and freedom. He knew this history. He knew it from his life in Poland. He dreamed of a pilgrimage to Russia. He also wanted to go to China. There the situation of the Church was and still is very difficult – divided, oppressed. The Holy Father had there his people, who were taking care of this matter, but the political blockade was so strong that they were not able to overcome it. I remember that everything ended with letters to Chinese leaders, words of encouragement for Chinese Catholics and the message to the Church in China. He really wanted to go there so badly, just like to Cuba. He was able to go to Cuba. To China and to Russia he did not make it.
– Did he have a hard time with this decision?
– Yes. And, until the very end, he sought to meet with the Patriarch of Russia. There were many conversations when it seemed that it will be possible. The meeting was arranged, and suddenly comes the information that Alex II changed his mind, that the meeting is cancelled. That was the case in Vienna, in Bari, Italy; in Switzerland. There was always the same condition that the meeting had to be planned in a neutral area, not in Rome, not in Moscow. That was Russia’s policy. Let’s say that it was not quite honest. The Holy Father always wanted to fulfill Russian expectations. Practically, he was accepting all conditions. Despite that, the meeting with the Patriarch never happened. Too bad.
Archbishop Mokrzycki “He liked Tuesdays the most”
M Publisher, Kraków 2008