One of the most enduring visual images of the Cold War—one of the early signs that the Soviet empire was doomed—was the sight of General Wojciech Jaruzelski, the Polish strongman, literally shaking as he addressed the enormous crowd that gathered to greet St. John Paul II on his triumphant return to his homeland.
Make no mistake about it; Jaruzelski was a formidable enemy of the Catholic Church. With his Soviet comrades watching over his shoulder, he launched a harsh crackdown on the Solidarity movement. He was responsible for the imprisonment of hundreds of human-rights activists. He probably gave the order for troops to fire on striking workers, killing several; he may well have approved the brutal murder of Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko, the “Solidarity priest” who was bludgeoned to death in 1984. But Jaruzelski was also a realist, and when the Pope arrived in Poland, the general knew in his heart that he was overmatched. As indeed he was—not only by the man, but by the spiritual force the Pontiff represented.
General Jaruzelski lost the battle for Poland, of course. But for years he kept fighting another battle: to justify his leadership, to rationalize the decisions he made while he held power. Shortly before his death last week he surrendered that battle as well. Before he lost consciousness, Reuters reports, Jaruzelski “asked a Catholic priest to administer the last rites.” No longer an atheist, no longer an enemy; Wojciech Jaruzelski died a Catholic.http://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/the-city-gates.cfm?id=815