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Most Poles hope Pope's visit will bring modest gains

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Poland's mood is joy as it awaits the Pope's arrival this week. But the joy is more sober, less emotionally euphoric than on John Paul II's first return to his homeland in 1979.

For most people, the dominant feeling seems to be relief. They are pleased that a friend who understands their experiences of the past three years is coming to see them again.

Many are skeptical that the visit will have any beneficial, tangible results. Some profess to ''fear'' that the Pope's presence will do no more than bring aid and comfort to a still untrusted government, but that view seems to underrate the man himself.

But most people exude a sense of quiet satisfaction. Beneath this one discerns a vague, undefined hope that ''something'' might change as a result of his talking with a leadership that antagonized virtually the whole nation by imposing martial law 18 months ago.

The military grip on day-to-day life was relaxed at the start of the year. But the regime has not yet felt bold or confident enough to risk removing it altogether.

Recent official pronouncements on the visit have given an impression that the leadership is counting on the Pope's trip to help make the removal of martial law possible.

The former Gierek regime accepted John Paul's first visit with considerable apprehension. Only about halfway through that visit did the authorities wake up to the political mileage they might derive from it.

By contrast, Edward Gierek's successors are trying hard to ensure this visit is successful, even in the face of obvious disfavor on the part of the Russians and hard-line allies like Czechoslovakia, which currently is harassing local churches.


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