Pope John Paul II played an "enormous and pivotal" role in ending Soviet-style communism in his native Poland, former Polish President Lech Walesa says.
"Back then, we had over 200,000 Soviet soldiers stationed in Poland, and if you included those in the neighboring countries, 1 million — not to mention all those nuclear warheads placed on our territory," Walesa tells Newsmax.
"Once Solidarity began its fight, we decided to talk to some heads of state who seemed to sympathize with our cause to see whether they would help us. The answer was always the same: Don't even try. You won't stand a chance if it came to a military confrontation with the Soviets.
Story continues below video.
"And this is where this incredible thing happened. Just when we were experiencing this loss of faith, a Polish cardinal became the Pope. A year after his election, John Paul II decided to visit Poland. The entire world was focused on us, a little communistic country, where the entire nation suddenly embraced their Pope," Walesa says.
"All the communists were pulling their hair out. The spirit was so contagious that even some party members and militiamen would genuflect in public! Seeing that change, we were all amazed and also stopped fearing them, realizing that none of them were real communists. Actually, we called them 'radishes' – red on the outside, but white inside.
"Unfortunately, the Soviet communists were standing by and observing all this change sweeping the nation. There were immediate consequences – someone even tried to assassinate the Pope. But as we all remember, he turned out to be immortal, which caused even a greater panic in Moscow," Walesa continues in the Newsmax interview.
"At that crucial moment, Gorbachev was elected Secretary General of the Communist Party, with his big ideas to reform the regime before it fell apart. But I knew that he was going to fail because there was no way to stop the change.
"The rest is history, but the Holy Father's role was enormous and pivotal. He gave this process the powerful momentum it needed and I believe without him, this change would have never happened."
To stem the movement toward democratization in Poland, the communists banned all gatherings and organized demonstrations, Walesa says. "But the Pope 'organized' millions of people into praying together. That helped us tremendously. So the Pope actually never wanted to start a revolution. He just did his job and we took advantage of it.
"Without the Pope, I suspect we wouldn't have been able to break that regime for a long time."
© 2016 Newsmax. All rights reserved.