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The Victory of the Cross

How spiritual renewal helped bring down the Berlin Wall.

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From his election in October 1978, Pope John Paul II constantly preached that it was only through Jesus Christ that man could fully understand his great dignity and his future vocation and therefore no country had the right to exclude Christ from its history. When the Pope preached this message in June 1979 in Warsaw's Victory Square, on an altar with the backdrop of a 50-foot cross, one million of his fellow Poles responded in affirmation with 14 minutes of applause, interrupted by singing in one voice: Christus Vincit, Christus Regnat, Christus Imperat (Christ Conquers, Christ Reigns, Christ Governs). In an officially atheistic country, the Polish people dramatically bore witness that God was sovereign, not the state.

At the end of the same homily, Pope John Paul II prayerfully called on God to "send down your Spirit and renew the face of the earth"--adding after a dramatic pause--"and the face of this land."

Thirty years later, in June 2009, the Mayor of Warsaw--in the presence of the President of Poland, a company of soldiers, the Archbishop of Warsaw, and thousands assembled--dedicated a 30-foot cross in the same square in memorial of the 1979 Mass and described the impact of Pope John Paul's prayer for the renewal of Poland in this way:

The message of John Paul II met with our highest national and social aspirations. It poured hope into our hearts. Then for the first time in decades we saw how many of us are here. We felt what it meant to be together, free and in community. Soon, August 1980 arrived and Solidarity was established. Then the tragedy [martial law] of December 1981, and thanks to those who went through that and did not reject hope, June 1989 arrived. The word was fulfilled. . . . We Poles know that the demolition of Communism did not start in 1989, but ten years earlier, here on this square, with the words of John Paul II. . . . This Cross is a symbol that what is impossible becomes possible.

As we remember in gratitude the demise of the Berlin Wall and the defeat of Soviet Communism, let us also remember that when human freedom and dignity were under assault during the Cold War, Pope John Paul II and President Ronald Reagan were in agreement that the spiritual nature of man and the freedom to know God were central to defining humanity and decisive in defeating tyranny.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and his wife, Callista, are hosts and executive producers of the documentary, Nine Days that Changed the World. Vince Haley is an associate producer.