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Pope contact with Reagan helped end Cold War

Two top foreign policy officials in the administration of late US President Ronald Reagan have said he and Pope John Paul II shared information about the Cold War but did not engage in coordinated actions to topple the Soviet bloc.

"We were more interested in having the pope on our side and not in having him do something for us," said Edward Rowny, Reagan's main adviser and negotiator on nuclear arms talks.

Richard Allen, Reagan's 1981-82 national security adviser, said there was "a convergence of interests" but not an alliance between the United States and the Vatican during the Reagan presidency.

Reagan was president from 1981 to 1989, a period that saw the Soviet Union lose its political hold on its East European allies, which led to the eventual breakup of the Soviet Union and the peaceful end of communist governments in the Soviet bloc. Pope John Paul was elected in October 1978.

Both are considered pivotal figures in ending the Cold War. There often has been speculation that Reagan and the Pope - both strongly anti-communist - worked together to topple communist rule in Europe.

Rowny, who briefed the Pope four times on Reagan's behalf, was interviewed this month by Catholic News Service. Allen gave a talk last at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Centre in Washington on the Pope, Reagan and the collapse of communism.

Allen said the Pope and Reagan were on "parallel tracks" in the Cold War, but the Pope was primarily interested in the situation in his native Poland while "President Reagan and the United States thought of Poland as a means to the disintegration and collapse of the main danger, the main adversary, the Soviet Union."

Rowny, a Polish-American, said that although his task was to brief the Pope on arms reduction talks the Pope would quickly turn the topic to Poland.

"He wanted me to tell him about Reagan's views of Solidarity and a free Poland," said Rowny, referring to the independent trade union movement that became the leading opposition group to the Polish communist government in the 1980s.

The Pope "was always pleased to hear that the president backed Solidarity," said Rowny.

Both Reagan officials said the Pope was happy to learn that the United States was smuggling aid to Solidarity, although they described the aid as modest.

The Pope also wanted to know how Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev was as a negotiator, said Rowny, now a Washington-based international consultant.

"The Pope was fascinated with Reagan's ability to negotiate with Gorbachev," he said.

Rowny said Reagan believed that the fact that Pope John Paul was Polish would be an important factor in the eventual liberation of Poland.

Officials say Pope, Reagan shared Cold War data, but lacked alliance (Catholic News Service 17/11/04)

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19 Nov 2004