The American Renewal Project initiated and produced Mike Huckabee’s Reagan, Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II Tour with Evangelical leaders from Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, & Nevada in November 2014. The trip was one of the highlights of a lifetime. (view itinerary here)
We began in Krakow, Poland, where Cardinal Karol Wojtyla began his march toward Rome, and thereupon became Pope John Paul II. Schindler’s Factory is located in Krakow and nearby is the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau.
When Karol Wojtyla stepped out on the Vatican balcony on October 16, 1978, as Pope John Paul II, the person preaching in his home pulpit back in Krakow was none other than evangelist Billy Graham. Besides Mr. Graham, Cardinal Wojtyla had established solid relationships with many prominent Evangelical leaders in America. Christianity Today wrote:
“In the mid-1970s, American mission organizations like the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association began taking the gospel behind the Iron Curtain to Eastern Europe. After Graham’s first ‘communist’ crusade in Hungary in 1977, he was invited to the predominately Catholic country of Poland by the tiny Protestant community there, which amounted to less than 1% of the population. Graham’s desire was to work with as many Catholics as possible.
“Initially, the Polish Catholic church rebuffed him. Wojtyla was the exception, giving Graham the invitation he needed for his crusade in a country where evangelicalism was considered cultic. Cardinal Wojtyla was already overseeing a radical partnership between a Polish Catholic youth renewal movement popularly known as Oasis and the American evangelical ministry Campus Crusade for Christ.
“Oasis founder and close Wojtyla friend Father Franciszek Blachnicki had a conversion experience in a Nazi prison and built the Oasis movement to help Polish youth living under communism discover the same living faith he had found. At the heart of Oasis were its annual youth retreats in the Polish mountains using the outdoor experiences of scouting – bonfires, hiking, singing – as spiritual renewal exercises structured around the mysteries of the rosary.
“Wojtyla saw the power of Oasis for renewing the church through spiritual mobilization in its fight against communism. Oasis alumni took vows to live ethical lifestyles of spiritual dissent in the face of a hostile communist system. By December 1983 more than 300,000 Poles had graduated the Oasis experience, including 40% of all new priests.
“In January 1978 Blachnicki came to America to visit Bill Bright at Campus Crusade’s headquarters in Arrowhead Springs, California. Bright probed Blachnicki about the usual evangelical concerns: ‘I asked him,’ Bright remembered, ‘What about the Virgin Mary? What about praying to the saints? … He gave me answers that for one with my background were satisfying and amazing.’
“Except for a ‘few fine points,’ Bright concluded, ‘there was basically no difference between what he believed and what I believed.’” (www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2005/may/13.34.html)