VATICAN CITY — The release of a transcript of the 1989 meeting between Pope John Paul II and Mikhail Gorbachev offers a fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse of one of the more important papal audiences of the 20th century.
It’s a translation of the Russian record of the private meeting, released by the National Security Archive, an independent institute in Washington. For background on this and other documents being made public, look here.
I remember the Dec. 1, 1989, encounter well. I was among the pool journalists allowed inside the Vatican for the event. We chatted with some of Gorbachev’s aides as the two leaders held their closed-door talks. Those talks lasted 76 minutes — an extraordinarily long time for papal audiences — and journalists always wondered how the exchange had gone.
We reported today on the new disclosures, in a story available only to CNS subscribers. Here is the transcript of the meeting provided by the National Security Archive. It picks up when interpreters entered the papal library following about five minutes of one-on-one talks between the pope and the Soviet leader:
Record of Conversation of M.S. Gorbachev and John Paul II
Vatican, December 1, 1989
For the first several minutes the conversation was one-on-one (without interpreters).
Gorbachev: I would like to say that I appreciate your words at the beginning of the conversation regarding the fact that this is a meeting of two Slavic people, among other things. I don’t mean to appear as a pan-Slavist, but I believe in the mission of Slavic people to strengthen the understanding of human values of life, peace, and goodness everywhere.
John Paul II: Yes, this is so. Peace and goodness.
Gorbachev: We welcome your mission on this high altar, we are sure that it will leave a great footprint in history. I am familiar (more…)