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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, May 27, 2006

Pope's remarks please Poles

 •  Radio station called too close to politics

By Victor L. Simpson
Associated Press

Pope Benedict XVI blesses the crowd in front of reproductive artwork of the Black Madonna icon at the Shrine of Jasna Gora in Czestochowa, Poland. His predecessor, the Polish-born Pope John Paul II, believ ed that it was the Black Madonna who saved his life during an assassination attempt in 1981. Later, John Paul donated to the sanctuary the bloody sash that signified his survival that day in St. Peter's Square.

JENS MEYER | Associated Press

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KRAKOW, Poland Outside the archbishop's residence, the crowd of thousands called out for Pope Benedict XVI to come to the window.

They hoped for at least a glimpse of the pontiff and, even more, to hear word on the beatification of his predecessor, the Polish-born John Paul.

"We are waiting, Poland is waiting," they chanted.

Cheers erupted when a smiling Benedict appeared in the window, blessed the crowd and put on his glasses to read his remarks first in Polish, then in Italian.

"I know that on the second day of every month, at the hour of my beloved predecessor's death, you come together to commemorate him and to pray for his elevation to the honor of the altars," Benedict said. "This prayer supports those working on his cause, and enriches your hearts with every grace."

It was an eagerly awaited remark on a cause close to the hearts of many Poles.

Benedict has referred to John Paul as a great pope, "my beloved predecessor" and quoted from him extensively, but Poles want him to quickly declare John Paul a saint. Some even hoped Benedict would announce it during his Poland tour.

Thousands of people lined the streets as Benedict rode through Krakow's central old town in his specially armored vehicle, giving him a loud welcome in the city where John Paul served as archbishop before becoming pope.

Benedict spent the night at the archbishop's residence, and his appearance at the front window was particularly meaningful, as John Paul made a custom of speaking to young people from there during his visits as pontiff.

"We're so happy and so grateful that he came to the window, no matter long it lasted," said Piotr Kubasiak, 17, from Bielicka, a town just south of Krakow. "Every time he mentions John Paul, it means so much for us."

"And it's a great sign that he mentioned the beatification and we are praying for John Paul to reach sainthood as quickly as possible."

Yesterday's speech from the window was an emotional end to the second day of Benedict's four-day tour of Poland.

Immediately after John Paul's death on April 2, 2005, faithful started clamoring for quick sainthood for him. Benedict announced last year that he had waived the traditional five-year waiting period for the beatification process to begin.

Church officials are investigating the case of a French nun who recovered from Parkinson's disease a possible miracle, which is required for beatification, the last formal step before a person is considered for sainthood. A second miracle is needed for someone to be declared a saint.

Benedict earlier visited Czestochowa, following in John Paul's footsteps to the country's holiest shrine and urging Poles to cling to their faith.

On the second day of his tour of Poland, the German pope spoke frequently of John Paul, paying tribute to his efforts to bring down communism in Eastern Europe. But he also looked ahead, urging Poland to remain a strong Catholic voice on an increasingly secular continent.

"How can we not thank God for all that was accomplished in your native land and in the whole world during the pontificate of John Paul II," Benedict told an estimated 270,000 people who stood in a pouring rain during a morning Mass in a Warsaw square. It was there, during his historic 1979 visit, that John Paul inspired the Solidarity movement against communist rule.

In his homily, Benedict challenged moral relativism, or the view that there are no absolute values, and defended the church's unchanging beliefs.

"Stand firm in your faith hand it down to your children," Benedict said.

Authorities said some 250,000 people turned out at the Czestochowa shrine, home of the Black Madonna icon. John Paul, convinced the Madonna saved his life when he was shot by a gunman in St. Peter's Square in 1981, donated to the sanctuary the bloody sash he wore that day.

Shortly before the pope arrived by helicopter from Warsaw, a priest taught the crowd how to welcome the pope in German, emphasizing the words "Der Heilige Vater" "The Holy Father." Benedict himself has refrained from speaking his native language, apparently because of sensibilities of elderly Poles who recall the German occupation during World War II.

In the Warsaw Mass, the choice of site called Victory Square in 1979 and today Pilsudski Square recalled John Paul's challenge to "renew the face of the Earth, of this land" during his triumphant first trip to his native land after being elected pope.

That visit challenged the atheist authorities and is credited by Solidarity founder Lech Walesa with inspiring trade-union resistance to communist rule, which collapsed in 1989-90.

Spectators stood resolutely yesterday in ponchos and under umbrellas, filling the square before an 82-foot metal cross.

Aneta Owczarek, 18, dripping wet without a raincoat, did not consider going indoors, saying: "No way. This is one of the most important events that could ever happen in Poland and we don't know if we'll ever see the pope here again."

Warsaw authorities said doctors treated about 100 people during the Mass, and 19 people were taken to the hospital with cold or circulation difficulties, but there were no serious injuries.

The numbers were smaller than in 1979, when some 300,000 people filled the square and 750,000 were in the surrounding streets. Police spokesman Pawel Biedziak provided the estimate of yesterday's crowd, with a packed square but virtually abandoned side streets.

"Today, the feeling is more spontaneous in 1979, we still were under a different system, we were under a regime and people came because they wanted this meeting with the pope to bring fruit, and it did," said Barbara Kamela, 60, a retired bookkeeper. "John Paul II was dearer to us, because he was our brother. This pope is visibly trying to be close to us, we have a strong impression from him and I came to this Mass to be near him."

Benedict's trip will include a stop at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp a visit heavy with significance for Catholic-Jewish relations, a favorite cause of Benedict and John Paul.

Associated Press writer Monika Scislowska, reporting from Czestochowa, contributed to this story.