Saturday, May 27, 2006

Visit to Birthplace of Pope John Paul II

At 9.30 a.m. today, having celebrated a private Mass in the chapel of the archbishop's palace in Krakow, the Holy Father travelled by car to Wadowice, the home town of John Paul II.
The Pope visited the basilica of the Immaculate Conception, where Karol Wojtyla was baptized, before going on to see the house in which he was born. On May 18, 1984, in honor of the late pontiff's 64th birthday, the house was converted into a museum. Benedict XVI visited the apartment in which the Wojtyla family lived, which is now used as an exhibition space for photographs recording Karol Wojtyla's life as priest, bishop and Pope.
At 11 a.m., the Pope met with local inhabitants in Wadowice's Rynek Square, in front of the basilica of the Immaculate Conception.
Following a greeting from Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, archbishop of Krakow, the Pope delivered his address. "I wished to stop precisely here, in the place where his faith began and matured," he said referring to his predecessor, "to pray together with all of you that he may soon be elevated to the glory of the altars."
The Holy Father then recalled how John Paul II would often refer to the baptismal font of the church of Wadowice where, on June 20, 1920 he received the Sacrament of Christian initiation, and for which he had "special veneration." This, said Pope Benedict, is "the key to understanding the consistency of his faith, the radicalism of his Christian life and the desire for sanctity that he continuously manifested."
"His love for the Church was born in the parish of Wadowice. In it he experienced the sacramental life, evangelization and the formation of a mature faith. For this reason, as a priest, as a bishop and as Pope, he treated parish communities with such great care. In the spirit of that same solicitude, during the visit 'ad limina,' I asked the Polish bishops to do everything possible to ensure that the Polish parish would truly be an 'ecclesial community' and a 'family of the Church'."
The Holy Father then recalled another "characteristic of the faith and spirituality of John Paul II, which is united to this place. ... The deep attachment of the inhabitants of Wadowice to the local image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. ... This memory helps us arrive at the source of the conviction that nourished John Paul II: the conviction regarding the exceptional place that the Mother of God had in his life, a conviction that he himself, filled with devotion, expressed in the motto 'Totus tuus.' Until the last moments of his earthly pilgrimage he remained faithful to this dedication."
"In the spirit of this devotion," the Pope concluded, "before this image I wish to give thanks to God for the pontificate of John Paul II and, like him, I ask that Our Lady watch over the Church which by the will of God has been entrusted to me to guide. I also ask all of you to pray for me just as you prayed for your great fellow countryman."
At the end of the meeting, the Holy Father travelled by car to the Shrine of the Virgin of Kalwaria. The shrine, dedicated to the Passion of Jesus and the Virgin of Sorrows, takes its name from the Calvary of Jerusalem. Its 15 kilometer-long Via Crucis is the only Way of the Cross to be included among UNESCO's world heritage sites. As a youth Karol Wojtyla used to make frequent pilgrimages there.
After visiting the shrine, Benedict XVI delivered a brief greeting to the community of Friars Minor living in the convent of the shrine, and to the faithful gathered there. The Pope recalled how, during his first journey to Poland, Pope John Paul II had visited this shrine and had dedicated his address to the topic of prayer. "At the conclusion he said: 'I ask you to pray for me here during my life and after my death.' Today, I wanted to pause for a moment in the chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary and, with gratitude, to pray for him as he requested. Following the example of John Paul II, I also turn to you, kindly asking that you pray for me and for all the Church."
During his return journey to Krakow, the Pope visited the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Langiewniki. He paused in prayer before the tomb of St. Faustina Kowalska where Karol Wojtyla frequently came to pray when he was a worker and later as a clandestine seminarian in the 1940s. Benedict XVI also visited the basilica where he met with 800 sick people.

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