Loading…
Friday, August 01, 2014
Current Weather
Loading Current Weather....
Published: Saturday, 4/26/2014

Pilgrims amass in Poland to celebrate John Paul II

ASSOCIATED PRESS
A woman places her just-purchased portrait of Pope John Paul II into a carrier bag in the pontiff’s hometown of Wadowice, Poland. A woman places her just-purchased portrait of Pope John Paul II into a carrier bag in the pontiff’s hometown of Wadowice, Poland.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge

KRAKOW, Poland — From distant Canada to small Polish towns, pilgrims were arriving today in places linked to Pope John Paul II for concerts and prayers held on the eve of him being declared a saint

Thousands were crowding into the narrow downtown streets of Krakow, where Karol Wojtyla served as priest and bishop for more than 30 years before being chosen pope and taking the name of John Paul II. Surprisingly, the Catholic Church leader from a country ruled by anti-church communists.

A crowd gathered to watch a multimedia show that was screened on the wall of the Palace of Krakow Bishops, where Wojtyla resided in the 1960s and 70s. The screenings recalled his joking exchanges with thousands gathered in the street below, as he stood in an open window, now known as the “papal window.”

Giant screens were put up in Krakow, Wadowice and other cities for the crowd to watch live on Sunday the unprecedented Vatican ceremony in which Pope Francis, aided by Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, will declare as saint two 20th century popes: John Paul and John XXIII.

“This is a great event for us Poles, because our countryman will be honored before the entire world,” said Jadwiga Grzelak, who travelled five hours with a parish group from Lututow, in central Poland, for the observances.

Pilgrims were also arriving in John Paul’s southern hometown of Wadowice, now festively decorated in white-and-red national flags and in papal colors of yellow and white, and with the much-loved pontiff’s portraits in some windows.

A passerby stops in front of a photo of Pope John Paul II displayed on a downtown street in Warsaw, Poland. A passerby stops in front of a photo of Pope John Paul II displayed on a downtown street in Warsaw, Poland.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge

Two stages have been put up in the square in front of the house where Wojtyla was born on May 18, 1920, and in front of the neighboring basilica, where he was baptized. Concerts were planned Sunday in thanks for the elevation of a figure considered one of the greatest in Poland ever.

“I think sometimes Poland does not get that much recognition, so everything about Pope John Paul is important for this country,” said Sara Szpila of Vancouver, Canada.

John Paul remains special to his countrymen for having inspired the ouster of communism from Poland, for his support for the Solidarity freedom movement that peacefully achieved that in 1989, and for the pontiff’s teaching centered on human rights and dignity.

His contribution to abolishing the Iron Curtain in Europe is still appreciated by those in power at the time.

Germany’s chancellor at the time, Helmut Kohl, said in an open letter published today by the Bild daily that the pope played “a very considerable part in bringing down the Berlin Wall and making the peaceful end of Germany’s and Europe’s division possible.”

“He was a pontifex in the true sense of the word: he was a bridge builder,” Kohl added.



Guidelines: Please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent. If a comment violates these standards or our privacy statement or visitor's agreement, click the "X" in the upper right corner of the comment box to report abuse. To post comments, you must be a Facebook member. To find out more, please visit the FAQ.

Related stories