POPE BENEDICT MAKES EMOTIONAL VISIT TO HIS PREDECESSOR’S NATIVE TOWN
(May 27, 2006): For Pope Benedict XVI, currently on a 4-day pastoral pilgrimage to
Poland, Saturday proved to be particularly emotional especially when he visited Wadowice,
the birthplace of his predecessor Pope John Paul II. An estimated 30,000 crowd
sang and cheered, waving Polish and Vatican flags, as Pope Benedict arrived by motorcade
to pray in the church and visit Pope John Paul's childhood home, accompanied by Krakow's
archbishop, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the late pope's longtime personal secretary.
After praying in the ornate church, the German Pope walked down a cobblestone street
to the house on Koscielna Street where his late predecessor spent his boyhood, now
a museum devoted to Pope John Paul. There he was greeted by the nuns who run the
museum, and he walked through the rooms where photographs document the boyhood of
Karol Wojtyla, the future pope. Later, addressing the crowd at Wadowice’s Rynek
Park, Pope Benedict XVI said he was filled with emotion to stop precisely in the place
where the faith of his beloved predecessor began and matured, and he wished to pray
together with them that he may soon be declared a Blessed and subsequently a Saint.
and subsequently a saint. Quoting Pope John Paul II’s words on the baptismal font
in Wadowice at which the Polish Pope was christened, Pope Benedict observed that
"The way of an authentically Christian life equals faithfulness to the promises of
holy Baptism." The motto of Pope Benedict’s May 25-28 Polish visit is “Stand Firm
In Your Faith.” This motto, the Pope said, finds in this place its concrete dimension
that can be expressed as: “Stand firm in the observance of your baptismal promises.”
Reflecting on the significance of the family parish and church for spiritual development,
the Pope noted: "The church is a sign of the communion of believers united by the
presence of God who dwells in their midst." He underlined the fact the John Paul II’s
love for the Church was born precisely in the Wadowice parish. "In it he experienced
the sacramental life, evangelization and the formation of a mature faith," he explained.
This is why Pope Benedict had asked Poland’s bishops during their ‘ad limina’ visit
to Rome, to make every effort that the Polish parish might be truly an "ecclesial
community" and a "family of the Church." Pope Benedict also pointed to another
very strong trait of the faith and spirituality his predecessor – Mary. The late
Pope himself remembered many times the deep attachment of the inhabitants of Wadowice
to the local image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help and the custom of daily prayer in
front of her by the school children. Pope Benedict pointed out this helps us to 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” (I am All Yours).
Until the last moments of his earthly pilgrimage he remained faithful to this dedication.
In the spirit of this dedication to Mary, Pope Benedict XVI thanked God for the pontificate
of John Paul II before the image of Our Lady and asked the Mother of God to protect