2006-05-28 14:42:37


(May 28, 2006): Some 900,000 Poles sang, clapped and chanted “Benedetto, Benedetto” at a Mass in Błonie Park of the southern Polish city of Krakow on Sunday for Pope Benedict XVI, who urged them to share their faith with other countries in a mostly secular Europe. Pope Benedict said that was the best way to honour his predecessor, late Pope John Paul II. “I ask you, finally, to share with the other peoples of Europe and the world, not least as a way of honouring the memory of your countryman, who, as the successor of St. Peter, did this with extraordinary power and effectiveness,” said Pope Benedict as he concluded his homily during the Mass in the Blonia meadow.
“I ask you to stand firm in your faith! Stand firm in your hope! Stand firm in your love! Amen!” he concluded, speaking in Polish on the last day of his May 25-28 trip. The exuberant throng chanted his name and sang “Sto Lat,” or “May You Live A Hundred Years.” The 79-year-old German Pope has reached out to Poles by delivering parts of his speeches and homilies in Polish, and by retracing their beloved native son John Paul II's steps. He seemed to be a hit with the crowds everywhere he went, drawing applause, cheers and singing especially from the young – scenes reminiscent of the popularity of his Polish predecessor.
In his Sunday homily, Pope Benedict appealed to dominantly Catholic Poland to serve as a beacon of faith in a Europe that has become mostly secular. The country joined the European Union only two years ago, 15 years after the collapse of communist rule.
Later on Sunday afternoon, the pontiff’s four-day trip was due to reach a poignant climax with a visit to the most infamous of the death camps that Hitler’s Nazi Germany set up and ran during World War II. Nearly 1.5 million people, mostly Jews, were murdered there. The symbolism was heightened by the fact that Pope Benedict is a German who was involuntarily enrolled in the Hitler Youth paramilitary organisation and then drafted into an anti-aircraft unit towards the end of World War Two. Pope Benedict, who visited Auschwitz with John Paul in 1979 and with other German bishops in 1980, has said he saw slave labourers during his short army service. The brutality of the Nazi regime helped him decide to be a priest. The visit to the former concentration camp, now a memorial to the dead, was heavy with significance for Catholic-Jewish relations.

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