DAILY CATHOLIC     MONDAY     June 21, 1999     vol. 10, no. 119


On-going coverage of the Holy Father's marathon trip to his homeland

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Twenty Cities in Thirteen Days

          VATICAN CITY, JUN 18 (ZENIT).- Over the past two weeks, John Paul II has been visiting his homeland. Traveling by airplane, helicopter, and car, he has been from one end of the country to the other. In all, he visited twenty cities in his thirteen-day trip.

          From the moment of his arrival, the great affection of the Poles for this hometown hero was clear. Every public appearance was thronged with people. On Saturday the 13th, John Paul II celebrated Mass for some 800,000 in Gdansk, with crowds reaching 1.5 million in Krakow.

God is Love

          Several themes were apparent in the Pope's discourses. The most prominent was that of love -- the love of God the Father and love between people. In Gdansk, birthplace of the Solidarnosc union that challenged communism, he urged the Poles to love one another. "There is no freedom without solidarity," he stated, recalling the slogan of his 1987 visit, "but there is no solidarity without love."

          In Elk, one of the poorest zones of the country, he extended this love to the poor. "Let no one be without a roof over his head, or bread on the table; let no one feel alone, abandoned or uncared for," he told the crowds on the 8th.

          Human life is also a gift of God's love, a point that the Holy Father stressed in his visit to Lowicz, a small city to the West of Warsaw. "Human life is sacred. No one, under any circumstance can claim for himself the right to directly destroy an innocent human being. God is absolute Lord of man's life, created in his image and likeness. Human life, therefore, has a sacred and inviolable character which reflects the very inviolability of the Creator."


          The other major theme that punctuated the Pope's visit was that of sanctity and witness. Indeed, the whole visit is physically marked by this theme, with two separate beatifications of a total of 109 martyrs and the canonization of a Polish Princess. The Holy Father also often made reference to the victims of the Nazi and Communist regimes.

          During World War II, half the priests of Pelpin were killed by the Nazis. Celebrating Mass there on the 6th, he said that their memory lives "because it was from their lips that our generation heard the word of God and, thanks to their sacrifice, experienced its power."

          The very next day, in Bydgoszcz (some hundred miles south of Gdansk) the Pontiff remembered the martyrs of all time, from the victims of Roman persecution, to Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko, a local priest kidnapped and killed by the Communists in 1987, with special mention of mothers who even today, die to bring life to their children. "The world needs people who have the courage to love and do not retreat before any sacrifice, in the hope that one day it will bear abundant fruit."

          One of the most dramatic moments of the visit was the beatification of 108 martyrs of the Nazi persecution in Warsaw on June 13. These brave men and women "gave their lives for Christ, in order to possess life forever in his glory." Many were killed because of their action to help the Jewish people during the war. One mother died in the place of her pregnant daughter. To these 108 martyrs must be added the witness of Fr. Stefan Wincenty Frelichowski, martyred in Dachau, and beatified on the 8th in Torun.

          The final witness of sanctity in the Pope's visit was St. Kinga, whom he beatified on the 16th in Stary Sacz. Though she wanted to consecrate her life as a virgin, circumstances forced her to marry. This didn't stop her resolve -- she convinced her husband to live a chaste life within their marriage. This heroic virtue became the springboard for the Pope's homily: "I speak in a special way to you young people: defend your inner freedom! Let no false shame keep you from cultivating chastity!"

The Sacred Heart

          Given that his pilgrimage took place in June, the month traditionally dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Christ, it is not surprising that the Holy Father made several acts of devotion during this visit. So it was that on June 11, in Warsaw, the Holy Father revealed the secret to building a civilization of love.

          On this occasion, John Paul II signed a document commemorating the hundredth anniversary of the consecration of the human race to the Sacred Heart by Leo XIII. "From the Heart of the Son of God who died on the cross flows the perennial source of life, which gives hope to every man. From the Heart of the crucified Christ the new humanity is born, redeemed from sin. The man of 2000 needs the Heart of Christ to know God and to know himself, and to build the civilization of love."

The Poles and the Pope

          The huge crowds attracted by the Pope defied all prediction. The people were truly euphoric to have Karol Wojtila among them again. This was especially apparent when he caught the flu and was forced to cancel his appearances for June 15. The Mass celebrated by Cardinal Sodano for an estimated 1.5 million faithful became a united chant of "Stay with us. Come to us," when the Cardinal mentioned that the Pope was watching on television.

          After the Mass, hundreds gathered outside the Archbishop's residence to sing, play instruments, and cheer. When the Pope was finally given a clean bill of health by his physician (about 9 p.m.), he made a brief appearance at the window to wild applause and cheering.

          Nowhere was the affection of the Poles for their Pope more obvious than in Wadowice, the Holy Father's birthplace. There, the Pontiff reminisced about old times for almost forty minutes, with the crowd constantly asking for more stories.

          The Holy Father ended his pilgrimage with an unplanned stop at the shrine of Jasna Gora, in Chestochowa. There he prayed at the icon of the Black Madonna. "I come to Jasna Gora as a pilgrim in order to bow before Mary, Mother of Christ, to pray to Her, and to pray together with Her. I wish to thank Her for the care extended in these days of my pastoral ministry in the Church of my Homeland. Mary has been with us throughout this pilgrimage, interceding to Her Son for spiritual gifts for us so that we may be able to 'do whatever He tells us.' " ZE99061820


John Paul II Continues to Surprise Everyone, Including Poles

    VATICAN CITY, JUN 18 (ZENIT).- John Paul II's stamina throughout his Polish visit has surprised everyone, including the journalists. Fr. Jan Kloczowski, O.P., director of the "Tygodnik Powszechny" weekly newspaper, which published many of Karol Wojtyla's poems and essays, says that the Pope literally draws strength from the crowds.

          "In 1991 he shouted at us; in 1997 he caressed us. And now ... he has exalted us and made us happy," stated Fr. Kloczowski.

          Like a marathon runner who pushes himself to the limits of his physical strength, by drawing on his spiritual strength John Paul II met with some 10 million faithful in his country, in what can best be described as a hectic pilgrimage. He visited 20 places in 13 days: an agenda which would overwhelm anyone. "When I heard about his schedule for the visit, I was afraid the Pope wanted to end his days in Poland," a Catholic Polish journalist said in a low voice.

          His body rebelled only once, when fever gripped him for some hours. Yet, it was precisely on that day, that the people's love for the Pope was most powerfully expressed. With great affection they crowded around the Archbishop's residence, playing instruments, singing songs, calling for the Pope's presence at the window. "Father, Father," they cried. "Speak, speak," they implored. Finally, visibly moved, the Pope came to the window and invoked the Virgin Mary. The exultant youth shouted: "Stay, stay. Get well, get well." It would seem that the contact between the Pope and the youths was enough to make the Holy Father decide to keep going. On the very last day of his trip to Poland, full of medicines, the Pontiff went to Gliwice by helicopter -- the place he had been unable to visit on Tuesday because of his illness. And, as though this was not enough, he added another stop: at Czestochowa, where he prayed before the Black Madonna.

          It seems that in response to his companions' concern, John Paul II answered he had "eternity" to rest. Sisters Tobiana and Eufrosia, the Polish nuns who care for him at the Vatican, have tried to slow him down. "I am worried about you, Your Holiness," Sister Eufrosia said, after a very tiring trip. "I am also worried about my holiness," the Pope quipped.

          In the early part of his pontificate, the Holy Father replied to criticisms from the Curia about his trips: "If I stayed in Rome writing encyclicals, only a few people would read them. If I travel and mix with people, I will meet all kinds of people and will be heard by some who would otherwise never come to see me."

          It is not known exactly how, but it seems that John Paul II draws strength from the crowds. In his tireless trips through the continents, during the twenty years of his pontificate, hundreds of millions of men and women have come to greet this Pope.

          It is extraordinary to watch how in moments of exhaustion the Pope seems to give in to fatigue, even his voice is affected, but as soon as he starts to talk spontaneously with the multitudes, his tongue is loosened, his voice becomes vibrant and his eyes break into a smile.

          Father Kloczowski, who has known the Holy Father for a long time, said, "Contrary to what is thought in the West, this Pope is not, in fact, doctrinaire and dogmatic, but faithful to the origins of his phenomenological thought: the religious dimension is not a theory but an experience, and the figures of the saints embody the concrete reality."

          Those who have seen John Paul II pray or celebrate Mass confirm that it is precisely the spiritual dimension, which is almost mystical, that is at the base of his strength. ZE99061808


          VATICAN CITY, 19 (NE) May "this pilgrimage, on the eve of the Great Jubilee of the year 2000, contribute to becoming conscious of the values of the Gospel, and to deepen in the responsibilities for the future of the nation and its citizens." This has been the intention expressed by the Pope himself after the intense apostolic pilgrimage to his natal country.

          In a telegram sent to the President of Poland and made public yesterday by the Holy See Press Office, the Pope reminded of the necessity of this nation to "develop on the foundation of truth and good, justice and love."

          The Holy Father sent telegrams also to the presidents of Slovakia, Croatia and Slovenia. He also sent a message to Italian President Ciampi, who received the Pontiff at his return to Rome. In his brief message about the pilgrimage, the Pope recalled the Christian communities that he had found in Polish lands, "full of spiritual fervor, apostolic ardor and generous commitment based on the Gospel."


          VATICAN CITY, 18 (NE) Concluding a historical pilgrimage to his homeland, Pope John Paul II returned yesterday to Rome after thirteen days of intense apostolic activity. The Pope's last day visiting Poland suffered some changes in the program, as he stayed several hours longer than expected.

          The Pontiff presided a Mass in the Cathedral of Wawel and afterwards prayed before his parents' and brother's grave. It was in the Cathedral of Wawel where he celebrated his first Mass as a priest, the day after he was ordained.

          Pope John Paul II also went to pray before the Virgin of Czestochowa, and visited the mining city of Glinice, which the Pope had not been able to visit earlier during his trip. Upon concluding his visit, the Holy Father left for Rome from the airport of Krakow, as he had done in previous opportunities. Before returning, he pronounced a speech before the country's authorities.

Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

June 21, 1999       volume 10, no. 119


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