As Pontiff visits his predecessor's home town he tells Poles that he too is waiting for the miracles to confirm the last Pope is now a saint
FROM CINDY WOODEN IN WADOWICE
ON A DAY DEDICATED to the memory of Pope John Paul H, the first unscripted words Pope Benedict XVI spoke during his trip to Poland referred to the sainthood cause of the Polish-born Pope.
"1, too, hope that divine providence soon grants us the beatification and canonisation of our dear Pope John Paul II," he told a crowd gathered on Saturday at the Kalwaria Zebrzydowska shrine.
The Pope's day began in Wadowice with a visit to Immaculate Conception Basilica, where Karol Wojtyla — the future pope — was baptised, received his first Communion and served as an altarboy.
While some 25,000 people waited in the square in front of the church Pope Benedict walked down a narrow street to the Wojtyla house, now a museum.
A banner, hanging directly opposite the papal stage in the square, asked Pope Benedict to declare "John Paul II the Great" a saint soon.
At an afternoon press conference, Vatican spokesman Joaquin NavarroValls said people should not read the Pope's words at Kalwaria as a sign that he was ready to take immediate action.
Mr Navarro-Valls said that although Pope Benedict had set aside the normal five-year waiting period before a sainthood cause is initiated "there is a huge amount of material to be read and studied. and it will take time". Meeting the people of Wadowice, Pope Benedict said he wanted to visit the place where Pope John Paul's "faith began and matured, to pray together with all of you that he may soon be elevated to the glory of the altars" with beatification and canonisation.
"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," he said.
"I also ask all of you, dear brothers and sisters, to pray for me just as you prayed for your great fellow countryman," the Pope said.
After a brief stop at the Kalwaria shrine dedicated to Christ's suffering and death — a place the-then Karol Wojtyla frequented from childhood — Pope Benedict went to the Divine Mercy Shrine on the outskirts of Krakow.
As a young man during World War II, Pope John Paul would stop there to pray on his way to or from work in the Solvay quarry and factory.
As a bishop he promoted the cause of Sister Faustina Kowalska, a nun of the convent who promoted recognition of God's divine mercy as demonstrated in his sending his son to die for the sins of humanity.
Pope John Paul beatified, then canonised. Sister Faustina and designated the Sunday after Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday.
Meeting young people in Krakow in the evening, Pope Benedict XVI told them the experience of having had a Polish pope had made it easier for the youth of Krakow and of Poland in general to understand the importance of the papacy for the fidelity and unity of the Catholic Church.
Polish police estimated that 600,000 people were in Krakow's Blonie Park for the youth gathering; wide papal smiles greeted their singing, chanting and cheers.
When the young people began singing "Sto Lat", a traditional Polish song of wishes for a long life, Pope Benedict seemed surprised. He put his hands together and bowed deeply to thank the crowd.
Pope Benedict assured the youth that, like Pope John Paul, "who is watching our gathering from the window of God the Father", he would offer his heart and his hands to help them build their lives on Christ and with Christ.
Using the image of building a house, Pope Benedict spoke to the youths about the need for a solid foundation of faith, truth and love as they mature, study. dream and prepare to fulfil their Godgiven vocations.
"Dear young friends," he said, "the fear of failure can at times frustrate even the most beautiful dreams," para
lyzing people or making them think their ideals are just childish wishes.
"The desire for a full, happy and successful life" is natural and beautiful, he said, not something to fear or to give up on just because some people seem to fail.
The key, he said, is to be confident that God will help and that faith will provide the guidance needed.
"You are all witnesses to hope, to that hope which is not afraid to build the house of one's own life because it is certain that it can count on the foundation that will never crumble: Jesus Christ Our Lord," he said.
Pope Benedict returned to the park on Sunday to celebrate Mass with the people of Krakow, who were joined by people from all over southern Poland, neighbouring countries and even the United States and Canada, judging by the flags they were waving.
The Pope told the crowd — estimated at more than 800,000 people — that he wanted "to breathe the air" of Pope John Paul's homeland, meet his predecessor's fellow Poles and experience their faith, "which gave him life and strength".
"When Karol Wojtyla was elected to the see of Peter in order to serve the universal Church, your land became a place of special witness to faith in Jesus Christ," he said.
"This vocation of yours is always needed, and it is . perhaps even more urgent than ever now that the servant of God has passed from this life," Pope Benedict said. "Do not deprive the world of this witness."