Pope returns to homeland
'I salute you, Poland'
May 31, 1997
Web posted at: 10:06 a.m. EDT (1006 GMT)
WROCLAW, Poland (CNN) -- Pope John Paul II arrived in Poland
Saturday to begin his seventh papal visit to his native
homeland. Thousands of pilgrims lined roads and climbed
barricades to catch a glimpse of the pontiff.
"I salute you, Poland -- my country," the pope said, his
voice cracking with emotion. "Even if I'm living far away, I
never cease feeling as a child of this land."
"Every time I return home, I am deeply touched."
President Aleksander Kwasniewski, Prime Minister
Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz and Cardinal Jozef Glemp greeted the
pope amid a cold drizzle at the Wroclaw airport in the
The 77-year-old pontiff walked slowly from his personal
airplane along a red carpet to a small stage. He stood with
his head bowed as a military band played the national anthem,
his left arm shaking noticeably from what many believe may be
a sign of Parkinson's disease.
Hundreds of Poles sang patriotic hymns as they strained
against a barricade to see the pope, whose white overcoat
stood out in a sea of black suits. The pontiff smiled at the
The pope is to visit 12 cities in 11 days -- one of the
longest tours of his 19-year papacy. Church leaders expect up
to 500,000 pilgrims from more than 70 countries to turn out
just this weekend in Wroclaw.
Pope urges social healing
Kwasniewksi praised John Paul for his role in helping Poland
overthrow the Communists in 1989, and for his "words of hope
and encouragement" as the country struggles with free market
The pope spoke of his "deep feeling" about returning to what
he called "our common motherland." He acknowledged the
country's economic progress, but also noted the "problems and
tensions" wrought from a market economy.
The problems "must be resolved through a common and caring
effort by all, in respect of the rights of each person, and
especially the most defenseless and weak," he said.
He added that Poland "can play an important role" in shaping
the future of Europe.
Following his brief speech, the pope was taken to Wroclaw's
cathedral. Tens of thousands crowded the streets along the
route and flags and portraits of the pontiff draped
The pope was to meet later Saturday with Kwasniewski, a
former Communist who defeated Solidarity leader Lech Walesa
for the presidency in 1995 as a Social Democrat.
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