Pope finishes Polish pilgrimage
June 10, 1997
Web posted at: 11:46 a.m. EDT (1546 GMT)
KROSNO, Poland (CNN) -- Pope John Paul II wrapped up an
11-day visit to his native Poland Tuesday with an emotional
farewell at the Krosno airport.
My years in Rome have not extinguished my love for this
land," he said at the end of his Mass. "God bless you."
A half million worshippers chanted "stay with us" at the final
major event of the pope's pilgrimage.
During the Mass, John Paul II urged Polish Christians to
"remain faithful to the traditions of your ancestors."
"These words express your Christian dignity," he said. "Do
not let them be taken away from you -- some poeple are trying
to do so."
The Polish pope, who hiked the area around Krosno in his
youth, proclaimed 15th century monk John of Dukla a saint
during the Mass. The Franciscan holy man helped repel a
Tartar attack on the town Lvov, now in Ukraine.
The Catholic Church estimates that some 6 million people saw
John Paul on this trip to his homeland, including 1.5
million in Krakow, his hometown, on Sunday.
"I don't believe he will come here again," said Filip
Koscicki, a 49-year-old teacher at the Krosno Mass. "He is
tired and exhausted. Although I would like to see him again,
because we will never have such a pope again."
The Vatican dismisses speculation that the pontiff's health
might prevent him from returning to Poland for an eighth time
as pope, but John Paul's health has been failing in recent
months, and he is visibly frailer than he once was.
John Paul was to consecrate a mountain church later on
Tuesday, and then travel by helicopter back to Krakow before
boarding a flight back to Rome.
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