Pope Retraces a Path Full of Memories

Says He Hopes to Return to Krakow

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KRAKOW, Poland, AUG. 19, 2002 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II late Sunday appeared at a window of the Krakow archbishop's residence to sing with hundreds of faithful and to express his hope to return to his country.



Following an energetic rendition of the Polish song "Welcome, Alleluia," the Pope quoted an expression heard in the mountains of Poland: "When someone is leaving one says: 'Come back again.' It is what I wish and I think you also wish it."

After beatifying four Poles during the largest outdoor Mass in European history -- close to 3 million faithful attended, officials estimate -- the Holy Father spent an emotional afternoon Sunday when he visited places indelibly linked to his childhood, youth and apostolate.

His journey into the past began at Krakow's Wawel Cathedral, built between 1320 and 1364. It was in a chapel of this Gothic-style cathedral that he celebrated his first Mass on Nov. 2, 1946, the day after his ordination to the priesthood.

In silence, John Paul II prayed his breviary for more than a half-hour before the main altar. He then toured the cathedral on a mobile stand. He knew it well during the years of the country's Nazi occupation and his episcopal ministry as archbishop of Krakow.

The Holy Father then visited St. Florian's Church, where he was assistant parish priest. In a simple ceremony, he remembered the parish priests with whom he worked during those years, and kissed children who gave him bouquets of flowers amid the applause of thousands of people crowding the streets.

John Paul II's most emotional moment was his visit to Rakowice's cemetery. Riding in the popemobile, he arrived at the tomb of his father Karol Wojtyla, his mother Emilia, and his brother Edmund.

Leaning on a lowered window of the popemobile, but without leaving the vehicle, the Holy Father recollected himself in prayer for a few moments. Then he lit three candles, one for each member of his family, which were placed on the tomb, where flowers had already been laid.

The Pope's mother died when he was 9. His brother died two years later, and his father died when the future Pope was 21.