One million turn out for Pope's Krakow return

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The Independent Online
Pope John Paul II, finally home in "my beloved city," slept in his old house, visited his old school and rejoiced in the cheers of more than one million of his countrymen yesterday in the biggest turnout of his 11-day Polish pilgrimage.

The crowd began arriving shortly after dawn for the major Mass of his Krakow stay, nearly filling the city's vast Blonia meadow.

The Pope proclaimed Poland's 14th century queen, Hedwig, a saint, holding up her generosity and defence of the common good as examples for today's political leaders. His message was part of his efforts to keep Poles from losing their identity and values in the transition from a communist to a free-market economy.

While many Poles have expressed fear that this could be the last visit for John Paul, now 77 and slowed by infirmity, church officials suggested he may return next year, when he has been invited for the 1,000th anniversary of Gdansk on the Baltic coast.

Although he walked slowly and his voice was weak, the Pontiff managed to hold up his staff to acknowledge chants of "Long live the Pope".

The former Karol Wojtyla spent most of his life as student, priest and archbishop before his election to the papacy. He spent the night in the 17th century archbishop's residence where he lived for 14 years. He also visited Jagiellonian University, where he studied theology in secret after it was closed by the Nazis. AP - Krakow