Pope Benedict XVI began a four-day visit to Poland, Thursday, where he will visit the places important to his predecessor, John Paul II. The Pontiff is expected to be a stop at the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
The Pope will be spending four days in Poland. It is Benedict's second trip abroad since his election, last year. It is the first trip chosen by him. Last summer, he traveled to his native Germany on a visit that had originally been planned by Pope John Paul, who died in April, last year.
In part, his visit to the homeland of his predecessor is expected to be a journey down "memory lane." He will go to places that were significant to John Paul's life and papacy. Pope Benedict will visit John Paul's birthplace, his former archdiocese, Krakow, and two shrines that were important to him.
Addressing thousands of pilgrims in Saint Peter's Square, Wednesday, the Pope said he would be traveling to John-Paul's homeland.
He asked for the prayers of the faithful to accompany him on his visit. He says he is traveling to Poland to pray for a spring of renewal of the faith and civil progress in the country and to keep alive the memory of John Paul II.
Pope Benedict is not only paying homage to his predecessor, but also continuing his dialogue and reconciliation efforts. The slogan of his visit is, "Remain strong in the faith."
The trip is being seen as cementing the Polish-German reconciliation. Poland is a strongly Catholic country and the Pope is also likely to use the opportunity to make a call against growing secularism in Europe.
The trip is also expected to be significant for relations between Catholics and Jews. For many, the key moment of the Benedict's visit to Poland will come on his final day, when he visits Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Nazi's biggest and most cruelly efficient death camp. There, the German Pope is expected to pay tribute to the victims of the Holocaust.