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Pope Benedict Visits Birthplace of John Paul


Pope Benedict IVX is on the third day of a visit to Poland, following in the footsteps of his predecessor John Paul II. On Saturday morning he visited his birthplace in the town of Wadowice.

A huge crowd packed the main square of Wadowice, and the nearby streets for Pope Benedict's visit to his predecessor's hometown. Many stood under a banner calling for their beloved pope, who died in April of last year, to be declared a saint soon.

Benedict received a very warm welcome. Thousands waved white and yellow Vatican flags and cheered.

Benedict first prayed in the Baroque church where John Paul was baptized. Then he visited his childhood home, which is now a museum. Benedict walked through the rooms where photos document John Paul's boyhood.

Then he addressed the multitude gathered in the John Paul II Square.

He told those gathered before him that he could not fail to visit Wadowice, the place, he said, where John Paul's faith began and matured. Benedict added that John Paul's love for the church was born in the parish of Wadowice.

The pope's itinerary Saturday also included a visit to two shrines that were important places of prayer for the Polish pope. Before leaving the first one he visited, the shrine of Kalwaria, Benedict said what many were waiting to hear.

Benedict said that he, like Krakow Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, John Paul's long-time personal secretary, was praying that their favorite son would soon be declared blessed and then a saint.

Benedict put John Paul on the fast track to sainthood only a month after being elected to succeed him in April 2005.

On Saturday afternoon, Pope Benedict was scheduled to visit Wawel Cathedral in Krakow and then address young people in the city's park of Blonie.

On his final day, Sunday, Benedict, who has avoided speaking his native German so as not to offend Polish and Jewish sensitivities is also due to visit the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

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