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Pope Celebrates Mass in Krakow

In Poland, hundreds of thousands of people attended a mass Sunday celebrated by Pope Benedict in the city of Krakow, where his predecessor, John Paul II, served as archbishop before becoming pope.

The whole city of Krakow and many more people from surrounding areas turned out in Blonia field. An estimated 900,000 people gathered for Pope Benedict's mass. To be sure they would get to see the pope, many came to the field hours ahead of time, spending the night in the rain. When the pope arrived, he was welcomed by a sea of red and white Polish flags and yellow and white Vatican flags.

Blonia field was completely filled with people, just like it used to be in the days when John Paul II celebrated masses here. Many of the faithful were moved to tears, saying it was exceptional that Pope Benedict came to visit Poland, the land of his predecessor.

Benedict said he came to meet the men and women of Poland, to experience their faith, which gave John Paul life and strength. He said when John Paul was elected, Poland became a special witness to the faith.

He called on those gathered to honor the memory of the Polish pope by sharing the treasure of his faith with the other people of Europe and with the rest of the world.

Benedict called the city of his predecessor "My Krakow." He said Krakow has a special place in the heart of countless Christians throughout the world who know John Paul came from this city.

He said he was deeply moved to celebrate mass where Pope John Paul II often did during his visits to his native land.

Benedict said there are no doubts that John Paul's celebration of Holy Mass in Blonia Park in Krakow was always an exceptional event.

The German pope said he had felt a deep need to visit Poland and Krakow as a pilgrim in the footsteps of his predecessor, to see the land where John Paul was born, grew up and began his tireless service to the Church.

On his final day in Poland, Pope Benedict was also scheduled to visit the former Nazi death camp at Auschwitz, a visit expected to be significant for Catholic-Jewish relations.