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 CNS Story:

POLAND-ARRIVAL May-25-2006 (880 words) With photos. xxxi

Pope, in Poland, says faith, thanks, remembrance to guide trip

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Poland saying faith, thanksgiving and remembrance would be the guiding themes of his four-day trip.

Evoking the memory of the Polish-born Pope John Paul II, "my beloved predecessor," Pope Benedict said he was making the May 25-28 trip "to follow in the footsteps of his life from his boyhood until his departure for the memorable conclave" that elected him pope in 1978.

But even before his plane took off from Rome, the pope also highlighted the importance of the visit he planned to make May 28 to the site of the Nazis' Auschwitz-Birkenau camps.

The German-born pope said he would be remembering the millions who were killed by the Nazis, but also hoped his visit would remind the world "how man can truly lose his dignity by trampling on others."

The lesson of Auschwitz, he said, should "give birth to a new sense of humanism and humanity," underlining how essential it is for people to recognize that each person is created in the image of God in order to ensure that nothing similar can happen again.

Asked by journalists on the plane how he felt as a German about to visit Auschwitz, he said, "I am going as a Catholic most of all. I think this is the point we must learn: We are Catholic and so our nationalities are relative. They fit in to the great whole that is the Catholic Church."

Arriving at the Warsaw airport May 25, the pope began his address by reading the first three sentences in Polish. While he read some parts of the speech in Italian, an aide read most of it for him in Polish.

In the text, the pope called the Holocaust a result of the "tragic tyranny" of Nazism.

He said that at Auschwitz he hoped to pray with survivors "that the wounds of the past century will heal," particularly through efforts to request and grant forgiveness.

While Pope John Paul's memory would be present at almost every stop on the itinerary, Pope Benedict said his trip is not simply a "sentimental journey, although it is certainly that, too."

The pope said he wanted to make a "journey of faith," helping Poles solidify their commitment to living the faith and being strengthened in turn by the expressions of faith Poles would share with him.

In his address, Polish President Lech Kaczynski said that "as a president and as a Catholic" he was pleased to welcome the pope, adding that Poles were awaiting his words as they had awaited those of Pope John Paul in the past.

"Papal pilgrimages have always been a kind of national meditation for Poles -- we become better during these pilgrimages, and I trust we will also open our hearts this time. We want to stay strong in faith, and we ask your pastoral support in this effort," the president added.

"We count on your leading us in the paths set out by John Paul II," Kaczynski said.

After leaving the airport, the pope went by popemobile to Warsaw's Cathedral of St. John, driving along streets lined with cheering and waving crowds.

The popemobile slowed as it went by a monument to those who fought and died in the 1943 Warsaw ghetto uprising and past a monument to the more than 1 million Poles who were deported to Siberia by the Soviet government.

At the cathedral, the pope met with close to 1,000 representatives of the Polish clergy and emphasized that the task of strengthening the faith of Polish Catholics rested largely on their shoulders.

"Believe in the power of your priesthood," he told them.

The pope paid tribute to the often-heroic endurance of Polish priests and Poles in general during the Nazi occupation and under communism.

"Let us remember with appreciation and gratitude those who did not let themselves be overwhelmed by the forces of darkness, and let us learn from them the courage to be consistent and constant in our adherence to the Gospel of Christ," he said.

Pope Benedict said it is natural for priests to ask if God might have been able to find better instruments for bringing his love and truth to others, but they must be confident that he wants to use their mouths and their hands to reach the world.

The faithful, he said, want and need priests who are experts in the spiritual life and witnesses to eternal truths.

"In the face of the temptations of relativism or the permissive society, there is absolutely no need for the priest to know all the latest, changing currents of thought," he said.

The pope also said the temptation to hide one's faith, which was understandable under communism, is not an acceptable attitude for priests in the new Poland.

Instead, he said, they must cultivate a true spiritual brotherhood among priests, supporting one another and sharing each other's burdens.

"Christ needs priests who are mature, virile, capable of cultivating an authentic spiritual paternity," he said.

"Gazing upon Christ," the pope told them, "live a modest life in solidarity with the faithful to whom you have been sent."

- - -

Contributing to this story was Jonathan Luxmoore in Warsaw.


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