- Title: POLAND: Pope Benedict follows in his predecessors footsteps with Polish visit
- Date: 25th May 2006
- Summary: (W3) WARSAW, POLAND (MAY 25, 2006) (REUTERS) (AS 8682/06) POPE BENEDICT XVI GETTING INTO POPEMOBILE PHOTOGRAPHERS POPEMOBILE LEAVING
- Embargoed: 9th June 2006 13:00
- Location: Poland
- Country: Poland
- Topics: International Relations,Religion
- Reuters ID: LVAC2WAU5SK51ZXLY6XCT70WV8Q5
- Aspect Ratio:
- Story Text: Poland gave German-born Pope Benedict a warm but sparse reception on Thursday (May 26) as he began a visit to honour his predecessor John Paul and help banish lingering ghosts of the Nazi occupation.
The new conservative government turned out in force to welcome him at the airport and thousands of waiting Poles burst into cheers and applause when Benedict, 79, started addressing them in clear, slightly accented Polish.
"I am happy to stand in your midst today on the soil of the Republic of Poland. I have very much wanted to make this visit to the native land and people of my beloved predecessor, the servant of God, John Paul II. I have come to follow in the footsteps of his life, from his boyhood until his departure for the memorable conclave of 1978," Benedict said to crowds of followers.
There were noticeably fewer people lining the streets into Warsaw than the hundreds of thousands who used to turn out for John Paul's triumphal visits to his homeland. Police estimated about 70,000 came out to see him pass in his white popemobile.
In deference to Polish and Jewish sensitivities, Benedict will avoid speaking German for most of the four-day trip, except when he prays at the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz on Sunday.
His trip will take him also to cities and shrines dear to his predecesor John Paul and end in southern Poland at Auschwitz, where 1.5 million people, many of them Jews, were killed during World War Two.
Reflecting the sensitivity about his background, he stressed before leaving Rome that he would go to Auschwitz primarily as a Catholic honouring the victims.
Benedict, who was involuntarily enrolled in the Hitler Youth during the war and briefly served in an anti-aircraft unit, will also meet survivors and Jewish leaders at Auschwitz.
Welcoming Benedict, President Lech Kaczynski cited his long years of work alongside John Paul as "the greatest model of cooperation between a German and a Pole".
The Pope, more reserved than his charismatic predecessor, smiled and waved as the popemobile glided through Warsaw's streets. At one point, he stopped to take a child in his arms and bless him.
Addressing clergymen at Saint John's Cathedral in central Warsaw, Benedict said priests should stay out of politics -- a touchy topic because the Catholic radio station Radio Maryja (Mary) openly supports the ruling eurosceptic conservatives. The militantly traditionalist station has split the Polish clergy and prompted a harsh warning from the Vatican.
Benedict's outdoor masses in Warsaw on Friday and Krakow on Sunday and stops at popular shrines are certain to be compared with similar appearances by John Paul, whose visits challenged the pre-1989 communist rulers and inspired millions of Poles.
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