05/28/2006, 00.00
POLAND - VATICAN
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Pope calls on Poles to evangelize the world in Wojtyla's footsteps

During Mass on the esplanade of Blonie: "The Krakow of Wojtyla is my Krakow too!" A prayer for the people of Indonesia, victims of the quake.

Krakow (AsiaNews) – In the last public gesture of his visit to Poland, Benedict XVI called on all Poles to live the legacy of John Paul II and reassured them that the new pope loves Poland and the Poles just as his predecessor had done. Before an interrupted wall of white and red flowers - the colours of the Polish flag - enveloping around images of the papal shield and the Divine Mercy, before millions of believers gathered on the esplanade of Blonie Park, thus did Benedict XVI deliver his final greeting to Poland. Taking his cue from today's gospel about the Feast of the Ascension, that records the missionary mandate Jesus gave to his disciples (cfr Mk 16:15), Benedict XVI called on all Poles to live the same dedication to Christ, to the Church and to the world as Karol Wojtyla: "Dear Brothers and Sisters! When Karol Wojtyła was elected to the See of Peter in order to serve the universal Church, your land became a place of special witness to faith in Jesus Christ. You were called to give this witness before the whole world. This vocation of yours is always needed, and it is perhaps even more urgent than ever, now that the Servant of God has passed from this life. Do not deprive the world of this witness!"

The pope exhorted all to "stand on earth", but to allow themselves to be inspired in their deeds by "looking to heaven": "I am asking you to look up from earth to heaven, to lift your eyes to the One to whom succeeding generations have looked for two thousand years, and in whom they have discovered life's ultimate meaning. Strengthened by faith in God, devote yourselves fervently to consolidating his Kingdom on earth, a Kingdom of goodness, justice, solidarity and mercy. ask you to bear courageous witness to the Gospel before today's world, bringing hope to the poor, the suffering, the lost and abandoned, the desperate and those yearning for freedom, truth and peace. By doing good to your neighbour and showing your concern for the common good, you bear witness that God is love. I ask you, finally, to share with the other peoples of Europe and the world the treasure of your faith, not least as a way of honouring the memory of your countryman, who, as the Successor of Saint Peter, did this with extraordinary power and effectiveness."

This "transmission of the legacy" of Wojtyla to all Poles was celebrated with another "transmission": the regard of Wojtyla for Poland is the same as that of Benedict XVI. With moving and personal tones, that drew applause from the packed crowd, the German pope cried out: "In his first Apostolic Visit to Poland, on 10 June 1979, at the end of his homily in this Park, he said with nostalgia: "Allow me, before leaving you, to look out once again on Kraków, this Kraków whose every stone and brick is dear to me. And to look out once again from here on Poland." During the last Mass he celebrated here, on 18 August 2002, he said in his homily: "I am grateful for the invitation to visit my Kraków and for the hospitality you have given me" (no. 2). I wish to take up these words, to make them my own and repeat them today: I thank you with all my heart "for the invitation to visit my Kraków and for the hospitality you have given me." Kraków, the city of Karol Wojtyła and of John Paul II, is also my Kraków! Kraków has a special place in the hearts of countless Christians throughout the world who know that John Paul II came to the Vatican Hill from this city, from Wawel Hill, "from a far country", which thus became a country dear to all."

And to further confirm the bond between John Paul II and Benedict XVI, the pope added: "Here I wish to ask God to preserve that legacy of faith, hope and charity which John Paul II gave to the world, and to you in particular." He asked Poles to pray for him, as they had prayed for and sustained the ministry of Wojtyla: "And remember me in your prayers and sacrifices, even as you remembered my great Predecessor, so that I can carry out the mission Christ has given me. I ask you to stand firm in your faith! Stand firm in your hope! Stand firm in your love! Amen!"

The mass was marked by solemnity and participation, under a grey sky which however did not yield any rain. During the universal prayers, there were prayers offered for the victims of the Indonesia quake, that they may find prompt solidarity forthcoming from the international community.

At the end of the celebration, Benedict XVI delivered a few words of greetings to the population, to lecturers and students of Polish universities, and especially to youth, who he met the previous night on the same esplanade. "In particular I address myself to the young people, who yesterday expressed their adherence to Christ and to the Church. Yesterday you presented me with the gift of your book of testimonies: "I do not take them, I am free of drugs". I ask you now as your father: remain faithful to this promise. It is a question of your lives and your freedom. Do not let yourselves fall victim to this world's illusions."

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