- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 18, 2002

KRAKOW, Poland Pope John Paul II spent a deeply nostalgic day in his homeland yesterday, sleeping in his old bed, visiting his old street and driving by the disused quarry where he labored during the Nazi occupation.
John Paul's second day in Poland showed that a return home is unlike any other pilgrimage for the ailing 82-year-old pope.
"I wish to say that many of my personal memories are connected with this place," John Paul said at the end of Mass in the just-completed Basilica of God's Mercy, across a field from the Solvay chemical plant and quarry and surrounded by supermarkets and a movie theater complex.
"Until this day, I remember this road that led from Borek Falecki to Debniki. Every day, I walked this road coming to work for different shifts in wooden shoes that one used to wear in those days.
"How could one imagine that this man in wooden shoes would one day be consecrating" a basilica in Krakow, said John Paul, who worked at Solvay in the 1940s to escape deportation to labor camps in Germany.
Later, his "popemobile" stopped in front of the gray two-story building at No. 10 Tyniecka Street, where he lived with his father after they moved from Wadowice, the pope's birthplace, in 1938. A 7-year-old boy living there now came out and gave John Paul flowers.
"Behind every corner, there's a memory," said the pope's spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls.
Tens of thousands of adoring Poles are giving John Paul a joyous welcome home on his ninth, and some fear his last, trip back.
"He's in good shape, intellectually perfect," Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski said after private talks with the pontiff yesterday afternoon.
Poles hoped the visit to his homeland would invigorate John Paul, who suffers the symptoms of Parkinson's disease trembling hands and slurred speech and knee and hip problems.
Consecrating the basilica, John Paul referred to evil in the world, making what appeared to be references to the September 11 terror attacks and their aftermath.
"Where hatred and the thirst for revenge dominate, where war brings suffering and death to the innocent, there the grace of mercy is needed," the pope said, his voice faltering.
Prime Minister Leszek Miller said he told the pope it would not be his last visit and declared the government's readiness to receive him at any time. "Well, if God only allows," he quoted John Paul as responding.
During the four-day trip, John Paul is staying at the archbishop's residence in central Krakow. Polish church officials said John Paul is sleeping in the same bed he used as archbishop before his 1978 election as the church's first Polish pope.
The visit, limited by frailties, centers on the Krakow region, where the young Karol Wojtyla nurtured his faith, was ordained and became archbishop.
At Krakow's Jagellonne University, where John Paul studied philosophy and literature in the late 1930s, he was given an honorary student card for 13 Krakow universities.
More than 4 million pilgrims were expected to attend the pope's visit. About 2.5 million people are expected today at an open-air Mass the largest outdoor service ever in Poland.

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