Pilgrimage Over, Poles Await Effects of Pontiff’s Visit Home
WARSAW, Poland (AP) _ Pope John Paul II’s fourth pilgrimage to his homeland has ended with the pontiff telling believers that he will stand by them as they face their new test of freedom.
The Polish-born John Paul ended the nine-day visit Sunday with an emotionally charged Mass in which he reminded Poles to be firm in their beliefs.
He later told bishops, priests and nuns to continue fighting for a ban on abortion and thanked those parliament members working to reverse Poland’s 1956 Communist-passed law permitting abortion on demand.
Hundreds of thousands of Poles saw the pople during his 12-city visit, and many applauded the attention he showed on his homeland.
″I think the Holy Father gave the majority of us at least an extra bit of spirit,″ said a 62-year-old retiree, Wanda Kowalska, interviewed in a Warsaw park.
However, some people said they felt bruised by the pontiff’s harsh homilies against abortion, pornography and consumerism.
″Some of his words were too stern and I think that’s the general feeling,″ said taxi driver Artur Janiak, 37.
On his tour, John Paul campaigned against abortion; made appeals of faith to Lithuanians, Byelorussians and Ukrainians in living next door in the Soviet Union; urged tolerance among the region’s contentious ethnic and religious groups and told East Europeans to cope with their new freedom by building their lives on the solid ″rock″ of the Ten Commandments.
The pope Sunday at a closed meeting of Polish bishops and heads of religious orders gave specific support for the first time to the anti-abortion bill pending in parliament, church officials said.
Ryszard Czarnecki, spokesman of the National Christian Party, on Monday said he thought that the pope’s strong condemnation of abortion would be enough to cause the ban to be enacted.
John Paul II told leaders of Poland’s remaining Jewish community on Sunday that the church will step up its battle against anti-Semitism. But he failed to meet their requests that the Vatican establish formal ties with Israel.
Recalling the message he first brought as pope to Poland in 1979 - that the Holy Spirit should ″renew the earth″ - the pontiff said it was time for a ″new evangelization″ of Europe to oppose a spreading mentality that ″God has ceased to exist.″
At least 300,000 people crowded Warsaw’s Agrykola Park for the closing service held around a wading pond, with its placid surface pierced by a towering silver cross.
With Communism’s fall, Poles and other Eastern Europeans face ″a new test of freedom,″ the pope said.
What matters, he said, is not ″egotism″ and ″quick economic success″ but willingness ″to give of oneself″ and ″moral progress.″
At Warsaw’s airport before leaving for Rome, John Paul compared the challenges facing Poland to ″crossing of the Red Sea.″
″We must not lose heart in the face of difficulties,″ he said.