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Last Updated: Saturday, 1 April 2006, 16:15 GMT 17:15 UK
Pope's house is given to Church
By Adam Easton
BBC News, Warsaw

Pope John Paul II's former family home
The townhouse now contains a papal museum
A Polish businessman has bought the former family home of Pope John Paul II and donated it to the Catholic Church.

The Church had wanted to buy the 19th Century property but had been unable to afford the hefty price tag.

John Paul II was born and grew up in the three-storey townhouse in the southern Polish town of Wadowice.

The announcement of the sale comes ahead of nationwide events to commemorate the first anniversary of his death.

The sale of the house had been the subject of months of intense speculation.

When it went on the market late last year the Polish Catholic Church announced it was interested in buying it.

But Church officials were quoted as saying the asking price, reported in the media as $1 million (575,560, 825,255 euro) - about four times the average price for a property that size - was too much.

Rented rooms

Ryszard Krauze, the 49-year-old owner of one of Poland's biggest computer software firms and one of the country's richest businessmen, bought the house for an undisclosed price and handed it over to the Church.

He bought it from a New York doctor, Ron Balamuth, who inherited it from his Polish-Jewish ancestors.

The pope's parents rented two rooms and a kitchen in the house shortly before John Paul II was born in 1920.

Karol Wojtyla, as he then was, lived there for the first 18 years of his life.

The house now contains a papal museum which attracts about 5,000 visitors a day.

On Sunday, Poles will attend special masses and concerts to commemorate the first anniversary of John Paul II's death.

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