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Saturday, 17 August, 2002, 12:04 GMT 13:04 UK
Poland greets its favourite son
Pope consecrates shrine in Krakow
Poland's newspapers say the pope is in good shape

Poland's newspapers agree that Pope John Paul II's latest visit to his homeland has got off to a flying start.

"With us at last!" says Zycie, a national daily. "The Pope is among us."

Like the rest of the press, it highlights the crowds that turned out at the airport or on the streets of Krakow to welcome him. It puts their number at about 250,000.

"The Pope spoke of unemployment and of God's mercy. And he cracked jokes," the paper says.

Good health

Church bells rang throughout the city, including a 20-minute "concert" by the mightiest of them all: Zygmunt, which crowns the cathedral at Wawel Castle.


He is in good physical shape and, as ever, strong in spirit

Rzeczpospolita

"When John Paul II started to come down the steps from the plane, there was a sigh of relief," Zycie adds.

Relief, because he did not need the specially prepared lift.

And it was at the expense of his own health that he cracked his first joke, apologising to the Polish president and other dignitaries for being seated while they stood.

"It's because of this barrier," he explained, pointing to a support with the text of his speech, fixed to his chair.

"Another sign of his good health was the fact that he read his speech without difficulty," the paper says.

The Warsaw weekly Wprost leads its report on another papal wisecrack.

By tradition, Poles gather outside the Archbishops' Residence in Krakow on the first night of the pontiff's visit, demanding an appearance.

When this finally happened, the Pope quipped: "Someone looking for 3 Franciszkanska Street?".

Miracle

Rzeczpospolita adds its voice to the chorus: "Welcome home!" The paper catches the mood of eager anticipation - and gratification.

John Paul II greats the crowd at Balice airport near Krakow
The Pope's visit is limited to the Krakow region due to his health

"Waiting in the rain," reads one headline. A torrential downpour did nothing to deter the faithful.

And as the news of the plane's touchdown spread, so too did the "applause, joyful cheers and singing".

"Poland greets you, Poland loves you, Poland thanks you," says another article in the same paper.

It tells the story of how one priest at the airport called on the crowd to put away their umbrellas, saying they were showing themselves to be "of little faith".

"The rain stopped," the paper says.

And it stresses that everyone in the papal entourage is giving the same message: "He is in good physical shape and, as ever, strong in spirit".

Social issues

The popular Gazeta Wyborcza agrees that "the Pope is clearly in better form than usual".

But the paper also reminds readers that "the most significant words in his speech at the airport were those that touched on the social situation".

"Reflections on the mystery of divine mercy cannot take place in isolation from the daily lives of Poles," is how the paper sums up these words.


May this pilgrimage free us from all our fears: of unemployment, European integration and conflicts

Archbishop Jozef Zycinski

Quoted in the same paper, Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek, explains: "Fear not, for God is with us, God's mercy is with us - that was the keynote in the Pope's speech."

The Bishop believes the Pope wants Poles to "roll up their sleeves and get down to work, and stop complaining".

Archbishop Jozef Zycinski agrees.

"May this pilgrimage free us from all our fears: of unemployment, European integration and conflicts," he says.

Third Way

The Krakow daily Dziennik Polski picks up on the theme with its headline: "Be not afraid!"

This, the paper stresses, is the lesson from the first day of the visit.

Writing in the same paper, Father Mieczyslaw Malinski, a well known commentator, elaborates on what he believes to be the Pope's political message.

"Unemployment. The elderly and disabled. Agriculture. Insurance. Such key issues cannot be resolved by the state."

Certainly not by a liberal democracy, he says, though he hastens to add he is not calling for a return to "over-solicitous" communism either.

"What is needed is a state which will guarantee respect for human rights, which will defend the helpless, feed the hungry and educate the backward. Simply, it will assume responsibility for all citizens."

He goes on to call this the "Third Way".

"And so," he adds, "the Pope has grabbed the proverbial bull by the horns. He is saying he has not come here just for fun, but he is setting us a hurdle to jump. And a high one at that."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

16 Aug 02 | Media reports
15 Aug 02 | Europe
14 Aug 02 | Europe
16 Aug 02 | Europe
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