Great witness of adherence to faith and to the Holy Father
Tadeusz A. Janusz
Referring to the motto of his pilgrimage to Poland the Holy Father Benedict XVI told the faithful who gathered in Holy Mass in Blonie Park on 28 May 2006, the Feast of Ascension of the Lord, 'I ask you to stand firm in your faith! Stand firm in your hope! Stand firm in your love! Amen!'
Over one million and half of Poles and pilgrims from all over the world surrounded the altar-ark. 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!' These were the words of welcome of Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow. He spoke on behalf of the whole city and the land of John Paul II. He expressed joy at Benedict XVI's following the footsteps of our beloved Polish Pope. 'He called you to Rome as his closest collaborator. Now you have taken up his calling and now for us you represent Christ on earth', said Cardinal Dziwisz. He stressed that he greeted the Pope on behalf of twenty cardinals, bishops from all over Europe and seventy rectors of Polish institutions of higher education. He thanked the Pope for strengthening our faith, hope and love and he ensured him that 'Our home is your home. Our Church is your Church'.
In his homily the Holy Father repeated the question from the Acts, 'Why do you stand looking up to heaven?" (Acts 1:11) and he stressed that the question involved the fundamental truth about the life and destiny of every man and woman. 'We are here on earth because our Maker has put us here as the crowning work of his creation. But this earth on which "we stand" our final destiny. Here on earth, we are called to look up to heaven, to turn our minds and hearts to the inexpressible mystery of God. We are called to look towards this divine reality, to which we have been directed from our creation. For there we find life's ultimate meaning.'
The Pope was deeply moved to be able to celebrate the Eucharist in Blonie Park in Kraków, where Pope John Paul II often celebrated Mass during his unforgettable Apostolic Visits to his native land. '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 Krakow and for the hospitality you have given me". 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 Krakow and for the hospitality you have given me." Krakow, the city of Karol Wojtyla and of John Paul II, is also my Krakow! Krakow 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... When Karol Wojtyla 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!, he stressed and appealed in the words spoken by Pope John Paul II: 'You must be strong, dear brothers and sisters. You must be strong with the strength that comes from faith. You must be strong with the strength of faith. You must be faithful. Today, more than in any other age, you need this strength. You must be strong with the strength of hope, the hope that brings perfect joy in life and which prevents us from ever grieving the Holy Spirit! You must be strong with love, the love which is stronger than death.' He made a request, '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.' The following representatives of various communities carried bread and wine to the altar: family, children and youth, the sick, sportsmen and football fans who had given their own blood as compensation for the blood shed in fights and murders in stadiums as well as representatives of movements, volunteers and the Highlanders' Association. At the end of the Eucharist the Pope again greeted the people of Krakow and all guests who participated in the Holy Mass in Krakow-Blonia and entrusted them to the Mother of the Redeemer. He thanked the young people who had prayed the previous day in Blonia Park. '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. I thank you for your presence and witness of your faith.' Benedict XVI also extended his greetings to all the representatives of the highest Authorities of the Polish Republic - President of the Polish Republic Lech Kaczynski, Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, Chairman of the Parliament Mr Marek Jurek and the Deputy Chairpersons participated in the liturgy - and to the representatives of the Polish Episcopate and to the representatives of many other European episcopates, numerous university rectors and everyone who has shown me kindness in all sorts of ways.
Finally, the Holy Father blessed cornerstones and objects of religious cult. After recital of the Regina Coeli and greetings the Pope left the altar while the gathered crowd was shouting 'Stay with us!' and 'May you live a hundred years!'