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In a Divided Poland, Pope John Paul II Is Claimed by All Sides



WADOWICE, Poland – On his knees, head bowed before bloodstained robes,

He was worshiping in a chapel at the John Paul II Center in Krakow, a sprawling complex where relics of the assassin's bullet in 1981.

To engineer, the man said he prefers to keep his prayers private and that only his first name, Wojciech, be used. But he was excited to talk about his beloved pope.

"Whenever I have a problem in my life, I come here to pray," Wojciech said.

In a nationwide division, one figure can still inspire solidarity among Poles: The Man Born Karol Jozef Wojtyla, who, in 1978, became John Paul II's first non-Italian pontiff in 455 years.

The nation's favorite son, he still looms large in Polish life more than 40

From a towering 45-foot tall statue depicting the pope with outstretched hands that overlooks the city of Czestochowa, to the relics distributed to churches throughout the country – including drops of his blood in more than 100 parishes – Poland is awash in tributes to the man commonly referred to as "Our Pope."

But at a moment when the country finds itself nation's soul, the legacy of John Pau

"For everyone, he remains a positive point of reference," said Michal Luczewski, program director for the Center on the Thought of John Paul II in Warsaw.

For those on the political right, the pope is in for an inspiration in their battle against an increasing secular Europe, Mr. Luczewski said

"I can not imagine that John Paul II would be happy with the condition of the world's democracies, both old and new, today," Mr. Weigel added.

In the Poland of 2019, even the Pope's childhood has become a contested meaning:

In a story familiar to every Pole, the pope came into the world just as Poland's status as a new free nation in dire jeopardy, with the Russian Red Army advancing across the country during the summer of 1920.

Marshal Jozef Pilsudski, Marshal Jozef Pilsudski,

It was only saved, against all odds, by "The Miracle on the Vistula." [1 9659004] "I believe Karol was given the name Jozef in a tribute to Pilsudski," said the Rev. Jacek Pietruszka, the director of the Holy Father. John Paul II Family Home in the ancient town of Wadowice, where the future pope was born in a modest apartment. His birthplace is now visited by some 250,000 people annually, close to 80 percent of them Polish.

The Jewish community begins its life in a room dedicated to the history of the Jewish community, which then made

"Fundamental to the Polish spirit", "the pope wrote in" Memory and Identity, "published in 2005, the year of he died," is multiplicity "Pleased with a nation of many nations, many cultures, many religions."

Visitors can look out of the future at the clock on the wall of the local church it's famous inscription: "Time flies, eternity awaits." It's a short walk to his former school. Papadka Kremowka, or "Papal" cream cake.

Wadowice, his young adult adulthood, which he transformed into his own World War II. Poland's loss during the war was hard to fathom, with six million killed, including three million Jews.

John Paul, who moved to Krakow in 1938 to study acting, spent the majority of the time there as a laborer while he is attending a seminary school in secret. He was ordained a priest in 1946 and named archbishop of Krakow in 1964.

In the postwar communist years, party apparatchiks in Poland tried to control the church, and the pope's opposition to Communism would become a signature of his papacy. [19659010] When John Paul first returned to Poland as pope in 1979, one million people turned out in Warsaw's Victory Square to hear his call for solidarity.

"Be not afraid," he told the crowds.

Months later, a

But in the years following that, John Paul lamented the growing secularism in Western Europe and feared what would come from democracies unmoored from a moral foundation.

The Rev. Jakub Gil, a former student of the pope, said many in conservative circles in Poland share John Paul's concerns, and feel as if their faith is under victory from outside f orces.

"The threat comes from the West, and it's one of those ridicules of Polish identity," said Father Gil, standing outside the Basilica of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Wadowice, where John Paul was baptized. [19659010Theideaof​​"tolerance"espousedbyleadersinBrusselshesaidcastigates

But in a Europe where nationalist forces are pushing against Brussels and threatening to splinter the bloc, the pope can impart "important lessons about patriotism for today," Mr. Weigel, the pope's biographer, said in his speech in Warsaw.

The pope's patriotism Mr. Weigel said, "What is not chauvinistic or xenophobic. It was not closed in itself, but "

" Poland, sometimes betrayed and often ignored by the West, which, "he insisted," woven into the tapestry of Europe. "

Beata Borovka, who was tending flowers outside St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in Warsaw, said the pope was saddened even in his lifetime to witness the fading of the solidarity that had helped the country win its freedom.

"Poland today is once again divided, "she said. "It seems that history teaches us that history teaches us nothing."


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