Poles throw a final party for their pope

Celebrations in major cities, shrines and John Paul II’s hometown

Yellow and white balloons are released as Catholic faithful celebrate the canonisation of Pope John XXIII and John Paul II in the hometown of Karol Wojtyla, who later become Pope John Paul II, in Wadowice yesterday. Photograph: Reuters/Agencja Gazeta/Michal Lepecki

Yellow and white balloons are released as Catholic faithful celebrate the canonisation of Pope John XXIII and John Paul II in the hometown of Karol Wojtyla, who later become Pope John Paul II, in Wadowice yesterday. Photograph: Reuters/Agencja Gazeta/Michal Lepecki

Mon, Apr 28, 2014, 01:00

Poland came to a standstill yesterday as bells tolled and crowds cheered the canonisation of their pope, John Paul II.

More than 20,000 people gathered at two shrines dedicated to the new saint outside Cracow, where he once served as bishop. Others gathered at the shrine of the Black Madonna in Czestochowa. In his hometown of Wadowice, near Cracow, visitors crowded to get a glimpse inside the late pope’s home, now a multimedia museum.

“This is a very important day for us, we are famous because of him,” said Mr Stanislaw Kotarba, town spokesman. “For us, this is the real end of the pontificate of Pope John Paul. But we’re not losing him, from now on he is a holy person for the whole world.”

Some nine years after the pope’s death, the Polish parliament passed a resolution of thanks for John Paul’s canonisation. Prime minister Donald Tusk described as “disgusting” the 34 MPs who voted against the motion. Those MPs had called the resolution an inappropriate mixing of church and state.

Media
The canonisation was cause for celebration in the Polish media of John Paul’s life, with little critical debate about his papal record or speedy canonisation.

The Catholic intellectual weekly Tygodnik Powszechny , once avidly read by the pontiff, was more daring than most, publishing an interview raising questions about Floribeth Mora, the Costa Rican woman who says the late pope cured her inoperable brain aneurysm.

“I don’t deny that people need to fill the areas where they lack the knowledge,” said Prof Tomasz Trojanowski, a neurosurgeon in Lublin. “A God is very often such an idea.”

Another author suggested the Polish pope and his German successor, Benedict XVI, presided over a “winter” in the Catholic church, where orthodox bishops were promoted and critical theologians silenced.

Winter
“During this winter many thousands of people left the Church, many ceased to be active,” wrote Victor Codina in Tygodnik Powszechny . “With Pope Francis, spring has come.”

Retailers enjoyed brisk trade in souvenirs during yesterday’s canonisation. In Cracow, big sellers included souvenir rosary beads and papal fridge magnets. British supermarket Tesco had special offers on papal flags, folding chairs and even a Pope John Paul flask, geared at pilgrims heading to the Vatican.

On Cracow’s town square, a priest and nun led a group of young people in a celebratory bout of line dancing.

“His words give me a direction,” said Natalia Foltyn (20), “in particular that one should have expectations of oneself, even if no one else has.”

In an interesting barometer of papal public opinion in Poland a tiny souvenir shop behind the late pope’s first home displayed 40 John Paul pictures, one of Pope Francis and none of the German pontiff in between.