The Pope departed from Rome’s Fiumicino airport at 8.50 a.m. today bound for Poland where he landed, following a flight of just over two hours, at the international airport of Warsaw-Okecie. Waiting to welcome the Holy Father were Lech Kaczynski, president of Poland, accompanied by his wife, Cardinal Jozef Glemp, primate of the Polish Catholic Church, and Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, archbishop of Krakow.
After listening to the president’s welcome speech, Benedict XVI affirmed in his own address that he had come to Poland “to follow in the footsteps” of Servant of God John Paul II, “from his boyhood until his departure for the memorable conclave of 1978.” He also mentioned the theme of his trip, taken from the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians: “Stand firm in your faith.”
“This is no mere sentimental journey,” the Pope added, “but rather a journey of faith, a part of the mission entrusted to me by the Lord in the person of the Apostle Peter.”
Recalling the various stages of his forthcoming journey – Warsaw, Czestochowa, Krakow, Wadowice, Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, Krakow – he concluded: “Finally, I shall go to Auschwitz. There I hope especially to meet survivors of the Nazi terror who come from different countries, all of whom suffered under that tragic tyranny.”
Earlier, during the flight from Warsaw to Rome, speaking to journalists accompanying him on his trip, the Pope described what happened in the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau as “something monstrous.”
While visiting the camps, he added, he will “think of the many dead,” but will also seek “to understand how it was possible for man to fall so low and down tread others.”
“Let us hope that, from Auschwitz, there arises a new sense of humanism and a vision of man as the image of God. Let us hope this will serve to prevent such things ever happening again.”
At the end of the welcome ceremony, Benedict XVI travelled by popemobile to the cathedral of Warsaw, dedicated to St. John, where he participated in a meeting with clergy.

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