About 30,000 pilgrims from around Poland gathered in the two centers. The figure was much lower than on previous pope-related occasions, in a sign that memory of him was fading, while the new generation, coming of age, was less centered on religion. To Poland’s believers, John Paul was always a saint, so they took his canonization as an obvious thing.
Still, after the ceremony, members of the three generations of the Balazinski family from Krakow were very moved and proud.
Karol, an 8-year-old boy named after the pope, could only say he was happy. His father, Janusz, believes that the support from a saint will make his prayers even stronger than before.
“The more so that we met him. He is one of us,” Balazinski said.
During a 2002 Mass in Krakow, with his six brothers and sisters, he accompanied his parents Grazyna and Jerzy, who brought the pope offerings of bread and wine.
In the pope’s hometown of Wadowice, crowds were spilling from the spacious basilica into John Paul II square. Masses gathered across the nation, including the Black Madonna Shrine in Czestochowa, Warsaw, Gdansk and other cities.
Thousands more travelled to Rome, some of them on foot, cycling or on horseback. Poland’s government leadership — President Bronislaw Komorowski, Prime Minister Donald Tusk and both parliamentary speakers — attended the Vatican ceremony.
The ceremony was held on God’s Mercy church holiday, established by John Paul. It was also held on the 75th birthday of Dziwisz, Archbishop of Krakow, who promotes the memory of the Polish-born pope and of his teaching.
John Paul is “still shaping the image of Poland today,” he said.