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Poland: Poles Flock To Mass As Pope Ends Visit

Krosno, Poland, 10 June 1997 (RFE/RL) - Pope John Paul presided at a big open-air mass before half a million people today as he wrapped up a triumphant tour of his homeland.

The mass was held at the airport of Krosno in southeast Poland, where the pope canonised 15th century Franciscan monk Jan of Dukla. The monk helped his people repel a Tatar attack on Lvov, now part of Ukraine, in 1474. In his sermon, the Pope praised the saint for his patriotism as well as modern church leaders who had stood up to communism this century.

He urged Poles to cling to their century-old religious beliefs in face of mounting secularism including that spread by the mass media.

John Paul told the crowds that nearly 20 years in the Vatican had not extinguished his love for his homeland, but the Pontiff said it was time to return to Rome and continue his work.

The Pope returns to Rome later this evening. The Polish church said over six million people had attended masses and other functions with the 77-year-old Pontiff.