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(photo credit: AP [file])
Pope Benedict XVI will travel to Poland May 25-28, on a visit that includes Wadowice, the hometown of his predecessor Pope John Paul II, and the Auschwitz concentration camp, Archbishop Jozef Kowalczyk said Saturday.
While at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Benedict XVI will hold a "smaller, more intimate" meeting and prayer service with survivors of the Nazi death camp, many of them Jewish, said Bishop Piotr Libera, who heads the Polish church's organizing of Benedict's visit.
Benedict has made reaching out to Jews a hallmark of his pontificate, following up on the work of John Paul who also visited Auschwitz during his first trip home in 1979 after being elected. Benedict also followed in John Paul's footsteps by visiting a synagogue - in Cologne, Germany - during his first foreign trip in August.
Regarding the visit to Wadowice, Kowalczyk, who is the papal nuncio to Poland, said that "Benedict XVI wants to pay homage to his predecessor ... and honor the country, church, diocese, and hometown of John Paul II, which were so dear to him," said.
The trip will take the pope to the capital Warsaw; Krakow, where John Paul was archbishop before becoming pope; Wadowice, the late pope's hometown; the sanctuary of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska; the nearby Auschwitz concentration camp; and the 14th century monastery in Czestochowa, which is Poland's holiest shrine.
In Krakow, officials said they expect 1 million people to turn out for Sunday mass in the large meadow on the city's outskirts where John Paul II held services while visiting his homeland.
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