CNS REPORT -- Poland's Catholics have reacted with joy to the announcement that Pope John Paul II will be beatified May 1, and many have made plans to travel to Rome.
Poland's Gazeta Wyborcza daily newspaper reported Jan. 16 that all available rooms at Polish hostels in Rome were already booked for the beatification, which up to a million Poles plan to attend, according to a Jan. 15 survey by the Homo Homini opinion research agency.
The vice president of the Polish bishops' conference, Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki of Poznan, predicted the Rome ceremony, which will coincide with May 1 and May 3 public holidays in Poland, would attract even more Poles than the pope's April 2005 funeral.
Speaking outside his residence in Krakow Jan. 14 after the announcement of the beatification, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, the late pope's former secretary, said: "John Paul II was loved in Poland, in Polish culture and in Krakow, and he always fulfilled his role as a Pole within the culture which shaped him.
"Let's thank him today for leading us to a sovereign Poland and freedom, thanks to which we can stand here with no one disturbing us. Let's also write a great common volume with this great Pole by learning his heritage and living with his great spirit," he said.
News of the beatification was met with applause at Poland's Jasna Gora national sanctuary and at the Catholic University of Lublin, both closely associated with the late pope. Students coordinated prayer vigils in several Polish cities.
In Wadowice, a Mass of thanksgiving was held in the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church, opposite the house where the pope was born May 18, 1920, and plans announced for a "Chapel of the Blessed John Paul II."
Former Polish President Lech Walesa said the Solidarity movement that helped bring down communist rule would not have existed without the pope, adding that he hoped "our great friend" would "help us resolve our problems in Poland, Europe and the world with his gaze from above."
The late pope holds honorary citizenship of dozens of Polish towns and has given his name to hundreds of streets, squares, schools and hospitals around the country.
Around a hundred Polish statues of the pontiff have been unveiled annually since his death, according to local media, while dozens of Catholic parishes have been designated for rededication as "Blessed John Paul II."