Pope prays for protection of children

 Pope John Paul II prayed for the protection of children today, the final day of his emotional ninth visit to Poland. At the Kalwaria Zebrzydowska sanctuary just outside the city of Krakow, he asked the Virgin Mary to "cover children with the mantle of your protection so that they are not exposed to corruption". And the 82 year old added a plea of his own, requesting that he be given the strength to complete his "mission, to the end". Sixty thousand people awaited his arrival outside the sanctuary on the final leg of a visit which has proved emotional and according to reports has apparently had a rejuvenating effect on the Pope. Yesterday over two million people turned up at Krakow's Blonia Park for the largest Mass in Polish history. Another one million gathered outside the park and listened as the Pope called for divine mercy and a new civilisation of love. "The message of merciful love needs to resound forcefully anew. The world needs this love. The hour has come to bring Christ's message to everyone: to rulers and the oppressed, to those whose humanity and dignity seem lost in the 'mysterium iniquitatis,'" he said, in a long homily delivered under a burning sun. "The hour has come when the message of Divine Mercy is able to fill hearts with hope and to become the spark of a new civilisation: the civilisation of love." As an example of the Church's message in practice, the Pope pointed to the four newly beatified at the Mass, whom he described as "united by that particular feature of holiness which is devotion to the cause of mercy." They were Zygmunt Szczesny Felinski (1822-1895), archbishop of Krakow for 16 months before being deported to Siberia by the czar; Father Jan Balicki (1869-1948), confessor and teacher of seminarians; Jesuit Jan Beyzym (1850-1912), "apostle of lepers" in Madagascar; and Sister Sancja Szymkowiak (1910-1942), known as "the angel of goodness" by English and French prisoners of the German army during World War II.

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