Half a million Poles turned out Monday to catch a glimpse of their native son - Pope John Paul II - during his 10-hour dash through southern Poland.
The pope wedged the brief pilgrimage to three towns in the region where he grew up into a two-day trip to the neighboring Czech Republic.
Despite a jampacked schedule, he was buoyant throughout the day, even wading into the crowd at his last stop - Zywiec’s town square - to pat giggling schoolgirls on the head and joke with the adoring masses.
“Stay with us,” chanted the crowd of 20,000 in the square, many waving yellow and white papal flags.
“Let’s move this whole thing to St. Peter’s Square,” the pope responded. After delaying his departure nearly an hour, he boarded his popemobile.