Pope John Paul II came home today to the city where he served as a priest and bishop for more than 30 years to a cheering, carnival-like welcome from his compatriots, who refused to allow him to go to sleep.
His successor as archbishop of Krakow, Cardinal Franciszek Macharski, had to plead with tens of thousands of young people camped outside his residence to allow the pope to get some rest before a taxing day of engagements Wednesday. "I can't go and disturb him again now, he's in bed," he told the chanting crowd, which had been insisting that the pope make one final appearance and bid them good night.
An hour earlier, the pope had held an unscheduled meeting with the crowds that had waited outside the residence in Krakow's old town center for his motorcade to arrive from the airport. There were chants of "We are waiting" and "We want the pope" until the former cardinal Karol Wojtyla finally agreed to come to the second-story window.
When he thanked God for letting him return to Krakow for a second time since his election as pope, there was repeated chanting of "Come a third time, a third time." "We shall see," said the pope, who was speaking through loudspeakers strung along the front of the building.
Looking out at the youngsters gathered beneath his window, including a brass band that had been serenading him as he ate dinner, the pope said: "This all reminds me very much of the meetings we had in 1979, when I was a very young pope. Now I am an old pope."
"You are young, you are young," insisted the crowd, using the familiar second-person form of address for greeting close friends.
Some people in the crowd waved Solidarity flags while others wore tiny Solidarity emblems in their lapels.
"That's enough for today," John Paul said at the end of his impromptu 20-minute speech to shouts of "no, no, stay with us."
"Four years ago, you managed to make me do whatever you wanted. But now I'm an old man and I'm not going to let you do that to me again," the pope said. And so, back at home, he went to bed.