KRAKOW, Poland -- Greeted by Poles in traditional embroidered dress, Pope John Paul II concluded his nostalgic journey home Monday with a Mass at a mountain monastery where as a youth he used to pray with his father.
Bells tolled as the "popemobile" approached the Kalwaria Zebrzydowska monastery, draped in Polish and Vatican flags, and a waiting crowd of some 60,000 people chanted "Your people welcome you, John Paul II."
Thousands more waving countrymen gathered along the winding 30-mile route to the sanctuary to catch a glimpse of Poland's favorite son on the final day of his four-day trip.
At the mountain shrine, the ailing pope asked Mary for the strength to continue his papal mission.
"Most holy mother, our lady of Calvary, obtain also for me strength in body and spirit that I may carry out to the end the mission given to me by the risen Lord," the pope said, seated at the altar beneath a gilded painting of Mary and the Christ child.
Kalwaria is the last official stop on the pope's sentimental visit, which has taken the holy father to a sanctuary where he prayed under Nazi occupation, the cathedral where he said his first Mass as a priest and his parents' graves.
"I would like the pope to stay longer with us," said Jozef Szczotka, a 63-year-old pensioner, outside the Kalwaria monastery. "There are so many places waiting for him that he would like to see."
The 82-year-old pope has been beset by symptoms of Parkinson's disease -- including trembling hands and slurred speech -- as well as hip and knee ailments that leave him stooped.
The pope omitted a section of his prepared homily at a Mass celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Kalwaria sanctuary, and at times his speech faltered.
The Kalwaria sanctuary, with 42 chapels that depict Biblical scenes surrounding Christ's death, is one of the places where the pope often prayed and walked in contemplation as a boy growing up in nearby Wadowice.
On one occasion, after the death of his mother, the elder Karol Wojtyla pointed to a famous painting of the Virgin Mary and told his son: "This is your mother now," according to monks at the sanctuary.
During Monday's Mass, the pope recalled returning to the shrine as a young man and later as Krakow bishop seeking guidance to help resolve problems of the archdiocese.
"Today I come to this shrine as a pilgrim," he said.
On his first visit to Poland after becoming pope in 1979, he called the sanctuary "a reservoir of faith, hope and love," and asked the Franciscan monks who live there to say daily prayers for him.
"I ask you again to continue praying for me, I say again, when I am alive and after I die," he said in impromptu remarks at the end of the Mass.
From Kalwaria, the pope was to fly over his native Wadowice on his way to the Krakow's Balice airport for his departure to Rome.
The papal trip, focusing on places associated with the papal biography, emphasized Poland's extraordinary bond with its favorite son. This was the pope's ninth trip to his homeland.
"Stay with us," a crowd of mostly young people chanted on Sunday, the third and final night of their vigil outside the archbishop's residence.
"In my heart and my mind forever," John Paul replied. Then switching to the dialect of his beloved Krakow, he said: "The farewell wish to the one who departs is, 'Speedy return.' I hope that this is your wish for me."
The pope showed an easy rapport with young people, urging them back each night until Sunday, when he said good-bye.
On the last night, he mimicked them, singing "Welcome, Alleluia," and later a few choruses of "Farewell, Alleluia."
"Unfortunately, it's the farewell meeting," the pope said.
Standing in the crowd, 19-year-old Bozena Chojnowska said: "I don't want this to be farewell. He will come for sure, because he's as young as we are."
The pope has alluded to a desire to return to Poland but has not committed to it.
"In my personal opinion, the pope will return to Poland," Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said. "He's in a place that is very dear to him. He has personal links to this place, and his prayer here is very personal and very intense."
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