German-born Pope Benedict XVI visits Poland

Poles gave German-born Pope Benedict XVI an enthusiastic welcome Thursday as he arrived for a four-day visit intended to honor predecessor John Paul II and further German-Polish reconciliation from the wounds of World War II.

Benedict beamed, and managed to keep his skullcap from flying off in a brisk breeze, unlike his arrival on his first foreign trip in Germany last year.

President Lech Kaczynski and a crowd of about 1,000 people greeted Benedict's plane at Warsaw's international airport, while more people holding white and yellow Vatican flags waited on the street to watch him pass by on his way into the city.

A choir sang "The Barge," John Paul's favorite song, just one sign of how the late pope remains a presence in Poland more than a year after his death.

"I have very much wanted to make this visit to the native land and people of my beloved predecessor, the servant of God John Paul II," Benedict said in remarks prepared for his arrival. "I have come to follow in the footsteps of his life."

Benedict plans a visit to the pope's hometown of Wadowice, as well as a trip to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, where the Nazis killed some 1.5 million people, most of them Jews, reports the AP.

I.L.