KRAKOW, Poland – A crowd of 1 million worshippers held a candlelight Mass on Thursday in honor of Pope John Paul II (search), gathering in the same vast meadows that drew crowds during his return visits to Poland.
The Mass followed a silent march through Krakow, where John Paul had once served as bishop and cardinal before being called to Rome to become pope.
"I know that he is here with us," said Joanna Godawa, 25, who works for a travel agency that sent some 600 people to Rome for the funeral. "He is looking at us from above and smiling. He is peaceful and happy that we have gathered here for him."
Bishop Jan Szkodan (search) alluded to papal Masses that drew huge crowds in the Blonie meadows in 1979, 1983, 1997 and 2002, when some 2 million people turned out. A million people were waiting there in 1999, when John Paul had to cancel because of illness.
"It is the right thing for Krakow to bid farewell to him here, in the meadows," said Szkodan. "We are here to bid him farewell, but also to receive his teachings anew."
Looking out at the many young adults and teenagers in the crowd, he added, "He used to tell young people, you are the future of the world, so it is good so many young people have gathered here."
Krakow police spokesman Sylwia Bober said the crowed numbered about 1 million.
During the march from Krakow's Market Square, many wore white clothes or white ribbons symbolizing hope and as a tribute to the pope's white robes.
"I am taking part in this march to bid farewell to a great compatriot, and I think it is only now we realize whom we had and whom we have lost," said Aleksandra Wojaczek, 22, student at Krakow's Jagiellonian University.
The pope, who died Saturday, is revered in Poland not only because of the country's strong Roman Catholic identity, but because he supported the democratic opposition that ended communist rule in 1989 without bloodshed.
In the pope's hometown of Wadowice, Bishop Jozef Guzdek celebrated Mass for thousands of high school students who held a march to the town's main square, named in honor of John Paul II.