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In a boost to new pope, Poles embrace native son's successor

Chance seen to aid ties with Germans

WARSAW -- Pope Benedict XVI made a tiny slip in Polish when he thanked Poles ''with" their kindness instead of ''for." No matter: the German pontiff found understanding in the homeland of John Paul II, and many hope that may offer some balm for German-Polish relations.

Poles have embraced Bavarian-born Benedict with noticeably more warmth than his fellow Germans, urging him to visit and commenting favorably on his devotion to John Paul during his years as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Vatican's guardian of doctrinal orthodoxy.

''The new pope is aware of the Poles' strong attachment to John Paul II and from the very start has referred to him with warmth and emotion -- this wins their hearts," Warsaw University sociologist Ireneusz Krzeminski said yesterday.

Poles also are reflecting their strong attachment to the church itself by showing their affection for Benedict, he said.

In Wadowice, Poland, John Paul's hometown, businessman Jan Goralczyk said he was confident about Benedict because he felt the new pontiff would keep walking John Paul's traditional path. ''A promise of continuation allows us to greet the choice of a new pope with peace and satisfaction," he said.

More than 90 percent of Poles are Roman Catholic, and some 45 percent of adult Catholics in the country attend Mass regularly.

Poles are much more in line with Benedict's traditional views, while in Germany many chafe at the church stands enforced by the pope during his time as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger: bans on abortion, birth control, the ordination of women, and sharing Communion with non-Catholics.

Germany was the home of Martin Luther and the 16th-Century Protestant breakaway from Rome, and has about as many Protestants as it does Catholics, about one-third each.

But Benedict's German birth seems to be seen almost as a positive, despite instinctive Polish suspicion about things German because of the destruction and suffering of the brutal 1939-45 Nazi occupation.

In John Paul's hometown, teacher Bronislaw Nowicki hopes Benedict ''will breathe new life into the church in Germany, which has gone too secular, and the number of Catholics will grow and more people there will be favorable toward Catholic Poland."

Poles have become used to looking favorably on the Vatican, said Marcin Przeciszewski, head of the Catholic Information Agency in Warsaw. ''The special relationship . . . was deepened during the 26 years of John Paul II's pontificate, he said.

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