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Polish Catholics celebrate centenary of St. John Paul II’s baptism

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The Church in Poland celebrated the centenary of the baptism of St. John Paul II Saturday, June 20. The future pope was baptized on June 20, 1920, in the Chapel of the Holy Family of the Basilica of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Wadowice, southern Poland.

When he returned to the basilica in 1999, then Pope John Paul II said, “With profound veneration I … embrace the threshold of the house of God, the parish church of Wadowice, and in it the baptistery, in which I was joined to Christ and received into the community of his Church.”

The commemoration of St. John Paul II’s baptism comes amid a series of events marking the 100th anniversary of the saint’s birth on May 18, 1920.

The Press Office of the Polish bishops’ conference said that a memorial concert would be broadcast online the following day. The concert was originally due to take place at the Lincoln Center in New York, under the patronage of Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, president of the Polish bishops’ conference, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, and Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, St. John Paul’s long-time personal secretary. The coronavirus pandemic forced organizers to change the format of the concert, which featured more than 30 artists from 10 countries.

The Polish Church is marking the centenary of the birth of the saint, who served as pope from 1978 to 2005, with an international social media campaign, #ThankYouJohnPaul2.

John Paul II’s birth anniversary was marked in Rome May 18, when Pope Francis celebrated Mass at the saint’s tomb in St. Peter’s Basilica. In his homily, he described his predecessor as a man of prayer who was close to the people and loved justice.

On June 15, bishops entrusted the Church in Poland to the Virgin Mary as they marked the saint’s birth centenary. The bishops made the act of entrustment at the Sanctuary of the Bernardine Fathers in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, southern Poland, where St. John Paul II was a frequent visitor when he lived nearby.

The act was part of a two-day celebration, which began on Sunday, June 14, with Mass at the Sanctuary of St. John Paul II in Krakow, built at the site of stone quarries where the future pope labored during the Second World War.

After the Mass, the bishops attended a concert with Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, apostolic nuncio to Poland, featuring works by Mozart, Bach, Handel and Pergolesi.

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