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John Paul II sixth pilgrimage to Poland – June 1999

To get an entrance-permit to the airport, one has to apply to one of the distribution-points, located at a few parishes in town. The priest himself gives out the tickets, without neglecting to mention the fact, that one hasn’t been seen for a long time at services. He also promotes the Pilgrim’s Pack, available for 7 zloty, containing a map, and a glossy prayer- and hymn-book, as well as a coloured neckerchief. While the last is meant to be used to welcome the Holy Father with a splendorous iridescence of colours, the first is intended to help one to have patience and prepare during the long wait: from 3 o’ clock in the morning until to his arrival, expected at 9:45am, June 7th 1999 at Bydgoszcz Airport.

"The Pilgrims Treasure" is the name of the supplement to the local news in Poland’s main daily newspaper "Gazeta Wyborcza". All kinds of information concerning the visit of Karol Wojtyla in Bydgoszcz are available: the state of preparation of the altar and the sanitary and spiritual equipment at the aiport, the public transport solutions for the big day, and the number of the hotline run by the town administration. In addition, over a period of ten days, in every issue one can a find full-page coloured portrait of the Pope – often used as part of the decorations that overload private and public places all over Bydgoszcz … and Poland.

John Paul II. is the predicted winner in this game. Whole rows of houses seem to have entered into competition with their neighbours for the most nicely decorated windows in town (of which Karol Wojtyla will see nothing but the airport). They call to mind little altars, draped with coloured ribbons, and always a- sometimes handmade- portrait of the Pope. Schools and offices, as well as bus- and taxi- drivers and even the shop’s window dressers pay tribute to their star, who finds himself in close proximity from vegetables to millenery. Private initiative is accompanied by official preparations for the big day: new flower-beds, fixed streets and pedestrian zones, huge standards stretched from one house to another – "Welcome Holy Father!", "We are waiting for you!".

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