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John Paul reflects on 20 years as pope

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Wiping away a tear, Pope John Paul II reflected on his 20 years as pontiff Sunday and wondered aloud how well he has served the church.

The pope hugged, one by one, about a dozen Roman schoolchildren who had waved colored scarves in a dance of joy for him on the steps of St. Peter's Basilica.The children were part of a crowd of about 75,000 well-wishers in sunny St. Peter's Square for the pope's Mass to mark the anniversary of his Oct. 16, 1978, election to the papacy.

"After 20 years of service on Peter's seat, on this day I cannot help but ask myself some questions," the pope said.

"Have you been a diligent and vigilant master of the faith of the church?"

And another question to himself: "Have you tried to satisfy the expectations of the faithful of the church and also the hunger for truth that we feel in the world outside of the church?"

His white hair tossed by a warm breeze, the 78-year-old pope offered no answers.

He looked tired, but his voice was strong as he thanked people for their "precious" support in these two decades.

"The people's prayer supports he who has the task of guiding them," said the ailing John Paul, who walks with difficulty and has a constant hand tremor.

About 20,000 Poles, many of them journeying on buses from Poland, came to the Vatican earlier this week to celebrate their countryman's anniversary.

Among those who came from the pope's homeland for the anniversary was Warsaw Cardinal Jozef Glemp, who, in an interview published Sunday in Rome's La Repubblica newspaper, said the pope had considered resigning in 1981 to help Poles struggling against communism.

Glemp spoke of the pope's distress over the martial-law crackdown on the Solidarity free trade movement in 1981. "The Holy Father in those days was very troubled and worried about the fate of his country," Glemp said. "He was ready to do anything, even leaving the leadership of the church, in order to be able to defend the freedom of his country.

"As we all know, naturally, there was no invasion, and, I believe, thanks in part to the determination shown by the pope," Glemp said.