KRAKOW, Poland (AP) -- Pope John Paul II extended his pilgrimage to Poland by a few hours Thursday to visit the country's holiest shrine, making up the stop he missed while he was ill earlier this week.
While many have speculated this may be the 79-year-old pontiff's last trip to his native land, he hinted that he might come back.As the crowd in Gliwice, a town in the mining region of Silesia, accepted his apology for not showing up earlier, chanting "We love you," he responded playfully: "The next time, we'll see."
Some 500,000 faithful flocked to the site where John Paul was originally scheduled to say prayers Tuesday night, but the pope was forced to stay in bed with a fever.
"May God reward you for your saintly patience," he told the crowd after brief prayers. "I would never stand such a pope. He's coming, he's not coming, then he does come . . . "
"Never mind!" the crowd chanted.
"I'm glad you say it doesn't matter," he replied. "I'll go back to Rome with a clear conscience."
Earlier, the pope stopped at Rakowicki cemetery, where his parents and elder brother are buried. Shielded from a light rain by a white umbrella, he prayed on his knees for five minutes.
John Paul's departure was delayed to allow for sidetrips to Gliwice and to Czestochowa, Poland's holiest shrine.