WADOWICE, Poland - More than 2,000 people were on hand Friday to watch as a bronze statue of the late Pope John Paul II was unveiled in his hometown.
Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, longtime personal secretary of the late pope, unveiled the statue in front of Holy Mary Basilica in the main square of this southern town of 20,000 people.
Dziwisz earlier celebrated a memorial Mass in the basilica, where John Paul, born Karol Wojtyla in 1920, was baptized and served as an altar boy.
"Wadowice will never forget their great countryman and we don't need monuments to preserve the memory of him in our hearts," Dziwisz said during the Mass.
Poles credit John Paul with inspiring the pro-democracy Solidarity movement in the 1980s, which sparked protests that helped bring down the communist regime in 1989.
"It is good the monument is here," said Renata Nowak, a 19-year-old high school student. "We come here to say prayers for ourselves, but also for his quick beatification."
The Vatican has opened the process of beatification, which could lead to sainthood for John Paul, who died April 2, 2005. Pope Benedict XVI paved the way for the swift opening of the process for the much-loved pontiff when he waived the customary five-year waiting period after John Paul's death.