Whether celebrating democracy with politicians, welcoming Orthodox Christians to Mass or consoling down-on-their-luck workers, Pope John Paul II will stress a central theme of unity during his eighth pilgrimage to his homeland.
    The 13 day journey that begins on Saturday in Gdansk will be his longest trip to Poland as pope.
    It will include visits to 20 cities and towns as well as stops at historic sites intended to glorify the major triumphs of Poland and the papacy over the last two decades. There also will be forays to remote corners of the country to achieve John Paul's goal of visiting all 40 dioceses of the predominantly Roman Catholic nation during his papacy.
    By far the most ambitious in length and number of events, the schedule seems an almost Herculean push by the 79-year-old pope to complete a personal agenda for Poland.
    Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls confirmed that John Paul requested the extended, rigorous schedule. The longtime papal aide said it will ``summarise the whole pontificate because of the very many dimensions it has.''
    AP 3:33pm 2/6/99


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