22 years ago, Pope John Paul II was on Licheń soil. On the successor of St. Peter at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Licheń was awaited by crowds of the faithful, with whom he met on June 7 during a service connected with the consecration of the temple in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which was being built at that time.
Pope John Paul II came to Licheń on June 6, 1999, at sunset. On Monday, June 7, at At 5 am, the miraculous painting of Our Lady of Licheń was moved to a temporary altar in front of the church under construction. Around At 8.00 the Holy Father came to the basilica, visited it, and then celebrated the service, during which he blessed the church under construction and the pilgrims gathered in the square. After the ceremony, he flew to Bydgoszcz and Toruń, to return to Licheń for the night in the evening.
On the last day of his stay, just before his departure, the Holy Father went to the chapel, where he prayed for a long time in front of the Picture of Our Lady of Lichen, which was transferred to the papal apartments in the evening of the previous day. After taking a photo with the priests and Marian brothers, the successor of Saint Peter flew to Ełk, leaving behind unforgettable moments.
The beatification of John Paul II, which took place on May 1, 2011, was also celebrated at the Licheń Shrine. At that time, a chapel in his honor, located in the lower part of the basilica, was consecrated, where a year later (May 1, 2012), relics were placed - a scrap of cloth with a dried drop of blood. On April 27, 2014, Pope John Paul II was included among the saints of the Catholic Church. The apartments where the Holy Father stayed have been made available to pilgrims and can be visited. They are located in the old part of the Licheń sanctuary.
NS. Bishop Bronisław Dembowski, who visited Rome many times, invited the Holy Father John Paul II to visit Lichen on behalf of the Marian Fathers.
During one of the visits of Bishop Dembowski to Rome, which took place in 1998, the bishop told Pope John Paul II about the construction of a new temple. The Holy Father, having listened to the story, said: "I would like to see it." Therefore, the bishop immediately renewed the invitation, all the more so as the Holy Father's visit to Poland was planned for 1999.
As it turned out later, the invitation was accepted. When the Marian priests found out about it, they immediately began arranging the formalities related to the construction of the house in which the Pope was to stay during his stay in Licheń. Thanks to the kindness of the local government authorities and the relevant institutions, the formalities were quickly completed and in July 1998 the construction could begin. At the very beginning, the Marian Fathers were informed that the Pope could not climb a single step on his own, therefore an elevator was installed in the papal house. For safety reasons, bulletproof panes have been installed in the apartment windows. The works were finally completed in May 1999.
At that time, other preparations for the ceremony related to the arrival of the Polish Pope started. A special commission was established, consisting of representatives of the Marian priests, local authorities and services responsible for individual organizational elements (the police, BOR, fire brigade, Sanepid, health service and energy). The custodian, Wiktor Gumienny, MIC, who coordinated the work of the services, always emphasized the great commitment of all persons responsible for individual tasks.
Two nights in Licheń
In the first half of January 1999, a commission from the Vatican came to Licheń to check how the preparatory work was progressing. The individual tasks were performed according to the schedule and were very well received by the commission. At the end of January 1999, the official program of the Holy Father's visit was announced. It was then that the Marian Fathers were surprised and at the same time with great joy that they learned that the Holy Father would spend two nights in Licheń. And the surprise was so great that they were all the time convinced that the Pope would only sleep one night in Licheń.
Meeting with pilgrims
About 200,000 pilgrims were expected for the visit of Pope John Paul II. Suitable sectors have been prepared for them. Most of these sectors were in front of the basilica, but there were also some that were situated on the opposite side of it. In order to enable pilgrims to experience the meeting with the Pope in the best possible way, two large screens were installed in the area of the Sanctuary. One of them was placed behind the basilica, and the other in the place where the new belfry currently stands.
Especially for the Pope's arrival, a parking lot was prepared near the basilica (on the eastern side), which served as an airport for the duration of the visit. It was landed by helicopters with which John Paul II and his companions came to Lichen.