KRAKOW, Poland, AUG. 19, 2002 ( John Paul II bid farewell to his homeland, expressing his sadness but also leaving open the possibility of another visit in the future.

"It is sad to go," the Holy Father said this afternoon. "Stay with us!" responded the 20,000 people who gathered at Krakow's international airport.

The ceremony was turned into a veritable music festival. "Listen to your heart, return here," the chorus sang.

The Holy Father said: "Many have waited for my coming. Many have wished to meet me, although not all were able to do so. Maybe next time ..."

The cardinal primate of Poland, Archbishop Jozef Glemp of Warsaw, who delivered a speech on behalf of the country's Catholics, invited the Holy Father to return to bless the Shrine of Divine Providence, in the capital, when its construction is finished.

Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski told the Pope: "Although we have tired you, we know we have made you happy."

In his farewell address, John Paul II remembered the poor and the unemployed who are paying the price for the changes Poland is undergoing, and invited citizens and leaders to respond by making "the spirit of mercy, of fraternal solidarity, of control in authentic concern for our homeland reign among you."

"I do hope that by cherishing those values, the Polish nation, which has belonged to Europe for centuries, will find its due place in the structures of the European Union and not only will not lose its own identity, but will enrich this continent and the whole world with this tradition," the Pope said.

Poles in recent years have debated whether their country should enter the European Union.

"Jesus, in you I trust!" were John Paul II's last words on Polish soil. "May these heartfelt words bring comfort to future generations in the new millennium. May God who is rich in mercy bless you!"

Shortly after, the LOT Polish Airlines Boeing 737 took off for the two-hour flight to Rome. From there, the Pope was expected to go directly to the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo.