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Poles Like Pope, Origins and All

Only three percent of Poles feel Pope Benedict XVI's German origins pose a problem, with an overwhelming 80 percent saying they are not bothered by the pontiff's nationality, a new poll shows.

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Most Poles say it doesn't matter where the new Pope was born

A separate poll in Germany turned up a different set of data: 65 percent of Germans said Benedict's German origins do count. Both polls were conducted by Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza.

Papst Benedikt fährt nach Polen

Franciscan nuns observe the construction of an altar for Pope Benedict XVI's holy mass outside of Krakow

Benedict XVI is due Thursday to start a four-day visit to Poland. His itinerary will take him to places that were significant in John Paul II's life and papacy, and also to the former Nazi death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, on the outskirts of the southern Polish town of Oswiecim.

Hope for better relations

Last week, the Primate of Poland, Cardinal Jozef Glemp, said the visit by the pope would help to improve relations between Poles and Germans, who still have not fully healed all the wounds opened by the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, which sparked World War II.

"I think that Benedict's nationality will bring Poles and Germans closer together," Glemp said in an interview with Warsaw daily Zycie Warszawy.

Important gesture

"How can one fail to appreciate the fact that the pope, whose origins are German, is visiting -- at the beginning of his pontificate -- Warsaw, which was destroyed during the war, and the Auschwitz death camp?

"A gesture like that cannot be overlooked, either in its social or its political dimension," Glemp said.

The surveys, conducted by PBS DGA in Poland and Demoskopie Allensbach in Germany, also asked what importance Poles and Germans attached to the fact that Benedict's predecessor, John Paul II, was Polish in origin.

Eighty-two percent of Poles said it was "good" that the pope was Polish, while the remaining 18 percent attached no great weight to John Paul II's nationality. No one had a negative opinion on the matter.

In the German survey, 67 percent of respondents said the fact John Paul II was Polish was positive, 30 percent said it was unimportant, and three percent had a negative opinion.

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