Pope John Paul arrived back in Rome Monday after an emotional four-day trip to his homeland, laying to rest speculation that he would retire during the visit and not return to Italy.
The LOT airlines 737 carrying the 82-year-old Pope, his entourage and journalists arrived at Rome's Ciampino Airport at 3:20 p.m. EDT.
Ending an emotional visit to his native Poland earlier today, a frail Pope John Paul II asked his countrymen Monday for their prayers to continue his papal mission so he can return again before he dies.
Pope John Paul II concluded his nostalgic journey home Monday with a Mass at a mountain monastery, where as a youth he used to pray with his father, and a brief flyover of his native Wadowice.
As CBS News correspondent Allen Pizzy reports, the service to mark the 400th anniversary of the shrine in Poland was more than just another sentimental papal blessing.
At the end his homily, the Pope entreated the Virgin Mary to give him strength so that, as he put it, "In body and spirit that I may carry out to the end of the mission given me," making clear that his religious mission must go on until his death.
Though physically enfeebled, John Paul II has used the force of his personality and office to push his moral agenda.
For all that this was a sentimental and religious pilgrimage, the Pope is also a major political figure and that aspect was very much a part of the trip, although couched as always in spiritual terms.
As well as singing and joking with young people John Paul II called on Poland's political leaders to "exercise responsibility" and deal with poverty and unemployment.
He also encouraged Poland to join the European Union, no small matter considering he is seen as having rejuvenated Pole's self esteem as much as their adoration has invigorated him.
Before leaving, he flew over the town where he grew up -- a courtesy requested by the Vatican some months ago -- which many took as a sign the Pope didn't expect to come back.
But in his farewell speech John Paul II held out hope for those who had not seen him.
"Many have waited for my coming. Many have wished to meet me, although not all were able to do so," the pope said in his farewell address. "Maybe next time..."
"We invite you," the crowd chanted in reply.
Clearly, rumors of a papal resignation are greatly exaggerated.
The pope's return to Rome laid to rest talk that the 82-year-old pontiff would retire during this trip and not return to the Vatican.
John Paul, who wiped away a tear as he bade Poles farewell, appeared invigorated by the joyous reception he received during a four-day nostalgic journey tracing his life in Poland, yet overshadowed by the reality his own mortality.
The unanswerable question of whether this would be the pope's final trip to his beloved homeland cast an emotional charge over the visit, the pope's ninth.
The pope has alluded to a desire to return to Poland but has not committed to it.
"In my personal opinion, the pope will return to Poland," Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said. "He's in a place that is very dear to him. He has personal links to this place, and his prayer here is very personal and very intense."