WADOWICE, Poland – The late Pope John Paul II’s hometown in southern Poland is gearing up to fete its most- famous native son this weekend when the Vatican puts him on the path to sainthood.

Wadowice, about 30 miles from Krakow, has enjoyed a boom in tourists over the past 15 years as it’s the birthplace of John Paul.

The town will welcome Prime Minister Donald Tusk and other visitors on Sunday to celebrate the late pope’s beatification, the penultimate step to becoming a saint.

“He was always a local patriot,” said Ewa Filipiak, mayor of Wadowice, where John Paul was born almost 91 years ago. “He taught us to love the place we come from as well as those closest to us. Now he’s the face of Wadowice, the reason why people all over the world have heard of us.”

The number of visitors more than doubled from 1996 to 2009, peaking at 431,411 in 2005, the year John Paul died, according to Wadowice’s tourist office. During a 1999 visit, the pope told thousands on the town’s main square about when he and friends went to eat kremowka, or cream cake, after their graduation exams.

The story sparked the establishment of new bakeries in Wadowice and a nationwide taste for the town’s traditional pastry, now known in Poland as “the papal cake.”