Scraps of recollections
Fr Ireneusz Skubis
In this article I would like to limit my role to a modest witness of the Pontificate of the Millennium and the person of John Paul II the Great.
I knew John Paul II when he was bishop in Krakow. The late Bishop Stefan Barela, Diocese of Czestochowa, used to send me with some materials to Bishop Wojtyla. They were both specialists in moral theology, and Fr Wojtyla specialized in philosophy - in ethics. I delivered Fr Professor Barela, a copy of 'Milosc i odpowiedzialnosc' (Love and responsibility) by Wojtyla. He was to read it and write a review. Then Cardinal Wojtyla appointed me as member of the Synod of the Krakow Metropolitan. Five months before his election to papacy I delivered a speech concerning pastoral work with youth in his bishops' residence in Franciszkanska Street. As chaplain for students Cardinal Wojtyla was not only a model for us but he was also interested in our work and he supported us with his council. I remember him sending the relics of St John of Kety, patron of students, to various pastoral centres. It was a great impulse for us, priests, and a great experience for the youth.
I remember when we, chaplains for students, prepared the Pope's second visit to Czestochowa. We sent several questions, which were chosen from tens of hundreds, directed to the Holy Father by Polish youth. The questions were taken to Rome by Bishop Bronislaw Dabrowski. During that great meeting in Czestochowa the Pope was to answer those questions. Everything was carefully organized but we did not know whether our answers were accepted. I was in charge of the programme of the Pope's meeting with the youth. The Holy Father had already arrived in Czestochowa and we still did not know the answer. When the papal group was heading towards the altar I was standing in the arcades. And suddenly the Pope appeared. He approached me - an ordinary priest standing aside - and he said, 'There will be some change with these questions. I will include them in my speech'. The Holy Father remembered us, the organizers, and he said this to me himself! And after his speech he asked me in the sacristy if he had answered the questions. I remember that one question was about Ali Agca: 'What would you say if you met him?' It was before his visit to the prison. This was one of the students' questions.
John Paul II was always close to our 'Niedziela'. We have cards with his signature. In the album, published on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of 'Niedziela', entitled 'Czas milczenia i czas mowienia' (Time of silence and time of speaking), we published the letter, which the Holy Father sent us for that jubilee. We made several pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Father never refused to meet us. I feel deeply moved when I recollect the visit in 2003 when the Holy Father suffered a lot and additionally, he was weak because of the infection. I did not want to bother him and I only told Archbishop Dziwisz that we had arrived (this was our duty). We were very surprised when the next morning at about 6.40, just before our departure to Monte Cassino, I received a phone call that the Holy Father wanted to meet us and we were to be at the Bronze Door at 10.30. We could not expect that. There was also a delegation of 'Niedziela' from Chicago, with Fr Dr. Adam Galek. At 5.00 they left for San Giovanni Rotondo but they wanted to meet the Holy Father very much. When they learnt the news they immediately returned to the Vatican and our group consisting of 60 people had a special 'Sunday' audience with the Holy Father in the Clementine Hall in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace. It is hard to imagine that the Holy Father greeted each of us and everyone was able to have a special photo with him. Together with Archbishop Nowak I also was in the private papal apartments. We came with a delegation of the Czestochowa Archdiocese to ask the Holy Father for his blessing of the picture of Merciful Jesus, which was to visit people's homes in the diocese.
John Paul II was always a great friend for us. Cardinal Stanislaw Nagy, who was very dear to the Pope and to us, confirmed that many a time. That closeness with the Holy Father is very important not only to the editorial board but to all our readers and friends.
John Paul II was a man of great work and powerful prayer. I remember Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz taking us through consecutive rooms of the Apostolic Palace to the exit and at some moment he stopped and said: 'Here the Holy Father often prays... How much does he pray here...'
Let it be the most important hint for us now when John Paul II is not among us. Only prayer can give us right motivation and it can influence the quality of our work and lives. The quality, which the world discovered at the moment of the death of the beloved John Paul II.
Papieska Kolekcja "Niedzieli" czesc 1