It carries the Pope’s legacy to future

Aleksandra Zapotoczny

Twenty-eight years ago Pope John Paul II created the John Paul II Pontificate’s Centre for Documentation and Research within the framework of the John Paul II Foundation that originated on 16 October 1981.
The Pope said, ‘May this House, this institution, because it is in Rome, be a special place marking out the road crossing – these leading out of Rome towards the world, towards Poland, and these that lead to Rome.’ The Centre is subordinate to Archbishop of Krakow Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz; the President of the Council is Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko. The Administrative Secretariat managed by Rev. Msg Stefan Wylezek supports the activities of the Centre and the other institutions of the Foundation: the Polish Home in Rome and the House of the John Paul II Foundation in Lublin. The collections and functioning of the Centre are possible thanks to the generosity of many people from Poland and the world. The Scientific Council supports the activities of the Centre. Fr Antoni Pyznar is the head of the Documentation Division and Fr Dr. Andrzej Dobrzynski is the head of the Research Division.
‘The John Paul II Pontificate’s Centre for Documentation and Research differs from other institutions and the difference is its history’, says Fr Dr. Andrzej Dobrzynski. Since it originated at the beginning of the pontificate of the Polish Pope, together with the John Paul II Foundation and John Paul II himself was present at the origin of the centre. He desired to create such an institution. In his speeches the Holy Father saw the need to reflect on the collected legacy related to his pontificate. He stressed that the centre was a special place as the Polish Home that strengthened the presence of the Polish Church in Rome. And the special task of the Centre is to emphasize this Polish Christian culture and Polish presence in Rome. And after the death of John Paul II the Polish culture in Rome is connected with the pontificate of the Polish Pope and with his thought. Everyone that comes here can know that he/she will find good literature, bibliography, and articles to make research concerning almost every topic related to this pontificate. Moreover, the papal gifts gathered in the hall of the Polish Home are extraordinary testimonies. The Centre has also received the documents that the Vatican’s Secretariat of State prepared for the Holy Father. We possess the press reports prepared for the Pope daily. Therefore, they show his interests in what was going on in the world as well as his great concern and prayer…
The aim of the activities of the John Paul II Pontificate’s Documentation and Research is to document and study over the pontificate of the Polish Pope. The collections in the archives, the library and the museum constitute a challenge for contemporary researchers and they are the legacy that will remain for future generations. The fruit of the collected documentation and undertaken research is the spread of the work of John Paul II through publications, symposia, conferences and exhibitions. This task is also realised by collaboration with similar institutions. The Centre has impressive archives – documents from the ‘Krakow period’ of Karol Wojtyla and the pontificate of John Paul II. There are audiovisual materials: tapes and videocassettes as well as photographs. It is very interesting to see the documentation concerning the scientific titles conferred on the Holy Father or the honorary citizenships of various cities or the institutions, streets, squares named after him and the monuments to him. One should also mention the rich numismatic collection of silver coins and the collection of stamps commemorating the events of his pontificate.
The library has a reading room, papal collections, scientific dissertations, albums, books and periodicals about the Holy Father. It has over 30,000 volumes. The Polish Home, which is also a pilgrims’ house, has become a kind of museum. The walls and showcases as well as some halls show the gifts pilgrims gave to the Holy Father. Pictures, medals, distinctions, liturgical objects, sculptures and banners belong to the exhibits that testify about the love for St Peter’s Successor and represent unique historical and artistic value. It is worth noticing the collection of gifts showing the martyrdom of Poles in the 20th century. These include the objects that the prisoners of concentration camps and labour camps had or the objects left by the soldiers fighting for the independence of their Homeland. The museum also has many souvenirs of the Polish kings and artists. These are old prints, the Hebrew Bible from 1543, the second edition of the New Testament translated by Fr Jakub Wujek dated 1594, the original letters of King Zygmunt August and King Jan III Sobieski, the lost page from the rough copy of ‘Pan Tadeusz’ by Adam Mickiewicz and the only preserved rough copy of the poem ‘Na smetne wiesci z Watykanu’ by Cyprian Kamil Norwid. ‘A lot has been written about the Pope’, says Fr Dr Andrzej Dobrzynski, ‘We have a huge collection of doctoral and habilitation dissertations about the teaching of John Paul II but many things are still to be discovered. One can fathom the figure of John Paul II by comparative studies with various authors, other popes or by preparing monographs. New questions keep arising and you should seek for inspiration to answer them looking at the Holy Father as a father who gives us thoughts so that we can live wiser…’ Visiting the Eternal City it is worth visiting Via Cassia 1200 to have a special experience of meeting John Paul II, getting to know these extraordinary mementos. One can say that the white-red flag billowing at the entrance and the monument to the Great Pole in the courtyard of the Polish Home want to carry at least a tiny part of Poland to the Italian land.

"Niedziela" 41/2009

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: