Rev. Msgr. Ireneusz Skubis talks to Cardinal Marian Jaworski, Archbishop Emeritus of Lviv, a friend of John Paul II.
Fr Ireneusz Skubis: – Your Eminence belongs to those lucky people who for many years watched the life and work of Bishop, Archbishop and Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, and then the pontificate of John Paul II from a certain perspective. How did you see Fr Karol Wojtyla as a young priest, then bishop and cardinal?
Cardinal Marian Jaworski: – In all his priestly life John Paul II was dedicated to God and pastoral ministry to people. He heroically realised the commandment of love of God with all his heart and his neighbour like himself. And this shaped his sanctity.
– How did the sanctity of Karol Wojtyla’s life grow?
– Dedicated to his Archdiocese of Krakow he undertook all pastoral activities: visitations of parishes, retreats, participation in patron feasts. He organised a diocesan synod, involving laymen and after the synod he created post-synodal groups that were to reflect on the synodal teachings.
– How did Fr Wojtyla’s sanctity reveal in his pastoral activities, concerning his diocese or particular groups, e.g., students, Catholic intelligentsia?
– Fr Karol Wojtyla devoted much attention to young people, especially students, giving them retreats and teachings. He was interested in the published periodicals so that they realised their tasks best, including the problems of the Church and the nation. We cannot omit his efforts for the cause of the Theological Faculty as an ecclesiastical institution after the state authorities liquidated the faculty in 1954. His efforts resulted in the faculty’s development and its transformation into the Pontifical Academy of Theology by the decree of the Apostolic See in 1979.
– How did you see the relationships between Bishop Karol Wojtyla and the Church of Krakow as well as priests?
– As the shepherd of the diocese he enjoyed great authority among the diocesan and religious priests because they saw his prudence, the fact that he did not look at appearances and his patience. They felt he cared for them, which was revealed among other things by his decision to create a house for retired priests. His collaboration with male and female congregations was also very good.
– What was unique about Cardinal Karol Wojtyla as a university professor and lecturer?
– As a lecturer and professor Cardinal Wojtyla was a deep thinker. Students knew that he wanted to share his knowledge and his reflections. With time they got to know his scientific publications.
– Your Eminence was lucky to watch the Holy Father John Paul II directly. What was his extraordinary relationship with Lord God?
– The relationship of John Paul II with God was revealed in all his life. His life was one with God. Prayer was the source of this life. Everything was before God and with God. It was his experience of God, his adherence to him. Then he experienced God in his activities and in his being with people.
– The Holy Father is said to be a man of the Eucharist. What are your recollections of the Eucharistic piety of John Paul II?
– Living in Kanonicza Street, first as bishop and then cardinal, he used to go to the chapel of the Grey Nuns (at 25 Kanonicza) in the afternoon. The sisters worked in the major seminary. As a pope he used to pray often to the Eucharistic Jesus in his private chapel. Special attention should be paid to the way he led the Eucharistic processions in Rome on the Feast of Corpus Christi. It is also worth paying attention to his promotions of Eucharistic congresses in which he was fully involved, e.g., the congress in Wroclaw.
– ‘Santo subito! – people shouted these words during the funeral of John Paul II. Were you surprised? What were your reflections then?
– The words ‘Santo subito! could not be surprising. The crowds that filled up the whole Vatican praying for John Paul II when he was passing away, gave unique testimonies about him as a holy man. And it required their sacrifices of abiding with him. Following the crowds’ wish ‘Santo subito!’ the Holy Father Benedict XVI soon began the cause for beatification of John Paul II, successfully completed so that we will participate in his beatification on 1 May, the Divine Mercy Sunday, and God willing, we will have his canonisation soon.
– How is a person who was so close to John Paul II experiencing his sanctity?
– The beatification of John Paul II, which takes place so quickly after his death, is a unique gift of the Providence for all people. The Pope who passed away to our Heavenly Father will be present with us, perhaps even in a deeper way than during his lifetime. It is an occasion to recollect him and pray to the Saviour through his intercession. And the fruits will be gifts and graces through his intervention. Personally I am very thankful to God for all the good I received in my life being close to John Paul II.