Radiation of fatherhood

Lidia Dudkiewicz talks to Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, Metropolitan of Krakow.

Lidia Dudkiewicz: – ‘Since the beginning of my pontificate you have been standing faithfully by my side as a secretary, sharing difficulties and joys, concerns and hopes connected with the ministry of Peter’, said the Holy Father on 19 March 1998, when Fr Stanislaw Dziwisz was consecrated bishop. And he in turn said about himself, ‘I am a man who is not here.’ And he faithfully accompanied John Paul II throughout all the years, always being near the Polish Pope as his inseparable discreet shadow. And all began 30 years ago, on 16 October 1978 when the College of Cardinals elected Cardinal Karol Wojtyla Pope, and John Paul II chose Fr Stanislaw Dziwisz as his secretary. Your Eminence, how did you learn that the Metropolitan of Krakow, with whom you had closely collaborated from 1966, became pope? And how were you chosen as his secretary?

Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz: – I was at St Peter’s Square when Cardinal Pericle Felici announced the name of the new Pope. Naturally, I rejoiced but I was as if petrified. Even now I can hear this voice that did not only penetrate my soul but also in some sense struck me. I thought to myself: It did happen! It happened what somehow was stuck in me! In Krakow there were people who were praying that he would not be elected. They wanted him to be in the diocese. They did not want him to leave. But very few predicted that something like that might have happened. But it did happen. Personally speaking, I was prepared to return home. However, John Paul II decided otherwise. He only told me that we would begin anew.

– Did the Cardinal who came to the Vatican ‘from a distant country’ – the first non-Italian Pope for 445 years, the first Slavonic Successor of St Peter – learn to be a pope quickly? What style of papacy did he choose, what ways to contact the clergy and laymen? We all know that the altar and table were the most important points in the papal household, and they gathered people around John Paul II…

– The Roman citizens regarded the election of Cardinal Karol Wojtyla as a turning point. A non-Italian Pope meant a breeze of a new spirit. Therefore, just after the announcement of the new Pope, after a moment of silence, one could hear great applause of all the gathered people. The Holy Father felt like at home. He entered the Vatican reality without any complexes. He knew all basic European languages; he could establish relationships with people very quickly. He was intellectually and spiritually prepared. It was his characteristics that made the new Pope a shepherd quickly and the shepherd became a guide. He was straightforward and open. It is worth stressing that during the announcement of the result of the election there was no time for any speech of the new pope. But John Paul II, seeing the crowds at St Peter’s Square, addressed the people, speaking to them from the depth of his heart.

– I am aware that John Paul II was an athlete of God, a giant of faith and a genius of man. What did his ordinary day in the Vatican look like? Where did he draw strengths to carry the matters of the whole world? How did he pray, how did he work and how did he rest? You said once that in his youth Karol Wojtyla was to hear the sentence: ‘It is not hard to be a saint.’ His life showed that he remembered these words. Let us then enter the third floor of the Apostolic Palace for one day and let us see how the Holy Father and his closest people lived there for almost 27 years.

– John Paul II used to get up early. He prepared himself for the morning Eucharist at prayer. His prayer was his entering the atmosphere of God. He invited priests and laymen for Mass. After the Mass and thanksgiving he ate breakfast and then he worked and prepared for the audiences. Lunch was a working time, depending on the needs and matters to settle. He was usually accompanied by people from the Roman Curia and by the bishops who came ‘ad limina apostolorum.’ Sunday lunch was solemn and friendly. After lunch his time was filled by meetings, reading documents and books and preparing various speeches. After supper the Holy Father recited private prayers and had time for himself. Then he worked in his private apartments until late.

– According to a common opinion John Paul II changed the world by his love and his life can be briefly defined: he loved God and people. The journalist Gian Franco Svidercoschi noticed that a non-Italian Pope, a Pope from Poland, was needed to remind people that the word ROMA (Rome) read backwards means AMOR – love…

– As a witness to the Holy Father’s life I think that his whole life was just one great example of love. All he did was imbued with love for God and people. This was his programme of life, called LOVE.

– Please indicate the main events of the greatest pontificate in the history of the Church. To what extent did John Paul II, the Holy Father–Pilgrim, change the face of the world?

– Next year we will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the first pilgrimage of John Paul II to Poland. We remember that he prayed that Poles did not cut their roots and asked the Holy Spirit to descend and change the face of the Polish land. I think that the Holy Father did not regard this activity as a single event. He followed this idea making pilgrimages to all nations. Since he knew that if there could be changes anywhere they would be made by the power of God’s Spirit. Are we not witnessing that today? Concrete people and whole environments that took the teaching of John Paul II to their hearts and opened themselves to the action of God’s grace, did change their faces. Whereas some people did not experience such a change if they limited themselves to certain external participation in some important event during his pontificate.

– Towards the end of the great pontificate of John Paul II his friend and at the same time outstanding theologian Cardinal Stanislaw Nagy remarked that this unique pontificate was cruelly dependent on the law of time, considering increasingly physical exhaustion and illness, which did not only make the cross heavier but also it nailed him to it. During the last years of his pontificate John Paul II fulfilled his ministry at the height of the cross of his own physical illness and inseparable suffering. You were the closest witness to this way of the cross of the Polish Pope. Always by his side until John Paul II passed to the other side. How did you feel the radiation of holiness of the Servant of God John Paul II during these almost 27 years?

– There is no Christianity without the cross. No love without the cross. Therefore, the way of the cross is in a way inscribed in human life. The most important thing is your attitude towards the cross and the style you carry your cross. Man confirms his value only in hardships. For me John Paul II was a signpost through all he did. His suffering and agony were actually his last seal in the book that he wrote throughout all the days of his earthy life. I think that the book written by the Holy Father could be entitled ‘I live the way I believe.’ And since the word ‘radiation’ was used to define his impact on me I can confess that it was always ‘the radiation of fatherhood.’

– What should we do not to lose this unique legacy in the history of mankind, which the Servant of God John Paul II left to us?

– I very much encourage people to reach for the texts of the Holy Father John Paul II. We will find his reflections and deepest convictions in them. It is worth taking inspiration from his prayers. The Holy Father left the most secret commotions of his heart in them. And please remember his gestures and concrete deeds. Since the Pope really behaved as the saints do.

"Niedziela" 41/2008

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