• General Audience

Cardinal Dziwisz on the anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II

2014-04-01 L’Osservatore Romano

On 2 April 2005 Blessed John Paul II died. And there ended the long pontificate of the first Polish pope in history. One of the best eye-witness accounts of Wojtyła as bishop in Poland and bishop of Rome comes from his secretary Stanisław Dziwisz, currently the Cardinal-Archbishop of Krakow. In an interview granted to our newspaper – only a few weeks from the Divine Mercy Sunday, when Pope Francis will elevate John Paul II to the honours of the altar together with John XXIII – the cardinal remembers several moments in the life of Karol Wojtyła and his connection to World Youth Day, whose next edition will take place in his very own Krakow.

How are you, after so many years by his side, experiencing this moment?

I was Karol Wojtyła's secretary for 12 years in Krakow and almost 27 in Rome – the whole of his pontificate. This long period spent by his side has left its mark on me. So many memories pass before my eyes, starting with the novelty of the election of the first non-Italian pope after 445 years. Even more alive than that is the memory of the dramatic attempt on his life in 1981. Not to mention the many pastoral journeys and the great changes that were taking place at that time in Europe and the world. His whole life marked history. We were all aware of living beside a truly holy man.

It wasn't just his life that marked the conscience of humanity, but also his death. How did he live to the end?

Over the years he had already prepared us for the last moment, for the painful moment of his death. He endured it with serenity and certain of the resurrection. He said: “My whole life has been directed towards God and now the moment has come for passage to the otherside”. He was conscious almost to the very end, even if we can't say with certainty when he did in fact lose consciousness. Before dying he celebrated the mass of divine mercy. He communed with drops of the blood of Christ to prepare for his passage to the next life. Then he recited Mattins, the Divine Office. I like to remember that in the last minutes he prayed the prayers of Sunday, the following day, which were prayers of divine mercy. Thus, his whole life, from start to finish, was united in the mystery of divine mercy. He offered the programme for this millennium: divine mercy. The world will never find peace without turning to it. 

by Nicola Gori