Secretaries to John XXIII, John Paul II recount sanctity

Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, personal secretary to John Paul II, speaking at a press conference, April 25, 2014. Credit: Kyle Burkhart/CNA.

Cardinals Loris Capovilla and Stanislaw Dziwisz, who were personal secretaries to John XXIII and John Paul II, spoke at a news conference Friday of the clear sanctity of both Popes.

Recalling the final days of Bl. John XXIII's life, Cardinal Capovilla, said April 25 that as the Pope lay on his deathbed, he said, trying to comfort him, that while there were but a few persons in the room, the square below was full of people praying for him.

“I know it’s full, because they love me, and I love them,” replied the dying Bishop of Rome.

After making an apology to the Pope for his shortcomings in his role as secretary, the cardinal said Roncalli told him to “forget that, because both of us did the work that the Lord asked of us.”

“Let 'Pacem in terris' come alive,” the Roman Pontiff prayed: “let there be peace and love, and let it come through us.”

Cardinal Capovilla also recalled a significant phrase that John XXIII once said, reflecting that “popes die, but the Pope doesn’t die.”

Moving on to speak of the forthcoming canonization of John XXIII and John Paul II, Cardinal Capovilla said, “I appreciate the beauty of this moment that we are living.”

Calling to mind the life of Bl. John Paul II, he drew attention to the strong emphasis he had placed on youth during his pontificate, and explaining that as he watched the saint grow older, “I didn’t watch an old man die, I watched a child with a smile on his face … saints are those who never abandoned or forgot their childhood.”

Christianity has spread through the “gift of love and charity” John Paul II gave, the cardinal noted, highlighting how John XXIII also “spoke of this – of innocence and justice.”

Drawing attention to the one of the first meetings he had with John Paul II after his election as Roman Pontiff, Cardinal Capovilla recalled that he “looked into (the Pope's) eyes and saw something extraordinary.”

While he at first expected to be interrogated, Wojtyla instead “asked me to speak about John XXIII, about the Second Vatican Council, concerns he had,” and doors that John XXIII had opened through the council.

“John Paul II taught us that the Lord invites us to be holy,” he continued, adding that “it's easy to love the poor, but it’s not easy to embrace poverty; it’s easy to speak about those who do penance, but it’s not easy to do penance; it’s easy to love saints, but it’s not easy to love sainthood.”

Cardinal Dziwisz then recounted his 12 years in Krakow as Wojtyla's secretary, and his service throughout his pontificate.

“I lived 39 years with a saint. I lived with a saint. How did I know? His way of praying.”

Cardinal Dziwisz explained that he originally met John Paul II as a professor during his first year of seminary, and that his holiness was perceptible from the first moment they met.

“It wasn’t his work that impressed me, but his quality of prayer,” observing that every day “after class, he would go and pray.”

“John Paul II prayed with his entire life, his whole life was a prayer,” Cardinal Dziwisz reflected, noting that the he would pray constantly for different people and events, including priests, bishops, political situations, persons he met in audiences, and especially those who suffered.

“He always prayed after audiences,” he said, adding that “after Mass was special time of prayer.”

Discussing Wojtyla's favored means of prayer, he mentioned Adoration, the Way of the Cross, devotion to the Holy Spirit which was fostered by his father, and a Christological rosary focusing on Mary's role with her Son.

Another strong aspect of John Paul II's holiness was that of suffering, the cardinal noted, highlighting how the Pope’s whole life was marked by pain, beginning with the death of his family members as a young man, his attempted assassination, and finally his contraction of Parkinson's disease.

Recalling the day Wojtyla was shot in St. Peter’s Square, Cardinal Dziwisz explained that he rode with him in the ambulance on his way to the hospital, and that the whole time John Paul II “prayed for man who shot him, even though he didn’t know who he was, and said he would offer his pain for the world.”


Voices

Statement on U.S. Supreme Court Decision in United States v. Texas

Archbishop José H. Gomez

Our nation’s ongoing failure to address the immigration crisis is a humanitarian tragedy. For more than a decade, state and local governments, Congress, the President, the courts — and now the highest court in the land — all have failed in their responsibilities to address this issue. 

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