Fr. Bogusław Steczek, is a Polish Jesuit and the former provincial of the Jesuit Province of Southern Poland. For many year,s he lived in Rome: studying at the Gregorian University first and later worked in the Curia of the Jesuits as the assistant for Eastern Europe. During that period, he closely followed the pontificate of John Paul II and has collaborated with the Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, then secretary of the Pope. For this reason, he is the most qualified person to talk about the new book on the saintly Pontiff, “Stories about John Paul II. Told by His Close Friends and Collaborators” written by Włodzimierz Rędzioch.
Q. Ignatius Press has published a new book about John Paul II. Do we need another book on this saintly Pope?
Fr. Steczek: It’s true that for many years a visitor of bookstores, especially Catholic ones, is being struck by the number of publications – books and albums – dedicated to the person, thoughts and achievements of John Paul II, not to mention articles, thousands of them published in scientific and popular journals. I admire the courage of Mr. Rędzioch who was not discouraged by the mentioned editorial phenomenon and undertook the interesting task. He reached out to the closest friends of Karol Wojtyła and the most important collaborators of John Paul II. He won the trust of these people and he knew what questions ask them. Not everyone is successful in that.
Q. What kind of book is this?
Fr. Steczek: The book “Stories about John Paul II” can be called a “polyphonic testimony”. But we can also compare this book to a mosaic. With twenty-two exceptional testimonies, one mosaic, one portrait, one multicolored and coherent picture of the Pope was made.
I decided to count how many questions and how many responses this book contained. Well, almost not repeating a single question, the author asked 250 questions in total and he received the same number of answers. Every answer is like a pebble of a mosaic. In this way the portrait of the unforgettable man was created – a man of flesh and blood, a man of God, hence a saint, pastor of the Church, teacher of the faith, tireless pilgrim, the spiritual leader of the modern world.
Q. What is the greatest value of this book?
Fr. Steczek: You have to admire the good, logical layout of the book. It starts with an exclusive interview with Benedict XVI. The first ever published testimony from the Pope Emeritus is the pride of the book. Then, in the chapter titled “In the Pope’s Apartments”, in addition to Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, we also have the testimonies of the other two papal secretaries: Archbishop Emery Kabongo and the Archbishop of Lvov, Mieczysław Mokrzycki. In the next section entitled “Longtime friends” are included: Cardinal Andrzej Maria Deskur, Professor Stanisław Grygiel, Cardinal Nagy and Dr. Wanda Półtawska. Among the “Co-workers in the Vatican” are: former spokesman of the Holy See, Joaquín Navarro Valls, Rev. Paweł Ptasznik from the Polish section of the Secretariat of State, former Vicar for the Diocese of Rome, Cardinal Camillo Ruini and former Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano. In the chapter bearing the title “Taking care of the Pope”, were included: Egidio Biocca, the guard in the Vatican, who was accompanying the Pope in his visits outside of Rome, then the personal doctor, Dr. Renato Buzzonetti and photographer Arturo Mari. In the next chapter entitled “Witnesses”, there are statements from Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Bishop Javier Echeverría Rodríguez and Gian Franco Svidercoschi. The last chapter of the book focuses on the road “Towards the Glory of the Altars” of the holy Pope, with the witnesses of the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Angelo Amato, and the two women healed through the intercession of John Paul II: the French Sister Marie Simon-Pierre Normand and Floribeth Mora Díaz from Costa Rica. The series of twenty-two interviews ends with a conversation with the postulator for the beatification and canonization, Rev. Sławomir Order, as well as the testimony of Włodzimierz Rędzioch, whose life – as he confesses himself – the Pope also changed.
Q. Among testimonies we can find the testimony of a man who served Karol Wojtyla for thirty-nine years, Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz. The secretary of the Pope reveals us his memories…
Fr. Steczek: Obviously, this is not his first interview. But the secretary of the Pope shares with us his unique testimony. I would like to take this opportunity to reveal an unknown fact concerning the former secretary of John Paul II. On November 18, 2009, Cardinal Dziwisz received an doctorate “honoris causa” from the Pontifical Catholic University of Buenos Aires. Speaking at the ceremony, the then Archbishop of the Argentine capital, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, emphasized that the Archbishop of Krakow deserves more the title of “doctor fidelitatis” – “doctor of fidelity”. He referred again to the title “doctor fidelitatis” after his election as the Bishop of Rome in his conversation with Cardinal Dziwisz. I don’t know whether this statement could be counted as the Pope’s infallible statement, but undoubtedly the two words of the Holy Father concisely summarize who Don Stanislao – as he was commonly called in the Vatican – was for John Paul II.
Q. Should someone who has already read books about John Paul II also read this?
Fr. Steczek: We should be pleased with the publication of “Stories about John Paul II”. This book – in a really attractive way – brings closer the person and deeds of St. John Paul II. I’m convinced that it will be read with interest even by those who already read a lot of books about the Pope.
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On the Web:
To purchase the book “Stories About Saint John Paul II”, go to: http://www.ignatius.com/Products/STJP-H/stories-about-john-paul-ii.aspx