By Chiara Santomiero
KRAKOW, Poland, MAY 1, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz is the archbishop of Krakow, but that is not the title that makes him known around the world. He’s most recognized for having served as Blessed Pope John Paul II’s private secretary for some 40 years.
He started serving the future Pope in that role when Auxiliary Bishop Karol Wojtyła became the archbishop of Krakow.
Leading up to the Polish Pontiff’s beatification today, ZENIT spoke with the 71-year-old cardinal.
ZENIT: All those who knew John Paul II up close attest to his extraordinary capacity to immerse himself in prayer. Is this true?
Cardinal Dziwisz: I am asked how many hours the Pope prayed. How many rosaries he said every day. I answer that he prayed with all his life. He always had the rosary with him, but above all he was united to God, a man of God, immersed in God.
Though people didn’t realize it, he always prayed for those who came to him, after conversations he prayed for the persons with whom he had spoken. The whole day began with prayer, meditation, and ended always with the blessing of his city, Rome. Always, when he could still walk, he went to the window; at the end, when he was very weak, he would ask “lift me” to see Rome again and to bless her. This was always the last gesture of every day to bless the people of Rome, his diocese.
ZENIT: During his pontificate, John Paul II recognized more people as saints than all other Popes put together. Why did he feel such a great need to provide witnesses for people’s lives?
Cardinal Dziwisz: He wanted to comply with the will of the [Second Vatican] Council. The council said that it was necessary to facilitate the [canonization] processes, especially for candidates from countries far from Rome. Before, when candidates were considered, in general they were founders of congregations, bishops, especially from the European realm.
The Pope saw the need to give this possibility to other countries that had never had a blessed or a saint. Thus, fulfilling the will of the council, he provided for this satisfaction of having [native] saints.
Saints are important for the life of the local Church but also for nations: They are sure guides. When life is more secular, God sends saints to give a sign: Where are we going? In what direction?
The Holy Father perfectly understood the usefulness — if we can say it this way — the necessity of giving examples for today’s world. When life is less holy, saints come. It has been thus in the history of the Church and of humanity. He read the signs of the times: The more life is secularized the more necessary it is to give examples of holiness.
ZENIT: What teaching did John Paul II wish to give with his suffering borne before the eyes of the world?
Cardinal Dziwisz: He always said that God, Jesus Christ saved the world, redeemed the world with his suffering, through the cross and also the cross of sickness and suffering has meaning. He showed that suffering in man’s life also has a profound meaning and thus he accepted and never lamented or concealed his weaknesses, his illnesses. And he gave strength to the people who suffered, who were sick. When they saw the Pope so ill, weak, but offering all that to Jesus Christ, and also for the world, it was also a profound, convincing apostolate through suffering, and also through death. I felt, I read, that his death was the most important encyclical he wrote, written with his life, the way he behaved at the end of his life and also in death.
ZENIT: The “New Evangelization” is an expression coined by John Paul II. Now there is a pontifical council dedicated to its promotion and also the John Paul II Center, which is arising in Krakow intending to be a stimulus in this direction. What do we understand by the “New Evangelization”?
Cardinal Dziwisz: The “New Evangelization” was John Paul II’s pastoral program. Not only did he proclaim the need for a new evangelization but he did this with young people and also by presenting the spiritual life through sacred Scripture, through the Gospel. To return to the roots of our faith, because he saw that the world has distanced itself from its roots, from the sources of our faith. To return to the sources but for others to proclaim the Good News, to proclaim Jesus Christ to those who do not know him.
ZENIT: The Pope loved his land profoundly. Did he leave a particular message for Poland?
Cardinal Dziwisz: He was the pastor of the whole Church. Everything he said in Poland was valid for everyone. And likewise everything he said, spoke and taught outside was valid for Poland. He loved his homeland but he served the whole Church and responded to the whole of humanity. He was a man who loved his homeland but he was not closed, he was not a nationalist, he was a very open man, conscious of the commitment to which God called him. Certainly for Poles this teaching was the most precious inheritance from a man who was close, who was loved and esteemed.
ZENIT: Can you tell us one of your personal memories?
Cardinal Dziwisz: I must say that I must discover him again. Discover him and perhaps still love him more. He was a man of great spiritual wealth, all that was within him. He rarely opened himself but people felt that something was within him. And today I see the need to discover this spiritual and also intellectual profundity. I esteemed him as a father and now I esteem him as a father and as a blessed.[Translation by ZENIT]
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On the Net:
Video interview at Aleteia: http://aleteia.org/index.php/en/meeting-with-cardinal-stanisaw-dziwisz-archbishop-of-krakow