“This World Youth Day (WYD) will be the most important event of the whole Year of Mercy says, without a doubt, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, secretary for 30 years of John Paul II, and today Archbishop of Krakow, the diocese of the Pope who became a canonized saint two years ago.
In an interview with ZENIT and four other Italian journalists, received in the Arch-Episcopal Curia of Krakow, the Polish Cardinal expressed great optimism, given the success of an event that is proclaimed as historic for many reasons: it is the first WYD day held in the diocese of origin of its founder, in addition to the first after his canonization.
There is, however, another “coincidence,” that did not elude Cardinal Dziwisz; the subject of Mercy, object of the Jubilee underway, is linked to the revelations of the Merciful Jesus to Saint Faustina Kowalska, which happened in fact in the diocese of Krakow, in the 30s of the last century. “Jesus said that from this place a flame would go out to the whole world, to prepare the world for the last encounter with Him.”
For this coming July 26-31, Krakow is preparing to receive young people from 174 countries worldwide, called, explains the Cardinal, to “share this flame of mercy” and take it to the world, which “is in need of peace” and which, as Saint Faustina herself reminded, will not be able to find peace except by “turning to the Merciful Jesus.”
The Cardinal’s optimism is based on the awareness that Poland represents a bulwark against the secularization of Europe, where in the last decades, in a scenario of “spiritual renewal,” many ecclesial movements have been born – and also of defense of life –, which do not forget the fact that “Europe is founded on Christian roots.”
It is no accident that, in many areas in the south of the country in particular, the percentage of practicing Catholics is still 70-80% of the population, while in Krakow it roams around 50%.
Poland, therefore, more than many other countries, is fighting to “preserve Christian values,” beginning with the sacredness of life, as the low rate of abortions and divorces demonstrates, and the absence on the horizon of any debate on homosexual marriage.
“Some strong powers wish to impose on us styles of life that we don’t share,” noted the Archbishop of Krakow, pointing out also that the defense of life and of the family are “fundamental principles for the future of Europe.” Therefore, in his opinion, it is “useful, necessary and very good” that various governments of Eastern Europe — the Polish being first — are carrying forward this type of policies.
Poland, commented the former secretary of John Paul II, is a country that is ready to receive migrants and refugees: “We are very open to receive them with prudence and responsibility,” he explained. “It is important to give them lodging and work. Our fellow countrymen were also immigrants in the past, often for political reasons, therefore, what we received one day we must give today to others.”
Speaking of the WYD, Cardinal Dziwisz stressed how fundamental these events are because the young people that take part in them “return more committed and joyful.” According to the Archbishop of Krakow, the WYD fosters “vocations to the priesthood and to consecrated life” and the birth of “many beautiful friendships,” in addition to engagements and marriages. “We can truly count on our young people, with all these good fruits,” said John Paul II’s former secretary.
ZENIT then asked the Archbishop of Krakow the following questions.
ZENIT: Eminence, given the geographic location of your diocese, do you think that the WYD you are preparing can become an occasion of encounter with young people of Eastern Europe (perhaps also Orthodox)?
Cardinal Dziwisz: From this point of view, we are always very open. The WYD of Czestochowa of 1991 was the first to be held in Eastern Europe and, already then, young people of Byelorussia, Ukraine and Russia took part, for a total of some 200,000 pilgrims. Today, 25 years later, we hope that young people of those countries will also come to Krakow: we must help them and help their governments so that they do all that is possible to have them come to our country and grant them <expatriate visas>.
ZENIT: Do you fear that the Russian-Ukrainian conflict can have a discouraging effect?
Cardinal Dziwisz: This conflict can undoubtedly create difficulties for Ukrainian young people but we — I repeat — will be very inclusive.
ZENIT: Do you think that the present Pontiff can bear the comparison with his illustrious Predecessor”
Cardinal Dziwisz: Poland will receive Pope Francis in a marvellous way! We are Christians; therefore, for us the Pope is the Pope, regardless of his name. Shortly after his election, for instance, we received Pope Benedict XVI as and more than John Paul II. We wanted to show that for us the Pontiff is the Pontiff. Therefore, Pope Francis will be received with great cordiality and I must say that we have waited for him for a long time.
ZENIT: Is there something that you are missing particularly of Saint John Paul II?
Cardinal Dziwisz: In reality, even if not physically, I feel him very present. He was truly a man united to God. There are so many people that pray to Saint John Paul II. They invoke him and ask for graces. He has wrought numerous miracles: many couples that are unable to have children, turn to him today to ask for this grace and often obtain it. There are those who have asked for the grace of the cure of cancer and have obtained it. A particular case was that of a woman who was supposed to be operated for a brain tumor: the moment they opened her cranium, they found nothing. Only one miracle attributed to John Paul II was recognized for his canonization, but he has wrought many, many more.