Wojtyla's faithful servant

Wojtyla's faithful servant

For almost 40 years Stanislaw Dziwisz was secretary to Karol Wojtyla. As a cardinal, he subsequently committed himself to its canonization. Now he turns 80 and takes John Paul II. against accusations.

To Pope John Paul II. doesn't let Cardinal Stanislaw Dzwisisz get away with anything. As a former private secretary of the Pope from Poland, the defense of this pontificate (1978-2005) is a matter close to his heart. In recent months, this had come under criticism.

In 2001 he had appointed Washington Archbishop Theodore McCarrick a cardinal, and in 1996 he made conservative Australian churchman George Pell archbishop of Melbourne. McCarrick was dismissed from the clergy in February for sexual misconduct with minors; Pell was sentenced in mid-March to six years in prison for abuse.

"John Paul II. did not underestimate evil, much less hide it," Dziwisz said recently in his homily for the 14. anniversary of the Polish pope's death on 2. April. This pope had led the Church in "absolute fidelity to the Gospel": "Without him, Poland, Europe and the world would be different."

Dziwisz takes John Paul II. in protection

Dziwisz, meanwhile, does not directly name the current accusations against the man canonized in 2014. Rather, he says, "The recent attempts to undermine the moral authority of John Paul II. To undermine can be troubling." Suspicions are being raised that the Wojtyla pope did not respond properly to evil.

Pretty sure he's referring to accusations that the former head of the Catholic Church did too little to protect children from sexual violence by priests. At the end of March he published the statement "John Paul II. Against sexual abuse in the church".

Opinions that he had "dragged his feet" in responding to the abuse "contradict the historical facts," Dziwisz wrote. Among other things, he lists how the pope fought pedophile crimes with a "zero-tolerance policy" in the U.S. in 1994 and in Ireland two years later.

An unbearable burden

John Paul II. Dziwisz had, speaking on the 27th. April his 80. He has always placed his trust in John Paul II, who is celebrating his 80th birthday. Immediately after graduating from high school, the churchman had entered the seminary of the southern Polish metropolis in 1957. Today he is one of the best known and most popular clergymen in Poland.

In October 1966, John Paul II. appointed him his chaplain and secretary. He remained so until the death of the Pope. In doing so, he also saw himself as opening doors for ordinary pilgrims from Poland, Germany and other countries who wanted to meet the Holy Father. Dziwisz sometimes made it uncomplicated for them to attend early masses with the pope.

Since Dziwisz had already served him for so long, he was able to read many of his thoughts from his eyes – and from his lips, which in the end became almost incapable of speech. Nevertheless, some in the Vatican were not entirely comfortable with Dziwisz's increasingly frequent use of the phrase "The Holy Father wishes…" decided and ordered things.

For faithful servant, burden ended up being unbearable. When John Paul II. was dead, Dziwisz radiated relief as well as grief. This was certainly helped by the fact that the German successor in the papacy, Benedict XVI., The bishop soon appointed the longtime private secretary of his predecessor as archbishop of Krakow and promoted him to cardinal.

In the years following his master's death, Dziwisz evolved into a kind of ecclesiastical executor of John Paul II's estate. On the outskirts of Krakow he quickly had a large sanctuary built for him and took care of his canonization.

Visible, but never in the front row

Dziwisz, however, was never tempted to emulate his mentor. In the Polish Bishops' Conference, too, despite the traditionally heavy weight of the Krakow archbishop's seat, he amed a visible but not dominant role. Retired as archbishop in December 2016, five months after Krakow's World Youth Day with Pope Francis.

In lectures and books, Dziwisz has described in detail his years with the pope from Wadowice. Controversial was his decision to keep the personal records of John Paul II. not to be destroyed after its death. Against the express testamentary wish of the Pope, Dziwisz preserved the notes for posterity.

In the summer of 2007, just over a year after his enthronement as Archbishop of Krakow, he called for Church intervention against the highly polarizing programming of Catholic "Radio Maryja".

He even reportedly brought up the removal of powerful station head Father Tadeusz Rydzyk. However, he publicly reconciled with Rydyzk at the end of 2015. At the invitation of the latter, Dziwisz lavishly praised the station's evangelization work at an anniversary celebration.

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