‘He defended and spoke for the silenced’ — John Paul II remembered by peers on 45th anniversary of election as pope

The newly elected Pope John Paul II, acknowledges cheers from pilgrims crowding Saint Peter's Square from an overlooking balcony during his first appearance as pope in this Oct. 16, 1978, photo. (AP Photo/Massimo Sambucetti)
By Grzegorz Adamczyk
3 Min Read

St. John Paul II, as the apostle of Divine Mercy, laid the theological and existential foundations that Pope Francis now follows, the long-time secretary of the Polish pope, retired Archbishop of Kraków Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz has said.

Speaking to Vatican media on the 45th anniversary of the Pole’s election, Cardinal Dziwisz noted the comforting realization of how many people still want to hear from St. John Paul II, despite attempts to drown out his voice.

He believes that the former pope’s call to “not be afraid to open the doors to Christ” would resonate today with renewed vigor. The Polish pope made this call during the inauguration of his pontificate on Oct. 22, 1978.

Cardinal Dziwisz added that upon visiting St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican or the Papal Sanctuary in Kraków, and other places bearing his mark, one can see people immersed in prayer. “People still listen to him; they seek his spiritual friendship,” he said.

The retired archbishop of Krakow also recalled how the pope had witnessed much evil, saw the consequences of wars and totalitarianism, sympathized with the weakest, and always tried to bring hope during turbulent times.

Oct. 16, 2003 photo from files showing Pope John Paul II with Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz as he arrives in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican. (AP Photo/Plinio Lepri, File)

The more time passes, the brighter the timeless wisdom of St. John Paul II’s legacy shines, and the clearer the inspiration drawn from him becomes, he told the media.

This includes issues for which some criticize him today, like child protection in the Church. Many overlook or distort the fact that John Paul II began the challenging process of cleansing the Church of crimes against innocent children. This process has been continued by his successors, but it was the Polish pope who first strongly opposed trivializing these painful issues, highlighted Cardinal Dziwisz.

He expressed the belief that the Polish pope, as the apostle of Divine Mercy, laid the foundations for the path the Church now follows under Pope Francis: a path of mercy, addressing human misery, which can only be healed by God’s infinite love.

In the view of the retired metropolitan, the teachings and lifestyle of St. John Paul II continue to inspire the youth. He is confident of this, citing the experiences of several generations of young people drawn to Jesus by John Paul II. Millions still gather at World Youth Day, contradicting claims about the Church’s decline and youth indifference to matters of faith.

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