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Cardinal Dziwisz: Today, St. John Paul II’s words resonate with a powerful new force

Vatican News / 16.10.2023

It is encouraging and very moving to know how many people still want to listen to him despite attempts to drown his voice out. I think that today his exclamation: “Do not be afraid to open the door to Christ,” would resound with a new and powerful force,” Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz emphasizes in an interview with Vatican Radio and Vatican News on the 45th anniversary of the election of Cardinal Karol Wojtyła as Pope.

He also points out that the Polish Pope began the complex process of cleansing the Church of crimes against children. Cardinal Dziwisz believes that John Paul II’s teaching and lifestyle can inspire young people. However, it is important to convey his story in a language that today’s youth can understand.

Metropolitan Emeritus of Krakow, recalling the 45th anniversary of Cardinal Karol Wojtyła’s election as Pope, which fell on 16 October, points out that also today, John Paul II is carrying peace and hope to the world. “He is still speaking. Come to St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican and see the people immersed in prayer at his tomb. It is enough to enter the papal shrine in Krakow, the churches in Wadowice or Kalwaria, all the places that bear his footprints. People still listen to him; they want to seek his spiritual friendship,” the Cardinal said.

“Many try to keep the facts silent or falsify them.”

Asked what the Pope from Poland would say to the modern world, Cardinal Dziwisz replied that the crises we face today, the questioning of values that have hitherto seemed sacred and inviolable, the deepening divisions and social discord – all of these would fill his heart with pain. “The Holy Father saw and experienced much evil, saw the consequences of wars and totalitarianism, sympathized with the weakest, was a defender and a voice for the deprived, and always sought to bring hope to people in times of confusion. He witnessed the love of Christ and the power of the Gospel, unchanging despite the vicissitudes of the world. I believe that today, his call ‘Do not be afraid to open the door to Christ’ would resound with new and powerful force,” he added.

John Paul II’s secretary assessed that the more time passes, the “stronger the timeless wisdom of his legacy shines and the clearer inspiration flows from it.” “This applies even, or perhaps especially, to those issues for which various circles today try to criticize the Holy Father, such as the minors’ protection in the Church. Many try to pass over in silence or falsify that John Paul II began the difficult process of cleansing the Church of crimes against innocent children. His successors have continued this process. Still, the Polish Pope was the first to speak out so unequivocally and firmly against downplaying or remaining silent about these painful issues,” he pointed out.

Cardinal Dziwisz also stressed that John Paul II, as a great apostle of Divine Mercy, laid the theological and existential foundations for the path that Pope Francis is leading the Church on today: “the path of mercy, of bending over human misery, for which the only remedy is God’s, infinite love.” The Cardinal also referred to the ongoing Synod on Synodality. “I think there is no exaggeration in saying that its roots lie in the far-sighted vision of the Polish Pope, who noticed and appreciated the role of the laity in the Church, was open to dialogue with various circles that were not always friendly to Christianity, and listened attentively to what the world had to say to the Church,” he said.

“Karol Wojtyła can inspire and fascinate”.

The Metropolitan Emeritus of Krakow declared that the teaching of John Paul II and his lifestyle can still be inspiring for young people. “I do not doubt it. Moreover, this conviction is confirmed by the lives of several generations of young people drawn to Jesus by John Paul II. Millions still gather at World Youth Days, giving the lie to the thesis of the twilight of the Church and the indifference of young people to matters of faith. Young people can find the signposts of life in the teaching of John Paul II but also be inspired by his life, especially his youthful years, filled with passions characteristic of youth, joy of life, multiple interests, and desire for intellectual and spiritual development, ability to enjoy friendships, beauty of nature, sports, poetry,’ he recalled.

He also pointed out that for Karol Wojtyła, the years of his youth were also challenging, marked by war drama. Still, despite this, he lived them beautifully, showing that it is worth fighting for the greatest ideals and being faithful to them. “He is a fascinating role model for the young – no matter where or when they live – and one worth following. The issue is not whether the Pope can inspire the youth but how effectively his exemplary life is conveyed to them. It depends on the language being used to talk about it. Whether it is a language that can resonate with the sensitivities of today’s young people and is easily understandable to them,” he stressed.

Cardinal Dziwisz at the conclave  

Going back to 16 October 1978, Cardinal Dziwisz recalls that John Paul II wanted to see him shortly after his election. “When the white smoke appeared, my heart trembled, gripped by a powerful premonition. I knew everything when I heard the name ‘Carolum’ from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica. Forty-five years have passed since that moment. Much has happened since then, but it remains etched in my heart forever. I was proud and happy,” he says.

He adds that he was found among thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square and led by a commission into the conclave, into the refectory where the cardinals and the Holy Father had just had dinner. “The Cardinal Jean-Marie Villot, Secretary of State of the Holy See, escorted me to the Pope. And he stood up and greeted me warmly. The first words I heard from the Holy Father at the time were: “But what a challenge they gave us!” He eased the overwhelming emotion gripping me.” John Paul II’s Secretary recalls.

Fr. Paweł Rytel-Andrianik, Paweł Rozwód