Edward Pentin began reporting on the Pope and the Vatican with Vatican Radio before moving on to become the Rome correspondent for the National Catholic Register. He has also reported on the Holy See and the Catholic Church for a number of other publications including Newsweek, Newsmax, Zenit, The Catholic Herald, and The Holy Land Review, a Franciscan publication specializing in the Church and the Middle East. Edward is the author of “The Next Pope — The Leading Cardinal Candidates” to be published August 2020 by Sophia Institute Press, and “The Rigging of a Vatican Synod? An Investigation into Alleged Manipulation at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family”, published in 2015 by Ignatius Press. Follow him on Twitter @edwardpentin
Just days before World Youth Day opened in Krakow, EWTN Germany’s Robert Rauhut sat down for an extensive interview with Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz. The archbishop of Krakow and long-serving private secretary of Pope St. John Paul II not only shares his hopes and expectations of World Youth Day, but also discusses various other highly significant topics including John Paul II’s legacy to the world, the Third Secret of Fatima and the consecration of Russia, his friendship with Joseph Ratzinger, and John Paul's love for youth, the future of the Church and society.
Your Eminence, this year is particularly interesting for the Church in Poland. It is the 1,050th anniversary of the Baptism of Poland, it is the Year of Mercy and it is World Youth Day…
Without any doubt, for us it is a unique year. Why do we talk so much about it and return to the Baptism of Poland? There were the Millennium celebrations. The Polish episcopate had invited the Pope to Poland. However, the authorities, the government, gave no permission for the Pope to visit us. Therefore, we are longing to celebrate this anniversary with Pope Francis – thereby finally fulfilling what was supposed to happen but was denied – the visit of Pope Paul VI. to Poland. There is much gratitude for the Baptism of Poland, which has been a great deal for the people of this country. By Baptism, Poland has become a member of the family of Christian nations and of European culture. Moreover, Baptism marked the beginning of civilization and society here, as well as the state of Poland. This Baptism matters for Christian and religious aspects and is of great significance for Polish society and civilization.
Krakow is an important place for the Polish Church. How can we describe what this city means to the Church in Poland?
The Baptism occurred in Posen, in Gniezno, and was then in danger to be destroyed. The Czechs had destroyed the early beginnings of Christianity that originated in Baptism. So Christianity was reborn here in Krakow. Hence, the city was announced again the capital of Poland in 1038. It was deemed capital of the state but also center of culture, Christianity and religiosity in Poland.
Your namesake, St. Stanislaus, was of great significance in the beginning. Who was he and what importance did he have?
Without any doubt, the Church played an important role in the first days of the Polish state and she is still significant for our people today. St. Stanislaus was bishop of Krakow. He paved the way for the Church in Poland. You might even call him the 'conscience of the nation'. How is that so? He was the first to show that the Church is to serve the people and that she should do so in an autonomous way, not serving on behalf of the state, but with it. There is both the civil and the governmental power, but there is also the Church, pursuing her duties, following her missions. He has demonstrated the sovereignty of Church authority as differentiated from state authority. That is how the Church in Poland survived back then and is maintained today. Of course, both institutions cooperate for the common good, but in general we deal with two independent orders.
And St. Stanislaus had died as a martyr...
Defending human rights and defending the freedom of conscience, he had suffered martyrdom.
When speaking of Krakow, we often like to call it the "city of saints". Looking at present times, Archbishop Karol Wojtyla, the later St. John Paul II worked here. How do you, Your Eminence, remember the first moment you met Bishop Karol Wojtyla?
First off all, I would like to affirm that Krakow is indeed a "city of saints". No other place – except for Rome – has as many saints as Krakow. Here, we have many churches and the quantity of churches is an expression of how religious the city is. Almost every church contains a grave of a saint. It has been like that all the time and we have numerous contemporary saints. One of those is Brother Albert. He was a painter, a holy painter, who gave up his work – painting – in order to serve the poor on the streets and became a so-called poor devil himself. He was a role model for John Paul II., Karol Wojtyla. He gave up his job. Painting Christ, he saw the face of a poor (person) in the face of Christ. Then, before he became a friar, he founded two orders as a layperson. One for men and the other for women. His aim was to serve the poorest. John Paul II left behind what he loved the most as well: He loved the theatre, he loved poetry, literature, humanistic science. From one moment to another, he left all that behind to serve Jesus Christ… He decided to set out on the way to the priesthood. That is what’s so impressive about him: he left behind what he loved, to devote himself fully to God and his neighbor – which is the connecting element, the service to God, to the neighbor and to the church.
That is also, when you and your work come into play, Your Eminence. Later on, you became his secretary. How did that happen?
Well yes, that is true. Yet, I would like to go back to talking about the saints, one contemporary saint in particular, who is famous around the globe: St. Faustina, she was an extraordinary nun, not even educated, though. However, Christ called her. He talked to her and he entrusted her with a mission that regards the whole world: divine mercy. It is helpful to recall her words: "Humanity will not enjoy peace until it turns to the fount of divine mercy." I wonder why especially nowadays the devotion to divine mercy is such a great thing. Maybe the idea of dedication to the divine mercy becomes reality, so that we can live in peace – both in Europe and in the world. Next to her as an apostle of divine mercy, receiving the message on behalf of the whole world, God has provided for a second apostle to realize it (the message). That second apostle is John Paul II. The idea of divine mercy has always been present in some way in his magisterium, his documents, his homilies and speeches – we can notice that today. Even today, we can and we have to think of this Pope as a Pope of divine mercy. Just as we think and talk about the holy Faustina.
The Holy Father has put much emphasis on that by canonizing St. Faustina as the first one in the Great Jubilee in 2000. That was a very meaningful sign.
That was a meaningful sign indeed, perhaps not on purpose, but by now, it is obvious that it was part of a program. A program for the Church in the new millennium, the third millennium….We are happy that the current Pope puts so much emphasis on divine mercy and the devotion to it throughout the year of mercy, but also by means of the great meeting that is to come with the young people from all around the world. The motto: "Be merciful!"
Speaking of divine mercy, speaking of its distribution through deeds towards our neighbors, and speaking of St. Faustina, I would like to address another aspect secretly interwoven with the life of John Paul II. As we know, next year is the 100th anniversary of the apparition of Fatima, which is a special date, also being connected to another notable day, May 13th 1981. You, Your Eminence, have been there yourself, at St. Peter´s square on that day and you have witnessed the happenings first hand. My questions are: What was the relationship between John Paul II and the apparition of Fatima like? Do you see something in the prophecy that still lasts and that is of importance for the Church, like Pope Benedict XVI once stressed?
On that very day, I was not only in St. Peter´s square, but I was in the jeep with the Pope when the bullet hit him. I supported him when his forces dissipated. So, I am a direct witness of the attack. I was with him in the ambulance. When he was still conscious, he prayed, he prayed even for those who had perpetrated the attack. Even though he did not know the attacker, he forgave him and offered his suffering to the Church and to humanity. That is what people tell each other, but I think that back then he also prayed for the sanctity of the family, since a manifestation on behalf of all aborted children was meant to have taken place. He linked this suffering to the suffering of Jesus Christ, who has redeemed the world through it. He was always convinced that any suffering has a purpose. Suffering was a faithful companion throughout his whole life. For him it was part of his own endeavors and actions, his vocation and the realization of it … He knew of Fatima and the prayers for a long time, but he was not much involved in the secrets of Fatima. Only later, when in hospital, when he felt better, he became aware – and others helped him to realize – that the attack of May 13th occurred on the anniversary of the apparition of Fatima. Then, he asked to get to know the third secret of Fatima, which was unknown at that time. When he became familiar with it, it hurt him deeply that the words the Mother of God addressed to the children of Fatima found no implementation. Her request was to dedicate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and she encouraged to pray the rosary for the sins of mankind. Accordingly, the Holy Father decided to fulfill her request. Previous popes might not have recognized the opportunity and it had probably not been the right time back then – but John Paul II noticed that the time had come to accomplish it. It was not easy, though, because the Mother of God had wanted the Church as a whole – which is the Pope and every bishop – to dedicate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. He decided to do so and carried it out. The bishop of Fatima then transferred the original statue to Rome, where Pope John Paul II consecrated it.
The event was enormously touching. I can only report what I have heard from the bishops deriving from the eastern countries: that consecration marked the beginning of a process which has finally ended with the liberation of those nations that were suppressed by communism and Marxism. The Mother of God had issued her demands with a promise to provide for freedom and liberation, immediately. Hence, you can think of the Solicarnosc-movement [Solidarity-movement] and all the political transformations, but we have to consider this aspect as well. It is the presence of God's prophecy, which we have to take into account. We have to consider the Marian aspect of the Mother of God in these alterations that have occurred with the fall of Marxism and communism in the countries not only in Europe, but in the world as well. After this event, the world has become a different place… It was not only the fall of the Berlin Wall, but the Iron Curtain fell as well and also the ideology of Marxism which was rooted primarily in the universities and in circles around the world.
I would like to stress two aspects you have just mentioned, Your Eminence. The very experience of the attack led John Paul II to deeply understand the revelation of Fatima and by that he also realized that the secret dealt with him as well. Benedict XVI affirmed to hold the same view, but added that there is more to it. He mentioned that there was something ongoing in the reality of today and that the secret should not be regarded as historically completed, but that it has a meaning for the situation of the Church in the world today. Do you personally share his point of view?
I think such a liberation of mankind is still valid and remains [to be fulfilled]. Perhaps it is not so much the political liberation, but rather a moral liberation (...) The threats continue. Hence, liberation continues to be necessary. It is attained by prayer and repentance, by conversion and renewal – that is what the Mother of God has demanded. So all this remains and will remain a matter of current importance, because the human being is weak, he falls, and is in continuing need of support and assistance.
Having talked about the revelation of Fatima, you have underlined the role of the family as well. Today, the issue of how to understand marriage and family is widely discussed in the world and in the Church. Do the world and the Church nowadays correctly understand John Paul II’s legacy in this area in which he was an expert? Or is much still to be understood and learned from?
Already as a priest and as a professor John Paul II stressed the importance of pastoral care of families. As a bishop, here in Krakow, he had noticed how abortions persisted under the communist regime. The communists had introduced abortion immediately, but he never accepted that. Instead, he always taught the sanctity of life – the sanctity of life from its beginning to a natural ending. Then he came to Rome, where the situation seemed similar: There was nothing to bring about change in matters of family and abortion. He said: "No! This is the most important thing in the life of the Church and society. If we destroy the family, we destroy the foundation of civilian life, we destroy the values of the Church." This explains his enormous commitment for the family, for life, and it shows why he founded this institute [on study of marriage and family]. Even if it could not solve the given problems, it was a start for science and pastoral care in order to bring back sanctity and value to the family. More than that the message was: Human life is sacred and you must not kill a human being, including the ones who are defenseless and innocent, who cannot defend themselves, but who have been already conceived.
Your Eminence, how did John Paul II understand the word "patriotism" and what did the connection to his homeland mean to him? What can we learn from him on this issue?
He very strongly underlined the difference between "nationalism" and "patriotism". Nationalism is negative. By contrast, patriotism has positive connotations; it is something you have to develop. Patriotism entails a religious aspect. He was indeed a patriot of Poland. In Rome, he used to say: "I am here as a Pole." He always appreciated the culture of Poland, the Polish Church, from which I derive, and the Polish people. He saw the great values. Hence, he tried hard. He was familiar with the European culture and its values. He was of the opinion that both the west and the east frame contemporary Europe.
Two lungs, but one organism. He put emphasis on having one European community, a community of the spirit. He always stressed that idea: If there was one community of the (same) spirit, then the European community would survive and persist. Otherwise, the future of Europe would be uncertain. A very strong quotation is: "If you cut off the roots, the tree will dry out." That is why he continued to support the European community. You might even call him one of the fathers who have built up the union – based on values. Without values, without Christian culture on which Europe has evolved, the community would not be able to survive. So, we have to return to those values, to his prophetic idea. If we will not, the already unstable community will suffer from greater problems and a crisis.
Pope St. John Paul II often spoke of Europe; he was a founder of Europe, a father of a certain deep idea of Europe. Have the powerful people of this world, those who are powerful in Europe, really understood the idea that he had envisioned and which he had dreamed of?
Let us return to the role of the prophets. They have prophesied but they have not been heard. Only after they passed away, people noticed their prophesies. I think that Europe is still returning to these prophecies which John Paul II has announced and left behind. Perhaps he was not heard at the time he was alive, but today people go back to what he announced, people return to that "unity of spirit", which so badly needs to be built. It is the job of contemporary people, contemporary Europeans. It is up to the youth that make a pilgrimage to Krakow, to celebrate their faith here, their belonging to God, to Christ and to the community of Christian culture.
John Paul II was very open to the Germans, although he had experienced World War II and hence he knew how forced labor under occupation felt. Yet, he approached the Germans with such an openness of heart and mind. Can you, Your Eminence, tell us more on that subject?
He did not have any prejudices. He had no prejudices with respect to Germany. What else? He knew the German culture, knew the German church. He had many friends there. He appreciated German science a lot as well as German theology and philosophy. He knew all that. He always deemed the role of the Church in German society as positive. Without any doubts, the German Church, the episcopate has taken a lead. Germany has a huge impact on the life of the whole Church ... It has always been like that in history and it must be that way, it still is. Germany is still excellent in science and contributes much to the European idea and to the Catholic Church.
And that has in some way reflected in the friendships, which he maintained...
Later he cherished Cardinal Ratzinger a lot, whom he wanted to have at his side right from the beginning of his pontificate. ... He knew all along, right from the start, that Cardinal Ratzinger was necessary to keep clear the matters of theology, particularly the disputable ones or uncertainties. He was convinced of him due to his enormous intellectual skills, his educational background, his abilities and skills for the dialogue. At first, the cardinal had replied: "I have started something in Munich." The Holy Father, however, came back to him with his request after some time. Then the cardinal finally decided to go to Rome. This is how close cooperation started. They were a team, connected by mutual trust, in their dedication to work. They appreciated each other, so what they had was certainly something you might want to call a mutual understanding and a friendship.
And an example for how nations, how specific persons in Europe, can work together.
He never had a negative reference… always a very positive one. John Paul II was an open man… He saw things… he did not close himself; he did not shut himself away. I think this is why he worked so closely together with the Polish episcopate on the letter to the German episcopate. And these important words which are included in this letter: "We forgive and we seek forgiveness". These words and this letter became an example for the solution of difficulties e.g. in the Balkans. The Holy Father reminded us of the letter to the German bishops when the war was raging in the Balkans… I think even today, different episcopates stay in contact with each other, including the one from Poland with contact to the Muscovite patriarchate, or the one with Ukraine. Prophetic words.
And still up to date…
And still up to date. The Christian way to solve difficult problems. But that does not mean that one does not remember. You forgive, but you have to remember, so that you do not repeat the mistakes already made, so that you avoid mistakes, because there have been mistakes, but looking at these mistakes will only slow you down. You have to forgive and move on.
I would like to come back to John Paul II, as a person. A great Polish man, a great pope, but as well a great saint.
A great European…
In what way did the holiness of this European come to be noticed?
You [the people] ask me where I have seen his holiness. Well, we know that he was a very talented man – a writer, a poet, a speaker, an actor, but most of all, a great pray-er. He had already discovered the importance of prayer as a boy back in Wadowice. The importance of prayer for people and himself. He organized his whole life in a way that it had a great reference to God; that his life became a prayer to the Lord himself. He did not split his time between work, sports and prayer. Everything he did served the Lord's will, in some way. He granted audiences, he held different meetings, but the people who were close to him knew he was praying even then. To the young people he had always said: "For the ones who pray, they will see things differently, for them, life will organize itself in a whole new way.” One of the cardinal's staff members once told me that he would confront the Pope with a difficult situation and tell him: "Well, I do not see a solution." The Pope would then reply: "I do not see one as well, because we have not yet prayed enough … Let us introduce this matter to the Lord; a solution then will arise in some way, the issue will solve itself always through prayer." I once heard directly from the Pope himself: "The most important is these hands raised to the Lord. Do not pray for other things; pray for the Church, pray for the world." Pope – Prayer. That is indeed what you might call him, "the Pope (as) a prayer". But not when he became bishop, cardinal, or pope — that was with him since he was a child. His father played a great role for that matter. He taught him the prayer to the Holy Spirit, which accompanied him his whole life. Even on the last Saturday, on the day he left, he recited this prayer to the Holy Spirit… He very much preserved the devotion to the Holy Spirit and of course, to the Holy Mother… the rosary… the additional secrets… but for him that was always a Christological prayer, contemplation for the work of redemption with the Mother of God.
“Totus Tuus” – All yours…
Totus: with the Holy Mother, but always directed to Jesus Christ…Marian and Christocentric. I remember clearly, when the cardinals, bishops, priests and laymen attended the private Masses — in the Apostolic Palace or in Castel Gandolfo — these were the aspects that connected: the picture of our beloved black Madonna of Częstochowa, John Paul II praying with much concentration, and the Marianity, since she was the Mother of God. Especially the Black Madonna of Częstochowa accompanied us to many places, and so did specific aspects of the Eucharist as well.
He maintained the daily adoration every Thursday, the holy hour. As a clerk he once said: "The Apostles fell asleep in the vineyard. One has to compensate the time; one has to complement it." By that means, he encouraged us to compensate the time that he Apostles overslept, to compensate it for the Eucharistic Jesus Christ as well as the adoration to the cross. Every Friday he prayed the Via Crucis, even more often during Lent. So as you can see, he was not oriented on one-side only. There were the Holy Spirit, the Mother of God, Eucharistic devotion, and devotion to the suffering of the Lord.
That was shown even more in very a special way on this meaningful Way of the Cross at the end of his life…
... on Good Friday
On [his last] Good Friday, we know the image of him holding the cross in his hands, because he was already too weak to go to the Colosseum. He could not do this any longer. He simply could not. Even at that time, it was already Cardinal Ratzinger. It was his Way of the Cross, written by him.
Pope St. John Paul II was very much a man of the community. What can you tell us about the aspect of community in his life, Cardinal Dziwisz?
He loved people, God and people, and he always saw the positive in everyone. I think that was a result of his theology – the picture of God in men, this appreciation towards everyone. However, he maintained, as you have already pointed out, his own private environment in which he felt secure. He carried much into this environment but also gained a lot from it, he received great satisfaction from it. He was always loyal in matters of friendship. That was very lovely. He stayed loyal with colleagues from the Gymnasium in Wadowice. Until he passed away, he had colleagues living here in Rome. One of them was a Mr. Kluger. They knew each other from elementary school. He was a Jew from Wadowice. They enjoyed a great friendship. He went to see the Pope, he ate with him. Sometimes he even attended the holy Mass, but he never entered the chapel. He always stood in the doorway, but I still think that he was praying to the Lord. A likeable person. I think it is important to notice the Pope's loyalty in friendship independently from the situation. No matter if he was bishop, cardinal or pope… he was always loyal. That ensured him great trust. He had never failed anyone…
What about the fact that John Paul II had a great passion for culture? For instance, there was this famous meeting in Castel Gandolfo, a symposium every summer where he invited people like Prof. [Robert] Spaemann and others. What meaning did those meetings have?
He laid great emphasis on this. On one side, he said that these meetings were important for him, because they kept him informed on theological and scientific developments, On the other side, he wanted to get these people closer to the Church. I can, so it seems, probably underline, that the pontificate of Pope John Paul II brought the world of the Church closer to the world of science. At the same time, it got the academics closer to the Church. Fides et Ratio, things were practically handled at Castel Gandolfo. These people opened up to him not only in matters of science but also concerning their private issues. They talked about it. This brought the people closer to the Pope in a very simple and human way. The Pope, of course, used that effect. Every year these groups took turns, and he really appreciated the meetings. He wanted to be present on every subject and he was.
A universal perspective...
More a universal man. Everyone felt comfortable in his presence. They returned from these meetings with high spirits. Maybe because he lived with or through God and by meeting him, they met God. Keeping in mind the young people of that time urging towards him so much, it is remarkable that the young people of today do the same despite never having met John Paul II when he was still alive.
Nevertheless, they regard him a witness and a role model for the best things in life.
He not only met with academics and close friends, but and especially with the youth – that is, the future of the Church, the society, the civilization and the culture. What was that about? What did John Paul II see in the youth, in young people? And what was it they found attractive?
He saw the good in the youth, the good. He also saw that the young people were sensitive. He noticed they were searching for something. Hence, he recognized that you have to surround yourself with young people. As a pope and a shepherd, he understood that he had to be their spiritual leader with love, but also with demands and with truth. He always said: "You have to live in the truth." He was demanding but they knew he loved them. They knew that he wanted well for them. And there they met. He could see the future in the young people. The way the youth is today, will be the way society and the Church are tomorrow. He was a man of deep thinking, of refection. He always reflected. For example, when he wrote, and he wrote much — documents, homilies — he never used any text-or handbooks. He never used any help when he was writing at all. He read much too, but he always focused mostly on reflection. He was always keen to think and reflect. Only then, as a second step, he put his ideas down on paper.
So we can say the Holy Father deeply trusted in the youth?
Absolutely, he had trust in them, he believed in them, but not in a naive way. He was demanding yet dedicated to the matter.
We are aware that the young people approach him now as they did when he was still alive and especially, when he died. I remember when I attended the funeral, how astonished I was by the number of young people to be there as well. They did not only come from Poland, but from whole Europe. The human being felt something somehow.
They camped during his last days, not only in Piazza San Pietro but also in the streets nearby. I talked to these young people several times and told them to go home. "My dear people you are sitting here, but you need to rest, at least a little bit!" They mostly replied in the following way: "He was with us! Now in this moment, this very delicate moment in his life – and this is the important part of the statement – we want to be with him! He was looking for us! We want to be with him now.” It was important to these young people from all over the world to show some kind of gratitude, to prove that a friendship had developed. This friendship contains a certain aspect of closeness, and that is what these young people showed him especially during the last days of his life. Actually, they accompanied him to eternity.
There was a certain authenticity in John Paul II, a holiness that the youth felt at different meetings, larger and smaller ones, right? They saw that he lived for what he proclaimed and that he proclaimed what he lived for. One thing was no different from the other.
He was not an actor when he was the Pope. He was an authentic shepherd. The people understood that about him. They recognized him as a shepherd who was dedicated to his herd. He was no hired hand, but a real shepherd and that was a great aspect about John Paul II. He shared that characteristic with all popes I personally knew, beginning with Pope Paul VI., then John Paul I., the smiling Pope as you say and then the following popes…
Cardinal Dziwisz, you already mentioned the current World Youth Day, which will take place soon. We are right in the middle of the preparations. We are in a phase very close to the event…
I have no doubt, nearly everything is already prepared.
What does it mean that World Youth Day takes place in Krakow? There has already occurred another World Youth Day here, in Poland, right?
Well, there has not been one in Krakow, yet, but in Częstochowa. The young people wanted it this way. They desired to have the 25th anniversary of the World Youth Day to happen in the city of John Paul II. They wanted to get to know what is positive and beautiful here; they wanted to get to know Krakow, Poland. We are very happy about it. We are very happy since we hope this will be a great festival of faith and of solidarity between the young people. We are confident that this positive mood will bring peace to them.
Indeed. That is what I wanted to add. Krakow is the capital of mercy. From here a spark will arise, a spark of divine mercy, just as sister Faustina once wrote. That spark will assist to deepen the religious life in the world. We do have the hope that the young people will familiarize themselves with this consignment, this message of divine mercy here and that they will bring it to all countries. You know, there are many countries, because young people from almost 200 different countries will come to Krakow.
Cardinal Dziwisz, could you elaborate a little more on how mercy is a gateway for everyone, if there is some form of conversion, of self-reflection, of a correction of one’s own path? That idea is not much evident in the West. We do talk about mercy, but we sometimes forget all the other aspects connected to it, such as justice?
Yes, it is relevant to read the signs of time. Providence has somehow managed to make this all happen: the Year of Mercy, the pope, Pope Francis, to be the Pope of Mercy. It is due to Providence that the youth will celebrate a festival of mercy this year here in Krakow. The Lord wants to show us something, he wants to show us that this is the way to the future, the way of the Church, the way of societies. However, mercy means reversal and conversion, as well. We see that many people come to confess, they are keen to reconcile with God but also with other people. Mercy – that is God's love for people, who are also obliged to communicate and to share love and mercy [with others]. In this context works of mercy develop…
Take the location where the event will take place: Anticipating the Holy Father's intention, two houses have been built there, already! There is the house of bread, in which the poor are welcome to find shelter. It also has medicine for the sick people, medical consultation or rehabilitation is conducted in there. So, we will not only celebrate and be happy there, but something will stay there permanently. We are already preparing cars and ambulances, which will drive to Syria. The issue is not simply to announce mercy, but to live it by taking actions.
In the light of the above, I would like to raise another question. Where does the church in Poland stand today, since the communism has fallen? The year 1989 is moving further away and many challenges confront the church. I know that you emigrated for many years and when you returned after a long time, it gave you a different view on this situation.
I have never been an emigrant. I have served the Pope in Rome, but I never felt like an emigrant. The view of today is very easy. Given the age of globalization, we all know everything about everything. That is why residing and returning to a close country, especially to the diocese from which I left, was easy. That is how I knew problems. There will always be problems, but we are trying to familiarize with these problems and to solve them. Without any doubts, there will be problems for the youth as well. It is a challenge to make sure that the youth is with the Church to ensure that the youth is prepared for life in the society. In those terms, the catechesis is an important tool for us as members of the Church. A good catechesis is always needed, because ignorance is dangerous. Once the human being is afraid or does not know what to do next, he or she is most likely to be subjected to all different kinds of tendencies [like fashions]. What we want to do is to teach well against it. That is a duty of today's Church. The next point is to be with the society without merging with politics. We want to achieve a positive cooperation, but we also want to stay independent. Let us go back to Stanislaus and be open for everyone, not shutting ourselves off to any political group. That will brings back the people's trust in us. That way, we ensure that everyone can feel at home in the Church. No one will be locked out. Indeed, the task is indeed not easy, but living in a democracy, we have to understand to be independent concerning our service to society and the Church.
Speaking about the visit of Pope Francis, you have already mentioned the catechesis and a certain new evangelization of nation that have been rooted in Christian tradition for a long time. Is there anything that Pope Francis should provide us with?
Well, Pope Francis is a great pastoral worker. He has excellent contact with people. I think that mostly he will bring his personality to us, it will be some kind of a message, you might say. Of course, there will be more, but Poland was always connected to the apostolic see and hence, the nation has always been loyal to the apostolic see.
The Latin Phrase "Polonia semper fidelis" expresses this the best?
The Mexicans say the same. They are loyal as well. However, neither the Reformation nor any cults have caused damage to Poland. This loyalty to Petrus — no matter if his name is John Paul, Benedict or Francis — means loyalty to the apostolic see. I think this aspect will be enhanced and strengthened by Pope Francis' visit. It is very important for the youth because of the strong criticism existing in the Church and in the world influence the youth. Pope Francis' visit will bring them closer to the Church, to the Pope himself and to the hierarchy.
Is the World Youth Day in Krakow in some way an apogee of your pastoral services here? And how do you try to keep the legacy of John Paul II. alive in your everyday life?
No doubt, the magisterium of John Paul II is a point of reference in many areas.
Maybe you could explain this a little further?
In any case, it is a matter of family. He has left us a great doctrine in that field. "Familiaris Consortio" and further documents, his magisterium, etc. What he left us is very thorough knowledge, which you can lean on. By the way, the latest exhortation [Amoris Laetitia] quotes John Paul II many times.
Do you refer to the opinion that today in civilization, a so-called struggle, a fight, is attacking the family? This is how Cardinal [Carlo] Caffarra pictured it, who is a close friend of John Paul II, referring to Sister Lucia and Sister Fatima.
Indeed. The future of the Church and the family, as well as the future of the Church and the world, belong to the family. Someone wrote: "If you want to destroy the Church, you have to destroy the family." That is the basis. Yet, we notice that the conscience awakens. There are more and more good and holy families in the world. That phenomenon is connected to the number of children. The real crisis in Poland is a demographic crisis. Fewer children are born. Even schools have to close due to a lack of pupils. This issue demands great responsibility from the society, the state and the Church. The change of mentality is not only a question of material matters, but also one of the mentality.
I think the Polish government has made some good regulations by introducing grants for children.
All this is a culmination of your pastoral services, which of course will continue, but we also know that the World Youth Day will mark a conclusion to a certain part of your life, esteemed Cardinal. What plans do you have for the time after, since there are probably less administrational duties to fulfill on a daily basis? Are there any favorite activities which you will have more time for?
I suggest that is something I will think of when I retire. I will serve the Church for as long as I can. That is for sure. A priest is always busy. He can always serve. Serve with his priesthood, In the very moment you retire, your priesthood does not end, neither does the charisma of a bishop. Apart from that, there are some things you have to deal with, but that is nothing I want to talk about now. I will realize it when the time comes.
As this interview is broadcast on EWTN and given that this year our founder, Mother Angelica, has passed away, I would like to ask you another question. You wrote a personal letter of condolence which was even read at her funeral and which showed us that you, as well as John Paul II, appreciated the work of Mother Angelica as a missionary in the TV and media world. She was one of the first to intensively evangelize this world. What kind of relationship did John Paul II and Mother Angelica have when they met?
Yes, yes, [they met] several times. Even I was able to meet Mother Angelica on several occasions. She received a monstrance from the Holy Father, which you can always find in the United States. So he deemed her apostolic activity very positively. Due to the confusion that prevails in the world and in the United States, she was a healthy voice, holding up the deeper moral standards. That is something that many people appreciate today, although they were not convinced before. What she did was a great service to the Church, but especially to the Lord and it was overall a service to society as well. A very healthy teaching that was directed to many fields, such as the family. What she accomplished was very important. By the way, this channel is also followed in Poland! It is very important that her healthy voice and her healthy teaching, her healthy suggestions, find their way from the United States into the world. One has to appreciate that and thank Mother Angelica who had received a great calling. She realized her calling. She is an outstanding personality. One can only admire her – a usual nun who possessed the ability to establish an institution of interpersonal communication to a very impressive extent. You have to thank her and the people who trusted her, who worked with her und who continue her work and who have taken responsibility for it and who carry it forwards so that it can exist further on — and do more than existing, so it can evolve.
I see an analogy between John Paul II and Mother Angelica who were very communicative at a certain moment. Is my assumption true, were they masters of communication?
Yet, at the end of his life, John Paul II fell silent. In a moment where it is all about the voice and not so much about the symbolic of expression, he fell silent. It was the same with Mother Angelica. The Lord took her voice, her very special ability to talk, at a certain moment. However, she continued to work. Some say that this was the moment, in which she showed her holiness. Can we call it that? Can we see it that way?
Ah, indeed, without any doubt. When the physical powers vanished, the Lord's mercy grew even more. It was the power of God shining through them. That is what you saw. You saw the effectiveness of the action through weakness, the action of God. We all are in God's hands – always. It was his hands you saw when their physical hands disappeared. I have heard it said that the John Paul II’s greatest blessing was his last, the most stirring he had ever made. It occurred when stepped out to give the blessing but could not speak anymore.
Cardinal Dziwisz, thank you very much for having taken the time to talk to us – about the church in Poland, the meaning of Krakow, about the Saints, the culture and of course, the witness of the holy John Paul II. You have explained to us many more aspects, which will bring us closer to the Church in Poland, to the saints and what meaning they have for us today. Again, thank you very much and God bless you, Cardinal Dziwisz.
I would like to thank you for this meeting today, because it is also very important to me, since it is special to talk to the viewers like that. Even if there is no direct dialogue, it is still a very important tool. I am very grateful for this opportunity. Many messages could be delivered. Thanks to today, I have even more the desire to invite the youth, from Germany and from wherever your you are, to have courage, because security is guaranteed. It is guaranteed by John Paul II, who prays to the Lord. Come to Krakow, it will be a great festival of mutual strengthening and joy. Friendships will be made and they will unburden the life of the young people. We are waiting for you! The elderly are invited as well! John Paul II said: "Who loves, does not grow old!" So, anyone, who loves shall come to Krakow. Everyone will be heartily welcomed and we are waiting (for you)!
Translated into English by Marion Sendker