By Vatican News
Today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Karol Wojtyła, the future Pope Saint John Paul II. Pope Francis, on Monday morning, celebrated Mass at the altar where the saint is entombed in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Saint John Paul II was elected Pope by the second papal conclave of 1978 which was called after the death of Pope John Paul I who died after a brief pontificate. Saint John Paul II’s papacy lasted from 1978 to 2005.
In an interview with Vatican News, Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, personal secretary to Pope Saint John Paul II, and Archbishop Emeritus of Krakow, Poland, speaks about his experience of living and working with the saint.
A man of prayer
Cardinal Dziwisz recalled that he lived with the saint after he had been appointed a Cardinal by Paul VI in 1967, and continued after Wojtyla became Pope. “The secret of his person is the depth of his spiritual life,” Dziwisz said. “He always prayed, he learnt the value of prayer as a boy and this aspect deepened afterwards.”
A man of kindness and love
“We must not forget his extraordinary personality,” stressed Dziwisz. He notes that Saint John Paul II treated everyone with great respect and love even if they were poor, weak or sick.
The Cardinal gave the example of a child sick with AIDS that the saint met during his visit to San Francisco in the United States. He recalled that the saint “took the child’s hands, kissed them, blessed them and then gave the child back to his family.” This gesture, said Dziwisz, “was truly more important than a sermon, especially at that time.”
The Polish Cardinal also pointed out that Saint John Paul II created the atmosphere of a family with those he lived with in the pontifical apartments. He remarked that the great simplicity and goodness of the saint moved everyone to become more dedicated to their work.
“He left a great legacy that is important not only for yesterday and today, but for the future.”