Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, one of Bl. John Paul II’s closest collaborators, said the Pope’s holiness and pontificate were characterized by martyrdom. In an article entitled “A Life with Karol,” published in a magazine insert by the Italian newspaper Avvenire, Cardinal Dziwisz said that during the May 13, 1981 assassination attempt, “the Pope’s blood was shed … and the Pope came close to martyrdom by blood.” “Afterwards, the rest of his pontificate was marked by another kind of martyrdom: hard work, sacrifice, being consumed by Christ and his cause, for which the Savior of man came to earth.” Cardinal Dziwisz reflected that during the 27 years of his pontificate, the holiness of John Paul II was multifaceted and manifest in many ways, including “prayer, service and suffering.” “I met Karol Wojtyla in the seminary at age 18. It was 1957. He was professor of ethics. We were amazed at his knowledge of the material, as well as his spirituality and his open-mindedness toward others. A year later he was named auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Krakow and some time later, he took over as metropolitan archbishop,” the former secretary recalled. “On June 23, 1963, I received the Sacrament of Orders from the hands of young Archbishop Karol. At that time I never imagined that the story of my life and my vocation would be so marked by service to the Church at his side.” On Oct. 6, 1978, a turning point came in the life of Cardinal Dziwisz: Cardinal Wojtyla was elected Bishop of Rome. “He asked me to continue helping him. That’s how it all began.” “Nobody knew how long it would last or how the pontificate of John Paul II would be. He came from a faraway country, both from the geographical and political point of view. In the Pope’s country, a Communist totalitarian system against God, the Church and the human being was in power, with the goal of depriving man of what is most important.” Cardinal Dziwisz said that John Paul II became a catechist for the world at his death. “I stayed with him until the end, until his last breath. You could think that it was the end of everything, but in reality it was the beginning of a new story: holiness. The death and funeral of John Paul II in themselves became an emotional catechesis for the entire world.” “God only knows what happened the hearts of millions of people. The holiness of the Pope began to speak to them at that moment. The holiness of the Pope is the synthesis of what he was, what he was able to achieve.”
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