The time of fulfilling duties by cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz holding the post as the metropolitan of Cracow is ending. Maria Fortuna-Sudor talks with the spiritual son of John Paul II about his ministry to Church, Poland and Cracow on this post.

MARIA FORTUNA-SUDOR: – Cardinal, it has been 11 years since the moment of ingress to the Wawel cathedral. What memories come to your mind by the date of 27 August 2005?

CARDINAL STANISŁAW DZIWISZ: – On that day I somehow returned to my world. What was difficult took place earlier. Soon after the death of John Paul II pope Benedict XVI invited me to concelebrate the Holy Mass in a private chapel and then to his office where he gave me his suggestions – The Holy Father suggested me taking over the office of the metropolitan of Cracow. It was a particular moment for me, when I was emotionally moved and even shocked. I realized what decision I had to make. After all I knew the archdiocese of Cracow. All people who had created this Church came to my mind, beginning with St. Stanisław to the last cardinals: Wojtyła and Macharski. I remember that I was trying to oppose I told the Holy Father that there were great priests in Cracow, real priests of the Church. After a long talk, full of friendliness for the diocese, I must say: also for me, I agreed. I thanked and assured that I would fulfill the will of the Holy Father and in the name of God I would undertake duties in the archdiocese of Cracow.

– And what did the ingress look like?

– Because it took some time to travel from Vatican to Cracow and get prepared to take over the office of the metropolitan, I could think over a lot of issues and some tensions went away. I was very calm during the ingress, although it was a great even. I was glad because among many people participating in it, there was also a big representation from the Roman diocese, which after the years of the ministry of the Holy Father became very dear to me.

– Was it difficult for Your Eminency to complete tasks after taking over the office of the metropolitan?

– I began my ministry, having got experience not only in Vatican. Before that, I had served to cardinal Karol Wojtyła in Cracow for 12 years. I observed the diocese and its pastor. It was an extremely intensive school of human formation. Cardinal Wojtyła formed people, showing the purpose at which we are aiming and the means necessary to realize it. He had a vision which we outlined generally and left details to his cooperators. Similarly I was trying to work so for the last 11 years. I was doing my best as much as my preparation and abilities let me manage the diocese together with bishops and cooperators of the Curia. They got convinced about the road indicated by me, and I simply trusted them. I am very grateful to them for this cooperation. I am going into retirement with the feeling of a well-completed duty.

– During your ministry to the Church in Cracow, Priest Cardinal often faced up difficult decisions. One of them was the burial of bodies of the president of the Republic of Poland, the late Lech Kaczyński and his wife in the Wawel cathedral.

– The funeral of the presidential couple in the cathedral at Wawel was not my initiative. I was given it by one of ministers who visited me. I answered that it was too important decision to make it on my own. Next day I was talking on the phone about it with Mr. Bronisław Komorowski who was a president then, as well as with other people in order to consult the issue and make a decision together. Finally, I was decided that the government would take care of organizing a worthy funeral, whereas the family were allowed to make a decision about a place of burying the bodies. Personally, I did not have any objections. It was justified by extraordinary circumstances, a serious tragedy which had happened at Smoleńsk. As it turned out, that decision divided Poles. Those who had a negative attitude to president Kaczyński, did not want to accept it, but the widely-understood society supported it, which was proved by the exceptional solemn funeral ceremony. But at that time there appeared a critical attitude to the bishop of Cracow.

– And is there such a decision which Cardinal regrets?

– Could you give me a hint? There were a lot of difficult decisions. The particularly difficult ones were personal decisions. I have always tried to behave in such a way so as somebody would understand that a particular decision was good. I have never followed opinions given by media but I have always tried to maintain a well-understood independence. And, first of all, I have always tried to remember that the man has got tasks to which he was called for by God and the ones indicated by the Church and that it is the most important. It does not mean that I ignored opinions of the others but if I looked only at what will be said or written and by whom, when making a decision, my life and work would be a nightmare.

– Mass media have not always been favourable to Eminence. They gave various evaluations and criticism. How did Cardinal understand sayings, like: ‘Cardinal – an ambiguous person’, or, e.g. ‘he has no charism of predecessors’?

– This saying ‘an ambiguous cardinal’ could remain (a laughter). As for the latter one, I think the same. After all, everyone has got their own personality. I cannot be like my predecessors, otherwise I would not be myself.

– Are there any journalists who particularly got under Cardinal’s skin?

– There are journalists who are incoherent – a contact with them is very friendly and later they say or write something in a completely different tone. In such situations the man feels somehow disappointed. But I appreciate journalists’ work. They can do a lot of good. They can also make mistakes. If they make them deliberately, this is bad. Certainly, it is difficult to be a completely independent journalist. But, nevertheless, a journalist respecting himself, is himself.

– I suppose that beside difficult situations there were also the pleasant ones. Which of them does Eminence particularly remember?

– Undoubtedly, Poles got very happy about the beatification and then canonization of John Paul II. For me those were unusual moments. The man beside whom I had lived for years and till the last day, was canonized. It was a great event for us who had been with him every day and if it was necessary we were taking care of him at night. But we have always understood it as grace.

– The Centre on the White Seas was established to the honour of John Paul II. Not everybody approved of this idea…

– That is true. Even priests, friends said that there were other needs. I made a decision in relation to John Paul II – thinking about the future generations. I wanted to create a place where they would meet the person of John Paul II and his heritage. I felt calm as I did not begin with empty hands. The first publications brought me a lot of support. And then the idea started friendliness and a lot of people in Poland and all over the world supported this initiative. The aim was to build a House of St. John Paul II near the area of Solvay, where the future pope worked, near the sanctuary of Divine Mercy to which he had used to come. One can just see how many people go there not only to visit and admire it but, first of all, to pray and look for help from John Paul II.

– People and institutions arrive to express Eminence their gratitude, thank for Eminence’s ministry to the Church as the metropolitan. What is the time before the ingress for the new metropolitan?

– I must say that so many people, organizations and institutions are trying to show me their gratitude which makes me feel embarrassed. Although it would be worse if they told me: ‘it is good your ministry is ending’. I feel a lot of friendliness for which I am grateful.

– Priest Cardinal emphasizes that he will still serve to the Church, Poland and Cracow. Can Eminence tell us a little secret and say what this ministry will be based on and what form it will have.

– My work as the metropolitan is ending but I do not say farewell to Cracow. I will try not to disturb and I will do everything to make it clear that in the diocese there is only one pastor. Certainly, the bishop can remain on what he has done but he should get engaged in the life of the Church. And this is my intention. My cooperation with cardinal Marcharski and auxiliary bishops was excellent - each of them could realize their duties. This variety enriches the Church for sure.

– Among tasks about which a lot is said, there is work on notes which Your Eminence was making throughout the pontificate of John Paul II. Can Eminence say what they include?

– I wrote them every day from the first to the last day of the pontificate. As it is known, human memory is unreliable, but with those notes one can reconstruct the ministry of John Paul II day by day. These are valuable notes to which I often return. I think that there will be an occasion to do something with them during my retirement although I know that it will not be possible to publish them without elaboration.

– Whereas there is an occasion for Eminence to address some words to Readers of ‘Niedziela’.

– I wish you to be faithful to the teaching of Your Fathers in faith.

– Amen! Thank you for the interview.


„Niedziela” 04/2017

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl