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TESTIMONIES
from issue no. 04 - 2005

The remembrances of twenty Cardinals



Twenty cardinals write Part II



Gabriel Zubeir Wako

Gabriel Zubeir Wako

THAT JOURNEY OF HIS
TO THE SUDAN

by Cardinal Gabriel Zubeir Wako
Archbishop of Khartoum

My most heartfelt memory of Pope John Paul II comes back with emotion and joy for those nine hours spent with him in Khartoum on that 10 February 1993 when the Pontiff came for the first time to the Sudan. I remember his arrival at the airport when, after stepping down from the plane, he knelt to kiss our land, saying: «Peace be with you». Who could not be deeply moved by that gesture of love performed by the Holy Father! Those who know the situation in the Sudan were aware what his visit and that gesture might mean in a land tormented by civil war. He declared openly in front of the diplomats and the men of government that he had come as a sign of peace and to meet his children persecuted and violated by injustice. He didn’t hide his satisfaction at being able to celebrate the Eucharist, for the first time publicly, in a fundamentalist Islamic country. By his brief visit the Pope did us a great deal of good! A visit of nine hours to proclaim Jesus Christ «our peace» and to give to all new hope. Ten years after that visit, in 2003, the Holy Father decided to call me to the College of Cardinals. «You», he said, «come from the beloved African continent, may there always be grace and blessing for the Church of Khartoum and for all the Sudanese people». Deeply moved I said that my greatest desire was to follow and persevere in fidelity to the example of my predecessor and founder of the Sudanese Church: Saint Daniele Comboni.

Justin Francis Rigali

Justin Francis Rigali

AS SAMSON FROM HIS HAIR
SO WOJTYLA DREW STRENGTH FROM PRAYER

by Cardinal Justin Francis Rigali
Archbishop of Philadelphia

I was on the balcony of the Secretariat of State the afternoon on which the election of Pope John Paul II was announced. I was presented to the Pope the following day, since I was the director of the English language department of the Secretariat of State. I was present that evening when the Pope left the Arco delle Campane to visit Bishop Deskur, a Polish friend from his youth who had had an apoplectic stroke. So the first time that the Pope left the Vatican was precisely a demonstration of his great compassion, loyalty and pity: he went to see those in need. Thus his pontificate began in the sign of pity, of generosity, of pastoral love and of energy. The energy to spend himself, to devote himself completely to the Kingdom of God and to the People of God.
Then the Pope began to travel, and the first of the many times I had the good fortune to accompany him to the English-speaking countries was on his third international journey, to Ireland and to the United States. Four hundred thousand people were waiting for him at Galway Bay, on the west coast of Ireland; they were young people and the Pope was cheered 42 times. But the applause on the forty-first occasion was inconceivable, it lasted twelve or thirteen minutes. What had brought it on? He had told the young Irish people what he was soon to say to the Americans and then to all the young people of the world: «Young people, I love you». Then I began to understand his method: he wanted to proclaim the Word of God, commit young people to doing something with their lives, tell them, as the Vatican II Council teaches us, that their consummation is in Jesus Christ, that only He can explain life and humanity, and to be careful to avoid what would deprive them of that legacy and their freedom. The young people understood that he loved them – and that he loved them even though he knew that they would not perhaps approve of everything he said – and the proof we have had in Rome, in the multitude that came to do him homage.I was then with the Pope during the visit to Morocco, when he spoke with great honesty to the 60,000 young people who awaited him, all Moslem. He said that people of different religions must respect one another, even in their differences, of which the greatest is our faith in Jesus Christ. He said that we all have in common the gift of humanity, that all are children of God and that the world has so much need of peaceful and respectful relationships between us. But to interpret his whole pontificate one needs, I believe, to understand his first encyclical, the Redemptor hominis, because Pope John Paul II was convinced that the Council was right in affirming that it is Jesus who explains mankind to itself and that we know God through Jesus, splendor of the Father. Jesus not only reveals God, but shows mankind its own dignity as human creatures. And Pope Wojtyla, who had gone through both the horrors of Nazism and Communism, knew the value of human dignity and knew that what weakens it or destroys it cannot be tolerated.The endless energy of this Pope was clear to all. Like Samson in the Old Testament, whose enormous strength lay in his hair and failed if that was cut, so John Paul II drew energy from his life of prayer, and that is why we always saw him praying. I remember that one evening in Africa, at the end of an incredibly long day of meetings, moving from place to place, speeches, after dinner he had to say hello and thank you to the security men, the cooks, and still the local bishop continued to introduce more people to him… The queue ended only very late. Then another Polish colleague and myself found ourselves speaking an instant with the Pope about the day that had passed and of the many things done. He was very contented and seemed tired. But after two minutes he got up from his chair and reentered the chapel to visit the Blessed Sacrament. He spent almost half an hour there, then he came out, and myself and my colleague looked at each other sharing the same impression: he was ready to start again, he was reborn. Outside the young people began to sing, the Pope went to the window to greet them, he sang a little with them and only then did he go to rest. That was John Paul II, and one can understand him only if one knows his secret, the source of the energy that supported him for twenty-six and a half years. It’s easy to do well at the beginning, but he did it, like Jesus, right up to the end.There was a papal journey that I think of as special, and it was the first, to Mexico, because there the Pope knelt in front of the image of Our Lady of Guadaloupe and understood what the mission was to which God had called him. He said at that time that the Church, to be faithful to Christ, must be the servant of mankind, and he was very proud of his title “Servus servorum Dei”, servant of the servants of God, the same as that of Gregory the Great. That was his challenge, his purpose, his mission. But then he let us into his secret: for all these years he taught us to pray, to go to the Lord to ask for strength, because if we wish to perform our mission we must go to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. He taught us the Eucharist and in the end he died in the Year of the Eucharist. He taught us, as I said at the beginning, mercy. And in Dives in misericordia he wrote that mercy is the greatest attribute of God. And what is mercy? The love of God that encounters our weakness, our need, our sins. The Pope told people not to lose heart, because Christ offers us forgiveness in the sacrament of penitence, because he is merciful. Mercy is the love of God in face of our sins, and we all have sins. Not only did the Pope write that encyclical but he also canonized Sister Faustina Kowalska of Krakow who had private revelations of the divine mercy. The teaching of the Church does not, however, derive from her but from Scripture. Sister Faustina was beatified on the second Sunday of Easter in 1993, afterward named by John Paul II “the second Sunday of Easter or Sunday of Mercy”. And it was at first vespers of the second Sunday of Easter or Sunday of Mercy that the Pope died, after his secretary, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, had celebrated the Eucharist in his room for the last time. Rome has been decked with posters in which the image of the merciful Jesus is to be seen behind the face of the Pope. That Sunday I celebrated mass in my cathedral and I reminded the faithful that they had just listened to the same readings heard by the Pope before dying.Mercy makes sense of the whole pontificate. The Pope considered himself an apostle of the divine mercy, which explains his love, his total giving of himself, and finally his death, which is the crown of a life given with total generosity. That is why his face was so calm in death and at peace, because he had completed his mission, that of someone proclaiming the mercy of God and defending the dignity of every man, woman, child.

Tarcisio Bertone

Tarcisio Bertone

SO THAT WHEN CHRIST RETURNS,
HE WILL FIND THE FAITH

by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone
Archbishop of Genoa

A year ago I was asked if after my transfer to Genoa I wasn’t homesick for Rome. I replied that the only regret was lack of my close meetings with Pope John Paul II, fortnightly and sometimes weekly encounters.
After being present at the announcement of the “gaudium magnum” on 16 October 1978, I began to work for the Holy See and the Pope from 1979. The job of consultant for different departments of the Roman Curia and, in a special way, for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith brought me, through the trust of Cardinal Ratzinger, to participate frequently in the study days of the Holy Father – normally Tuesday – so enjoying a familiarity which continued to grow until, on 13 June 1995, the Pope called me to fulfill the office of Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Contrary to the image sometimes induced by the media – especially at the beginning of the pontificate – of an authoritarian Pope, John Paul II was a man who questioned and listened more than anyone else.He asked crucial questions, he looked you deeply in the eyes and waited for reasoned answers. But he also knew how to joke with an inspired wit, and to digress on subjects off the agenda (as with the World Cup games in 1998). At the work meetings, calling on me to speak, he used to say: «Now we’ll hear the magnificent Rector Magnificus of the Salesian University». In 1991, when he nominated me archbishop of Vercelli, I went to say goodbye before leaving Rome, and he placed a pectoral cross on my neck, a precious gift. Then his secretary Monsignor Stanislaw asked the Holy Father: «What shall we call Don Bertone now he is no longer the rector magnificus?». The Pope promptly replied: «We’ll call him archbishop magnificus!», and broke into genuine laughter. The papal photographer took a photo just at that moment, and I still keep that image, with the Pope laughing beside me, on the desk of my study in the archbishop’s palace in Genoa.I kept a diary of the particular audiences with John Paul II, that I now reread with pleasure, to reanimate the wise richness that emanated from him, both when he was preparing an encyclical, such as Fides et ratio, or the declaration Dominus Iesus, or when with paternal heart he dealt with the priestly or matrimonial problems of hundreds of faithful, Catholic and non-Catholic.The legacy of his teachings will be an inexhaustible mine, both for the bold effort to reconcile faith and science, Church and modernity, as well as for ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue, and the new style of illuminating, through the inspiration of the Christian moral design, social and economic problems on a global scale.But, above all, John Paul II gave witness to us of the capacity to bring young people to Christ, the highest goal of all human aspiration. In one of his finest speeches he confessed that he wanted to give his life so that Christ, when he comes back to earth, might find faith in men. This concrete ideal, which is the ideal of the Kingdom of God (Don Bosco said: «The policy of Our Father»), involves us all passionately.

José Saraiva Martins

José Saraiva Martins

THE POPE WHO LOOKED AFAR

by Cardinal José Saraiva Martins

It often happened that John Paul II was recorded by the TV cameras while, immersed in the crowds, he seemed to look far off. It was as if in front of his eyes there was always a horizon to scrutinize, in which he immersed and contemplated whoever was in front of him. Yes, because I believe that more than anyone else he knew how to look at everything and envelop everyone with a look of profound faith, experienced and indeed palpable, through his person.
With the death of John Paul one of the greatest pontiffs in the history of the Church has gone. His, in fact, was not only one of the longest pontificates, but also one of the most intense and fruitful, a true gift of God to the Church between the second and the third millennia.
Those words pronounced by the new Pope “come from a far off country” as soon as elected to the throne of Peter, on that memorable 22 October 1978, still echo in the ears and the heart: «Don’t be afraid. Open the doors to Christ, to his saving power».
These words, truly prophetic, with which the then newly elected Pontiff presented himself to the Church and the world, already contained in nucleus the whole vast program of his pontificate, pivoting on Christ Redeemer of man, as the title of his first encyclical says.
An extraordinary rich pontificate, that of Pope Wojtyla. Precious the heritage of his doctrinal and pastoral magisterium, which the Church in the future cannot neglect in the exercise of its mission among the men of our time.
Some aspects of the pontificate of the Polish Pope should be underlined, because of their great importance and burning topicality.
First of all his pastoral action, tireless and extremely efficient, at every level of the life of the Church and of today’s society. His numerous apostolic journeys are one of its most eloquent expressions. John Paul II began a new way of being Pope: traveling, setting about walking the streets of the world, to look in the face, so to speak, the realities of the various local Churches in the different continents and to announce the Gospel to all men and to all peoples. John Paul II was thus the first and greatest missionary in the over 26 years of his pontificate. It is a vision of the Petrine ministry in perfect harmony with the demands of the time.
Another characteristic of the pontificate of Pope Wojtyla was his constant and paternal closeness to mankind today. In his encyclical Redemptor hominis he affirmed that «man is the way of the Church». An affirmation, this, of enormous pastoral relevance, that the Pope never forgot. He was always close to man, to his problems, defending always, with great courage, the dignity of the human person, his legitimate aspirations, his fundamental rights and, because of that, sacred, immutable. Rightly, Don Giussani, on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the pontificate, said: «In John Paul II, in his figure, Christianity defines the human condition, it is the way for achieving the happiness of the human being». Thanks to Karol Wojtyla the world has become aware that Christianity indeed aims at being the realization of mankind. Again in his last book the Pope wrote the refrain that corresponds to the genius of Christianity: «Gloria dei vivens homo», the glory of God is living man. The Pontiff often reminded us that every offence to man is always a grave offence to God, who has created him in His image and likeness. It must not be forgotten that, precisely because of this tenacious defense of man John Paul II was also the target of attacks and malevolence. He will always remain a courageous and credible witness to human dignity.
John Paul II will furthermore go down in history as the Pope of peace between men and peoples. His yearly messages for the World Day of Peace are similarly masterly lessons on that precious gift that Christ, the Prince of Peace, came to bring to the world. And his frequent and impassioned appeals for peace based on truth, freedom, justice, love, forgiveness and reconciliation, are as much imperative summonses to the obligation that lies on all men, believers or not, to be true and convinced builders of peace.
Another fundamental aspect that characterizes the pontificate of the deceased Pope is that of sanctity. Pope Wojtyla alone created more saints and blesseds than all his predecessors created together since 1588, the year in which the Department for the Causes of the Saints was set up. Holiness belongs to the DNA of the Church of Christ. It is one of its constitutive elements. And in the Novo millennio ineunte he says that the purpose of all the pastoral activity of the Church is that of arousing in the faithful the yearning for sanctity (NMI, 37).
Finally, John Paul II will go down in history as the Pope of the young. From the beginning of his pontificate a real feeling between him and the young was created. The young loved the Pope, and the Pope loved the young, rightly seeing in them the future of the Church and of society. The invitation that he addressed to them was particularly significant: «Young people, don’t be afraid of being the saints of the third millennium».


Paul Poupard

Paul Poupard

LIKE PETER HE REPEATED:
«LORD, YOU KNOW I LOVE YOU»

by Cardinal Paul Poupard

Right here, in San Callisto, I remember the first supper with the then archbishop of Krakow Wojtyla. He knew that I worked in the Secretariat of State, and he asked me to explain to him the “mysterious thing” that the offices of the Apostolic Palace were for him. Another time in Lublin, with Cardinal Wojtyla, we went in the evening to the theater and he told me how he too had been an actor when young. A few months after his nomination as Pope he received me and we began to talk, among other things, about Paris. I then discovered that he had been at the Institute catholique to study French and I was also questioned, as follows:«You worked for a long time with my great predecessor, Paul VI, talk to me about him». From then on, how many meetings with Pope Wojtyla … The last, half way through December, at lunch. I showed him the pectoral cross that His Holiness the Patriarch of Moscow Alexis II had given me as a token of communion in faith and the photos of my meeting with Alexis. At which the Pope said to me: «Culture is the key to encounter». Through these hints, what more can I still say about him? That he was a man of extraordinary humanity, that was at one with his faith. And always, always, everything in the cross of Christ.
I will never forget the masses concelebrated with him, especially those in his private chapel. One more than all the others. There were only a few people present, and he invited me to read the Gospel. It was the Gospel of John, where the Lord asked Peter: «Simon, do you love me?». And he, in front of me, while I read, every time that Jesus repeated that question to Simon, replied with his body, in silence, clenching his hands tighter in the gesture of prayer, putting them up to his face, squeezing up his eyes, and with all of himself he replied: «Lord, you know that I love you».


Jean-Louis Tauran

Jean-Louis Tauran

HIS LEGACY

by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran

In my view the legacy left by Pope John Paul II is that of a great witness. During the thirteen years in which I held the post of secretary for the Relations of the Holy See with other States, I had the privilege of being received every Wednesday so as to keep him abreast of the current international situation and also to receive his directives.
Of those conversations I remember first and foremost the witness of a man of Church, who lived absorbed in God. As a result of what I saw I often affirmed that all the great decisions or pontifical interventions were not conceived in the office but kneeling in front of the tabernacle in the private chapel.
It also seems to me that Pope John Paul II was an impassioned defender of the dignity of the human person and his fundamental rights, in particular the right to freedom of conscience and of religion.
Personal experience of the two totalitarian regimes of the last century made him particularly sensitive to the dangers that can be imposed on the people of our day by systems that nullify the spiritual dimension. Materialism, consumerism, certain aberrations in biotechnology, the weakening of the family or, worse still, contempt for life were considered by him as baneful as the ideologies of the last century. His work in the service of mankind led him finally to conceive of international society as a community of nations, in which the more affluent help the less fortunate... as in a family! In diplomatic relations John Paul II never tired of repeating to his interlocutors that rights and justice are the basis of a durable peace.
His person, his teachings and his apostolic trips will certainly have bestowed on the Church a visibility that has enabled her – and will enable her – to carry out better her spiritual mission, her ecumenic commitment and her contribution to inter-religious dialogue. She, in her turn, made him the gift of being - in the wayfaring of mankind - a traveling companion who reminded them with all simplicity that «man does not live by bread alone».


Francesco Marchisano

Francesco Marchisano

THAT MASS AT THE GEMELLI HOSPITAL

by Cardinal Francesco Marchisano

I met Karol Wojtyla in 1962. I think that there are only a few of us who knew him for such a long time. I was then at the Congregation for Catholic Education and the organizer of the seminars for the English - and German - speaking countries, for the countries behind the Iron Curtain and for the ecclesiastical colleges in Rome. A few days before the Council the rector of the Polish College came to me and said: «You must do me a favor». «Gladly, if I can», I answered. And he: «At the moment I have all the Polish bishops staying in my college, they know nothing of Italy and they’ve heard tell a great many things… positive and negative. Please, come and explain». Young as I was then, I didn’t want to go, but the rector literally forced me. I did a bit of preparation and went to the meeting. I spoke for an hour and twenty minutes, in simple words and short phrases, in Polish – I know a dozen words of it - and in Italian. At the end, the Polish bishops embarrassed me with the thanks they lavished on me, truly heartfelt I would say. The last in line was the young auxiliary of Krakow, Monsignor Wojtyla, whom I didn’t know, and who addressed me in these very words, speaking slowly in an Italian he hadn’t yet mastered: «I thank you, because I understood everything you said, and if I understood, all the bishops of Poland understood». Then, miming a barrier with his hand, he went on: «We are cut off from Europe; we don’t know if, when the Council is over, we will be able to return to Rome again. But if it is possible, could we meet again? You speak clearly…». «Your Excellence… gladly», I answered.
After that, he was elected archbishop of Krakow and president of the Episcopal Commission for Polish seminaries and theological faculties, and I became undersecretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education. Between 1962 and 1978 he will have come to Rome at least forty or fifty times, or maybe more.
I would like to speak of just one thing that always struck me in him: his endless humanity. Once I went to him in Krakow. He insisted on lending me his bedroom, which was very simple (there was a bed that seemed more a frame with a mattress…), it looked like a monk’s cell, with tattered bits of furniture. «But Eminence, excuse me, this is your bedroom, there’ll be somewhere else for me to lodge», I repeated. And Cardinal Wojtyla: « Yes, yes, there are some rooms in the attic, but they’re full of dust... I’ll tell the nun to sweep up a bit and I’ll go sleep there, you stay here».
His humanity… He came to visit me after I’d had a heart attack, and he came five years later when I had my right vocal chord paralyzed by an operation on the carotid (I woke from the anesthetic and found I was all but dumb and had to do seven months of daily speech therapy). I was back home and a few days passed and the Pope called me to invite me to lunch, as he had done so many times. After greeting me, he asked how I was. We sat down, I still couldn’t speak properly and throughout lunch, with elbow on the table and hand close to his ear, he tried to pick up the few words I was able to utter. When lunch was over, he stood up, came over to me and began to stroke the part of my neck that had undergone the operation. Then he said, as a father does: «Don’t worry; you’ll see, your voice will come back, let’s say a prayer to the Lord».
Such a human Pope, able to joke... In 1976 he preached the spiritual exercises to the Curia. One day, in 1977, the usher informed me that Cardinal Wojtyla wanted to see me. He hadn’t warned me and I had a long queue of people already waiting. So I kept him waiting an hour almost! Greeting him, I asked pardon immediately, but he waved it off: « I hadn’t phoned you». So we sat down and I told him we had resolved the problem.
In fact the Polish communist government had given out a decree forbidding teachers in the Polish theological universities to use the title of professor and were they to do so, they would undergo sanctions, since the Pontifical Universities were not recognized by the State. But he already knew the matter had been resolved and was glad. He said: «I’ve brought you a gift». «But Eminence, you knows that we here in the Curia can’t accept anything during working hours », I answered. «But this is a personal gift», he repeated, and took his book Sign of contradiction out of his briefcase. «Did you know that last year I preached the exercises? The Catholic University of Milan has printed my meditations, and here they are for you». «Well, a book I can take», and did so. Inside I found his written dedication, a fine one, like the others with which he was to honor me, also when Pope. Then I explained to him that, working in the Congregation, I didn’t have the time to do a whole week of spiritual exercises in the Vatican and so I did them during my holidays. Then he looked serious and, as a joke, said: «You didn’t come to my spiritual exercises?!». « Eminence, I didn’t come». «Ah, didn’t you hear even one sermon?!». «I didn’t hear even one sermon». We were sitting close, he took my arm, with some force, and said: «You didn’t miss anything!».
When I had a heart operation, eleven years ago, he was also in the Gemelli hospital for the operation on his hip, and one Saturday Monsignor Stanislaw came to me, because the Pope always told his visitors: «You must go and visit Monsignor Marchisano also: we’re having a competition to see who gets out of this hospital quickest». Don Stanislaw told me that the Pope wanted me to go and celebrate mass with him the next day, Sunday, given that he was bedridden. The day after I already felt better and I went. I greeted him; in the room there was only one nun who, since he was having to lie down, put the stole round his neck. So we celebrated holy mass.
At the end we recited a small prayer of thanksgiving. Then approaching the bed, I said: « Holiness, did you notice that something very important happened in this half hour?» «What happened?» «A very important thing», I continued, smiling. And so he asked again: «What happened?». «That you, although the Pope, concelebrated for half an hour with me, who was first celebrant. So for half an hour I was the head of the Church!». He clapped in approval and said: «Good, good!», and burst into laughter...
There are so many more episodes that reveal the endless humanity of this man.
When I had my first heart attack, Cardinal Wojtyla, looking for me in my office, was informed of my condition, and came to my home. My cousin, who was looking after me, opened the door to him and told him that he couldn’t visit because the doctors had forbidden it. He pleaded with her: «Let me in, let me in...». My cousin came and told me that Cardinal Wojtyla was at the door; I told her to let him in. He sat beside my bed, like a brother, talking about lots of things (as he did when he would visit me at the Congregation for Catholic Education to see books that interested him), and stayed to keep me company, in simplicity, for an hour. After 1988, when he ordained me bishop, he often happened to meet my cousin, and every time he would say: « Ah, but aren’t you the lady who didn’t want to let me into the house?»
Once I was in the United States, in Chicago, where I was also invited by a cardinal, who told me that the next day three Polish bishops were due on a visit to their fellow Poles in the city. Among the three was Wojtyla, who was surprised and contented to find me there. He asked me to accompany him on a round of the city, and off we went strolling, again like two brothers.
When I saw him ill, all these experiences came back to mind, and I truly ached for him.
I believe it was that humanity of his – knowing how to approach people, having a kind word for everybody – that made him so loved and loveable to all and to that immense crowd that said farewell down to the last.


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