Now the Cardinal Archbishop of Krakow, Cardinal Dziwisz was secretary to Pope Pope John Paul II for over 40 years. This excerpt touches on the moments surrounding the death of the Pope. Reading that brought back memories for me as well. I still remember vividly what I was doing when I heard the news.
For your readers out there, do you remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news of Pope John Paul's passing? Any memories that you would like to share?
If you do, go ahead and leave a comment.
Perhaps these photos from my collection will refresh your memories of this great man who was so faithful to prayer, and the events and ceremonies surrounding his death.
At the Death of John Paul II
"A Life With Karol" is the title of the volume, written by journalist Gian Franco Svidercoschi, former deputy director of L'Osservatore Romano.
The volume was recently released in Italy and will be published by Doubleday for the English-speaking world. This excerpt is taken from Chapter 35.
* * *
It was 9:37 p.m. We realized that the Holy Father had stopped breathing; however, just in that moment we saw in the monitor that his great heart, after having beaten for some instants, had stopped. Dr. Buzzonetti bent over him and, raising his gaze slightly, mused: "He has passed to the House of the Lord." Someone stopped the hands of the clock at that hour.
We, as if deciding all together, began to sing the Te Deum, not the Requiem, because it wasn't mourning, but the Te Deum, in thanksgiving to the Lord for the gift he had given us, the gift of the person of the Holy Father, of Karol Wojtyla.
We wept. How could one not weep!
Looking at him lying there, lifeless, who was once so alive. Yes, I wept too. Like Father Neuhaus, the only thing that came to my mind was gratitude, and all that I could say through my tears were 'Thank you, Holy Father, thank you.']
They were, at once, tears of sorrow and joy. Then all the lights of the house were turned on. Darkness came over me, within me. I knew that it had happened, but it was as if, afterwards, I refused to accept it, or I refused to understand it. I placed myself in the Lord's hands, but as soon as I thought by heart was at peace, the darkness returned.
Until the moment of farewell arrived.
There were all those people, all the important people who had come from afar. But, above all, there were his people, his young people. There was a great light in St. Peter's Square, and then the light also returned within me.
The homily over, Cardinal Ratzinger made that reference to the window, and said that he was surely there, seeing us, blessing us.
I also turned around, I could not but turn around, but I didn't look up there. At the end, when we reached the doors of the basilica, those who carried the coffin turned it slowly, as though enabling him to have one last look at the square, his final farewell to men, to the world.
Also his last farewell to me? No, not to me. At that moment, I wasn't thinking of myself. I lived that moment along with many others, and we were all shaken, distressed, but for me it was something I shall never be able to forget. Meanwhile, the cortege was entering the basilica; they were to take the coffin to the tomb.
Then, precisely at that moment, I began to think: I have accompanied him for almost 40 years, first 12 in Krakow, then 27 in Rome. I was always with him, by his side. Now, at the moment of death, he walked alone. And this fact, my not being able to accompany him, pained me much.
Yes, all this is true, but he has not left us. We feel his presence, and also so many graces obtained through him.[Translation by ZENIT. Published with permission of Rizzoli International Publishers]
Though Pope John Paul has gone to his reward, I was still devastated. The Church had just lost Her earthly shepherd.
But God did not abandon his people and in due time, came the news of great joy.
And this man, Pope John Paul's faithful collaborator for so many years, came to impart his blessing from the great Loggia of St. Peter's.
He, who had stood so many times at the side of his friend, had now taken his seat as Successor to St. Peter, the Apostle and Vicar of Christ on Earth.I rejoiced, and the world rejoiced too.
Although with the current state of the Church, even if one is tempted just to shrug and entrust everything to Providence, we must always remember that the Holy Spirit is always at work within Her, guiding Her way. We remember the promise of Christ, Her Head, that come what may, be they liberals, communists, fundamentalist Muslims or the Blair government, the Gates of Hades shall NOT prevail. In that promise, I take comfort.
As for His Holiness, the Servant of God Pope John Paul the Great, I remember him not only as he was in death.
But as he was in life. I will let his example and teachings continue to inspire me in my journey of faith and I will walk along the narrow path with his words ringing in my ears, come what may, 'Be not afraid! Open wide the doors to Christ!'.
PS: I'm really really jealous of this kid. What I wouldn't give to be in his shoes. =)