Catholic World News News Feature
Closest aide to John Paul II, now his successor June 03, 2005
Born on April 27, 1939, into a modest family in the village of Raba Wyzna, outside Krakow, Stanislas Dziwisz felt a calling to the priesthood as a young boy. After training at the Krakow seminary he was ordained in 1963. He was serving in a suburban parish when he caught the attention of an auxiliary bishop, Karol Wojtyla. When Wojtyla became the Archbishop of Krakow in 1966, he asked Father Dziwisz to become his private secretary.
A diligent, practical, and highly organized man, Father Dziwisz soon became indispensable to the archbishop. The two also formed a strong personal bond, with the future Pope treating his secretary like an adopted son. In October 1978, Dziwisz accompanied Cardinal Wojtyla to Rome for the conclave, and when Pope John Paul II was elected he remained in Rome as his secretary.
For the next 26 years, "Don Stanislao" became one of the most important figures in the Catholic Church, controlling access to the Holy Father. His influence was particularly evident during the final weeks of the late Pope's illness. It was Msgr. Dziwisz who caught Pope John Paul in his arms when he was struck by gunfire in St. Peter's Square on May 13, 1981, and he reportedly was sitting at the Pope's bedside, holding his hand, when John Paul II died. In his spiritual testament, the late Pope offered special thanks to his Polish colleague for years of loyal service, and gave him the responsibility of dispersing all his personal possessions.
Pope John Paul not only relied on Archbishop Dziwisz, but also promoted him. He allowed his aide enough freedom to earn a doctorate in theology in 1981. In 1998 he named him a bishop, performing the ordination himself, and in 2003 raised him to the status of archbishop.
In responding to the news of his appointment to Krakow, Archbishop Dziwisz said that he hoped to serve in the Polish archdiocese as "a witness to John Paul II." In a June 3 interview with Vatican Radio, he disclosed that upon hearing of his appointment, he had made a visit to the Vatican grottos to pray at the former Pope's tomb.