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Cardinal Deskur, confidant to Pope John Paul II, dead at 87

Catholic World News - September 05, 2011

Cardinal Andrzej Maria Deskur, the retired president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, died on September 4 at the age of 87.

The Polish prelate had worked for decades at the Vatican. As a priest of the Warsaw diocese stationed at the Vatican, he became friendly with the future Pontiff when the young Bishop Karol Wojtyla—first as an auxiliary of the Krakow archdiocese, later as archbishop--traveled to Rome for the sessions of Vatican II. He continued to meet regularly with Pope John Paul II throughout his pontificate.

Blessed John Paul II demonstrated his affection for his Polish colleague in one of the very first actions of his pontificate. Hearing that then-Bishop Deskur had suffered a crippling stroke on the eve of the conclave, John Paul II rushed to the hospital to visit his friend on the day after his election. In 1985, Pope John Paul elevated his friend to the College of Cardinals.

Although his physical infirmity forced his resignation from active service in 1984, when he was only 60, Cardinal Deskur remained a valued source of advice for Vatican officials. He once joked, in his self-deprecating manner: “I am like the Coliseum: I’m a ruin, but very popular.” In a message mourning “one of the most illustrious sons” of the Church in Poland, Pope Benedict XVI remarked that Cardinal Deskur had “enriched his ministry by accepting illness with evangelical resignation.”

With the death of Cardinal Deskur there are now 193 living members of the College of Cardinals, of whom 114 are under the age of 80 and thus eligible to vote in a papal conclave.

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