On the eve of John Paul II’s beatification, one his closest collaborators, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, says he’s still thankful for every moment he spent with the soon-to-be blessed Pope.
“I see all these years as a gift from God because I realized it was a rare privilege that, almost every week, I got the opportunity to listen to, speak with and work with him,” the cardinal told CNA April 28.
Cardinal Ruini’s close association with the Pope John Paul dates back to the mid-1980s. In 1986 he was appointed as secretary-general of the Italian Bishops Conference before becoming its president in 1991. More significantly, it was in that same year that Pope John Paul made him the vicar general of the Diocese of Rome. He also elevated him to the rank of cardinal. That meant that it was Cardinal Ruini who looked after affairs within the pontiff’s diocese when he was on one of his 192 foreign visits.
“It was for me was a great joy, of course,” the cardinal said. And even though he worked with Pope John Paul for 20 years, Cardinal Ruini emphasized that “it was always a great joy.”
For many Italians, Cardinal Camillo Ruini was also a very public face of Pope John Paul’s pontificate. It was the cardinal who often took to the television and radio airwaves to defend the Pope’s latest pronouncement. Now 80 years old and retired, Cardinal Ruini is one of the best known and most popular figures among Italian pilgrims at this weekend’s beatification in Rome.