Vatican bureaucracy can leave Popes uninformed, JPII secretary reveals

Pope John Paul II Visits United Nations Credit UN Photo Evan Schneider CNA Pope John Paul II Visits United Nations. | UN Photo/Evan Schneider.

At times, Blessed Pope John Paul II was not well informed by his associates, according to Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, who for years was particular secretary to the former Pope.

Cardinal Dziwisz recently released a book, "I Lived with a Saint," published in Italian. It is co-written with Italian journalist Gianfranco Svidercoschi, a former vice-director of L'Osservatore Romano.

It is a first-person narration of Cardinal Dziwisz' story of serving at John Paul II's side, from the moment he was ordained a priest by the then-auxiliary bishop of Krakow in 1963.

Svidercoschi shared with CNA Nov. 5 some examples of the misinformation given to John Paul II, or lack of information given – for example what he was told of Oscar Romero, who was Archbishop of San Salvador, in El Salvador, from 1977 to 1980.

Archbishop Romero was shot March 24, 1980 as he said Mass. The Congregation for the Causes of Saints authorized the opening of his cause in 1993.

As part of the inquiry into the cause of a possible saint, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reviews the person's writings to ensure they are free of doctrinal error.

The review of Archbishop Romero's writings and homilies had been "blocked" in the Congregation from 2000 to 2005, according to sources who worked for the cause.

The archbishop had begun to speak out on behalf of the poor and the victims of repression after witnessing numerous violations of human rights, which led to numerous conflicts, both with the Salvadoran authorities and within the Church.

Svidercoschi recounted that "when Romero came to Rome and met John Paul II, he carried with him his memoirs."

Showing them to John Paul II, Archbishop Romero told him: "Please, judge me on the basis of my testimony, and not on what is told you about me."

Svidercoschi asserted that "after that meeting, John Paul II was so convinced of Romero's arguments that he always defended him within the ranks of the (Roman) Curia."

In fact, criticism of Archbishop Romero emerged from "the fact that papal nuncios are always very prudent," Svidercoschi maintained.

He explained that "nuncios tend to appoint people who can act with understatement … when Papal nuncios must propose possible bishops, they always tend to suggest three moderate people, if not conservatives."

Svidercoschi said that "Romero had been chosen because he was mostly a conservative. (But) he completely changed his mind after the assassination of a Jesuit friend of his, and he became very outspoken. This led to criticism by some top Catholic officials, afraid of the possible consequences."

The book similarly notes that John Paul II had been told nothing of the rumors that surrounded Fr. Marcial Maciel, the scandal-ridden founder of the Legionaries of Christ, because of the "extremely bureaucratic" nature of the Vatican.

Svidercoschi explained that Popes "cannot always be well informed. They often get biased reports, and this should let us understand if they can fail in some appointments or decisions."

He reflected on John Paul II, saying that he was "a man who looked straight in your eyes, who held your hand when speaking, who was even able to speak to you with a glance."

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"He had such a great humanity, and this led him to be a true man of God, because he proclaimed the primacy of God, but at the same time John Paul II proclaimed the centrality of every human being, despite differences of race and religion. This charisma made everybody feel in a brotherhood, whose Father is God."

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