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The Legacy of St. John Paul II

5/1/2016

by Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz

Through his life and holiness, the late pope left a ‘polyphonic’ legacy of faith, hope and love

Pope John Paul II is pictured during a general audience

Pope John Paul II is pictured during a general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican in 1980. (CNS photo/Catholic Press Photo)

Editor’s Note: At the conclusion of the Oct. 2, 2015, Mass and altar dedication at the Saint John Paul II National Shrine’s Redemptor Hominis Church, Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, archbishop of Kraków, presented the following remarks to those gathered.

Dear Brothers and Sisters! First of all I would like to thank Mr. Carl A. Anderson, supreme knight, for the invitation to visit the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington. In a sense, this shrine is a symbol of the deep and mutual bond which united and continues to unite John Paul II with the American people. …

Taking this opportunity, I would like to thank the Knights of Columbus for their love for the Church. I am particularly grateful to them for their touching remembrance of John Paul II, expressed also in their fidelity to his doctrinal and moral teaching. …

John Paul II departed for eternity more than 10 years ago. Memory of him is constantly alive in the hearts of millions of Christians around the world. Today, after his beatification and canonization, they pray to him and entrust their concerns to his intercession in heaven. For many people he is still a guide on the paths of faith, hope and love. …

Having little time, I would like to say just a few words about the legacy of faith, hope, love and holiness of John Paul II.

The key to understanding the personality, attitude and achievements of Karol Wojtyła is his faith. In the center of his life there was always God.

An expression of Karol Wojtyła’s faith was his prayer. I witnessed his daily prayers, not only in the chapel or during public celebrations, but in the midst of work, meetings, trips and matters filling up every day. Knowing his living faith in God’s providence, faith that the fate of the world and man are in God’s hands, I was not surprised by the words that he addressed on the day of the inauguration to all people, all cultures and political and economic systems that they open wide the doors to Christ. After all, Christ threatens no one. He does not take anything from man, but rather he gives everything to him. John Paul II left us with this truth.

John Paul II began his pontificate in a difficult time for the world. He personally experienced what were two totalitarian, godless and inhumane systems, Nazism and Communism, which deeply scarred the lives of the peoples of the 20th century and brought upon them untold suffering.

The Holy Father did not have any army. He faced challenges that could cause fear and a feeling of helplessness. But his weapon was truth and belief that God will claim His children, created in His image and likeness. The election of John Paul II aroused great hopes in his homeland. The nations of Central and Eastern Europe found in him a spokesman for their aspirations, their hopes to live in freedom and truth. There is no doubt that the pope, who came to Rome “from a distant country,” from Poland, made a major contribution to the collapse of the Communist system.

He teaches us that it is worth it to entrust everything to God, that it is worth it to have hope in Him, that it is worth it to build our world upon eternal values, inscribed in natural law and the Gospel.

John Paul II followed the logic of the Gospel. It is the logic of love and mercy, the logic of merciful love. In response to the great provocations and challenges of the modern world with a hedonistic culture, a materialistic desire for possessions and a false understanding of freedom separating it from its bond with the truth and the moral norm, the Holy Father called for building a civilization of love.

He was a defender of authentic marital love, which is open to life, and is the foundation of every family. While bishop of Kraków, he published a book with the telling title Love and Responsibility. His apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio remains an important document of the modern Church’s consciousness with respect to marriage and family. Similarly, his encyclical Evangelium Vitae is a great magna carta of the Church’s teaching on the dignity and sanctity of human life. John Paul II defended life, demanded the right to life for the unborn, those who are the most vulnerable and do not have a voice.

It is impossible to quickly present the legacy of John Paul II. It is “polyphonic,” scored for many voices, issues, aspects, achievements, testimonies, events, gestures, texts, documents, places and images related to his pontificate.

After John Paul II’s death, we were struck by the call of God’s people for the official recognition of his holiness. This desire has already been fulfilled in a very short time, also thanks to the personal involvement of Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. Holiness in a sense is a synthesis of all that John Paul II was, the attitude he had, how he loved and served. It was an ordinary holiness, lived and attained day after day in prayer and service.

John Paul II was also a mystic. He was immersed in God. He would stand every day before God, to contemplate the face of God, and God led him to serve the Church and the world. In the saintly pope, prayer and service intertwined into one. Through his holiness, he drew us all to the ideal of holiness and to our calling to holiness. This is also his legacy.

Beside many titles, John Pope II earned the title of Pope of the Young. Young people were a priority in his pastoral ministry. Therefore, he made a far-reaching decision to organize World Youth Day. It is one of his greatest apostolic initiatives.

I take this opportunity of my visit on American soil to invite the young people from the United States and Canada for the 2016 World Youth Day to Poland and to Kraków, the city of John Paul II, the spiritual capital of Divine Mercy. Dear young friends, we want to share with you our faith, our culture, but we also want you to enrich us with the enthusiasm of your faith. We are very much looking forward to this mutual exchange of gifts.

CARDINAL STANISŁAW DZIWISZ, archbishop of Kraków since 2005, served as John Paul II’s personal secretary for nearly 40 years.