The year 1978 was called as the “Year of three Popes”. On the first Sunday of August, Karol Wojtyła certainly did not anticipate what will happen in the next few upcoming months. Along with some friends, he was on vacation in Bieszczady, when he received news of Pope Paul VI’s death. It was known that the Holy Father was seriously sick, but that the information about his death brought to the Cardinal a great pain. He was strongly bound to him. The Pope was like a father to him. From the very beginning, he was impressed with Paul VI’s pastoral style, his views on the world and a great openness to cultural issues. (…). Cardinal Wojtyła did not ponder who will be the successor of the late Pope. He was confined to saying: “The Holy Spirit will indicate.” He was looking at everything with the eyes of faith, the eyes of the believer, the man of the church. (…) Contrarily to the expectations, the conclave ended very quickly. The choice was made fast, which indicates that the College of Cardinals had already found its unity. Perhaps for the sake of strengthening this unity, the elected Cardinal of Venice took two names: John XXIII and Paul VI combing the legacy of the two great predecessors and thus uniting the directions of action of those Popes, which unjustly there was an attempt to put them on the opposite sides. Karol Wojtyła never spoke about the details of the conclave. He merely said that the presence of the Holy Spirit was felt during the election. He accepted and respected the will of God, which the Lord presented to the Cardinals with the election of the new Pope. He met with John Paul I shortly after the inauguration of the pontificate, and shortly afterwards he left for Cracow, keeping in memory the goodness of the smile and the joy with which the new Saint Peter’s successor expressed his profound faith.
Barely thirty-three days passed by. Cardinal Wojtyła has just returned with the episcopal delegation, with the Primate Wyszyński as the leader, from RFN. He was in the Sanctuary in Kalwaria. He celebrated a solemn Mass at Wawel on the occasion of St. Waclaw, the patron of the Cathedral, feast and the twentieth anniversary of his Bishop consecration. In the morning of September 29, he was drinking tea, when the driver, Józef Mucha, ran into the room. Touched, with blushes on his cheeks with barely managed to say that John Paul I died. The Archbishop froze for a moment, but a brief moment. He interrupted his breakfast and went to his room. In such a sad moment he wished to remain alone. He did not comment on what happened, we heard only as he whispered: “That is unheard, unheard of…” Then, from the distance we saw how he walked into the chapel, where for a long time he was praying. He was praying and making questions. He was asking God about the future. In the simplicity of his heart he expressed that during the funeral Mass at the Mariacki’s Church: “The entire world, the entire Church is asking; why? (…) we do not know the meaning of this death for the Holy See. We do not know what Christ wants to tell the Church and the world.”
Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz – “Testimony”
TBA Publisher, Warszawa 2007