– How many guests did the Holy Father meet at the audiences on a daily basis?
– From a few to a dozen guests. To each person he devoted 10 to 15 minutes. Meetings with the head of a country lasted at least half an hour. But often these audiences were going on for a longer time and the dinner was at 1.30 p.m. Sometimes, the Holy Father had a moment to rest before the dinner, but usually, we were going to eat the dinner directly from the audience. Guests were arriving early and waiting in the living room. The Holy Father was coming to them, greeting and inviting them to the chapel. There was a brief individual prayer and after that, we were going together to the refectory for a dinner.
– In the Vatican, it is said that with John Paul II two things were always unknown to the last minute: at what time and with whom he will eat dinner…
– That is true. That was the case. When there were symposia taking place, then we were planning ahead that participants will also come for dinner. It was the same with ad limina visits. Episcopates were coming for suppers. The Holy Father had complete freedom. Who he wanted to invite as that person was visiting Rome, he was inviting.
– Were there some people with whom the Holy Father especially liked to eat?
– I think that he liked to eat with Cardinal Jaworski, with bishops from the Polish episcopate, with Fr. Tadeusz Styczeń and of course, with friends from Kraków. On Sundays and holidays, often we were inviting more people, more guests from Poland. They were always privileged. This way, the Holy Father had contact with them; he could learn more about the political situation in the country, about the situation of the Polish church. It was important to him. Besides that, he simply liked these “Polish” meals. And, he enjoyed them a lot. After all, he was inviting friends to the table. And, from Poland. So, double closed to him.
– It had to be a lot of fun by the table. Only old, good friends…
– There was a lot of fun. Bishop Jeż (Hedgehog) was saying: “Holy Father, I am sorry, but I will tell a joke.” And, he was saying various funny stories. For example: “I am coming to Bishop Stoba, sometimes unexpected, sometimes in the evening, with a friendly visit. And one day, Bishop Stroba said to me: “If one more time, you will come unexpected, then I will sic a dog on you.” And, I replied to him: “And, did you ever see a dog going after a hedgehog?” And the Holy Father sincerely laughed. These were friendly, meetings at home for a dinner.
Archbishop Mokrzycki “He liked Tuesdays the most”
M Publisher, Kraków 2008