John Paul II Foundation
📷 Arturo Marii

It was like a family, very cordial and so familiar….

When he got older, he was going for walks in Castel Gandolfo less often.  But, he did not abandon them; only he was taking a shorter paths, but he was walking. He had it in his blood.  Memories from Polish mountain tracks were returning with a stronger force when friends from Poland were coming to Castel Gandolfo; approximately 15-20 families.  Mrs. and Mr. Rybicki, Małecki, Tarnowski, Ciesielski.  They agreed among themselves when which family will visit the Holy Father.  They were coming for Christmas and for vacations; usually for a week, sometimes ten days.  Families were staying with nuns in Castel Gandolfo; with nuns who were running the hospice.  Every day they were invited to a Mass and meals.  And, also for the evening singing; Christmas carols in Christmas and patriotic songs during vacations.

– Did the Holy Father enjoy these visits?

– A lot.  They were recalling old times, hiking trips to mountains, canoeing.  And, these famous Masses on a canoe turned upside down.  I remember them saying that the Holy Father was very demanding.  And, when they were going for a hike, they were warning: “do not let uncle to go first as he will kill us.”  The Holy Father was always very touched by those memories.  Then, he was recalling these meetings for a long time.  It was like a family, very cordial and so familiar.

– Was the Holy Father bringing back memories along with them or mostly listening?

–  Mostly, guests were talking, but the Holy Father sometimes was joining them in bringing back memories.  At the first meeting, I was struck by his directness, unusual naturalness.  With guests from Poland, he was more open and behaved as one of them.  If it wouldn’t be for his Papal clothes, someone from outside would never guessed that this is the Pope and his guests.  Just a group of friends.  However, there were also moments when he was not mentally present.  He was praying, meditating.  At those times, they were saying: “We should not bother Uncle.”  They knew, as it was the same in the past when on canoeing trips.

With the consent of Archbishop Mokrzycki “He liked Tuesdays the most”

M Publisher, Kraków 2008