Monday, October 02, 2006

Stasiu: The Memoir

In what instantly becomes the most highly-awaited volume on the Vatican's "must read" list, excerpts have trickled out from Life with Karol, the memoirs of Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, who served as Wojtyla's personal secretary for four decades.

The book by the most powerful and omnipresent papal aide of modern times is slated for release next year... in Italian, at least.
In a chapter called "Those Two Bullets," Dziwisz recalls his feelings when Turkish gunman Mehmet Ali Agca shot the Pope while his open jeep was being driven through St Peter's Square on May 13, 1981 at the start of his weekly general audience.

"I tried to hold him up (after he was hit by the second bullet) but it was as if he was letting himself go sweetly," writes Dziwisz, who served Karol Wojtyla for nearly four decades from the time the future pontiff was a bishop in Poland.

"He had a grimace of pain but at the same time he was serene. I asked him 'where?' and he said: "In the stomach."

Dziwisz, who wrote the book together with Italian author Gianfranco Svidercoschi, said the jeep rushed the Pope inside the Vatican walls to its clinic, where he was laid "on the floor" of the building's atrium.

"It was only then that we realized the large amount of blood that was pouring out of the wound caused by the bullet that had pierced him," he writes....

"The siren did not work well and there was a lot of traffic. The driver was honking his horn non-stop. The Pope was losing his strength but he was still conscious."

"He was murmuring 'Why did they do it?' He uttered words of forgiveness for whoever shot him. I heard him pray, invoking 'Jesus, Mary my mother'."

The Pope lost consciousness when the ambulance reached the Gemelli. In the confusion and shock, he was taken by mistake first to the 10th floor and then to the operating theater on the ninth floor. Workers forced open two doors to get there quicker.

"The doctors who carried out the surgery told me later that while they were operating they were convinced that the patient would not survive," Dziwisz writes.