Thursday, March 23, 2006


The transition of Stanislaw Dziwisz from papal confidante par excellence to global prelate in his own right will be consummated tomorrow morning when the new archbishop of Krakow receives his red hat from the successor to the man he served for four decades.

A month off his 67th birthday, Dziwisz's elevation to the College of Cardinals caps a year of drastic changes, a return home, and a heightening of his own profile -- something he never sought.

Having been Karol Wojtyla's chaplain and personal secretary from 1966 until John Paul's death last April, Dziwisz has come into his own as the torchbearer of the John Paul legacy, and the quiet secretary who could always be found a discreet few paces away from his Pope has found himself showered with the affection and attention which marked the life of Wojtyla and his travels on the world stage.

Two weeks after being entrusted with the millennium-old See of Krakow last June, when Dziwisz received his pallium from Benedict XVI, as his name was announced in St. Peter's Basilica, the structure erupted into a spontaneous, extended ovation, which continued as he approached the pontiff to be vested in the symbol of the office Wojtyla once held. For his August installation in the ancient capital of Poland, the Holy See had to charter a plane which carried a score of cardinals, and a flock of bishops, clerics, Italian politicians and former Curial co-workers who sought to be on hand.

Dziwisz, who kept a notoriously quiet public presence during John Paul's lifetime, blossomed as a media presence only weeks following the pontiff's death. He disclosed, controversially, that he was keeping the late Pope's papers -- contrary to Wojtyla's request that they be burned -- and has made no bones about being the chief booster for John Paul's cause for canonization, a project with which he is said to be all-consumed. Such is the new cardinal's allure among the media that he has had to hire a full-time press liaison in Krakow to handle interview requests.

As Krakow, and Poland, prepare to welcome Benedict XVI at the end of May, the see founded by the Martyr Stanislaw will be a relative rarity for the next year as home to two cardinal-electors; Cardinal Francizek Macharski, John Paul's handpicked successor as archbishop, turns 80 in May, 2007.

After tomorrow, the other Sees to share that distinction will include Bologna's past and present Cardinal-Archbishops Carlo Caffara and Giacomo Biffi, and Cardinals Dionigi Tettamanzi and Carlo Maria Martini, S.J., both of Milan.

AP/Pier Paolo Cito
PHOTO 2: Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi