Aide hopes John Paul II will be made a saint at World Youth Day

Sunday, July 10, 2005

ROME -- Pope John Paul II's closest aide said Saturday that he hoped the late pontiff would be made a saint during World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany next month.

"Everything is possible, but I don't know if it would be opportune," Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz said. But he said the Cologne setting would be perfect because "no one loved young people like the pope and they loved him."

"It would be wonderful for a German pope to canonize a Polish pope in Cologne," he said.

Dziwisz also said Pope Benedict XVI will visit Poland next spring. "He has promised it," he said.

So far, Benedict has only one confirmed foreign trip on his calendar, the Aug. 18 to 21 visit to Cologne.

Speculation has been swirling about whether he might beatify John Paul during the World Youth Day celebrations -- placing the late pope on an even faster track to possible sainthood. Already, Benedict waived the traditional five-year waiting period and allowed the beatification process to officially begin just three months after John Paul died April 2.

Dziwisz, John Paul's trusted private secretary, specified that he wanted John Paul canonized -- not just beatified -- during the Cologne visit.

Asked if Benedict might declare John Paul a martyr -- which would spare the Vatican from having to find and confirm a miracle attributed to John Paul -- Dziwisz responded: "In any case, people want him to be a saint."

What is important, he said, is a candidate's "moral rectitude."

"There's no question about that," he said.

Dziwisz, who has recently been named archbishop of Krakow by Benedict, also confirmed that he disregarded the late pope's instructions in his will to burn all his personal papers.

Dziwisz said the material was "too important historically," to destroy and that he intended to make it public bit by bit. He has previously indicated the papers may be useful in the sainthood process.

The 66-year-old Dziwisz, dressed in a simple black cassock with bishop's cross, answered questions in the palm-shaded garden of the John Paul II Residence for Polish pilgrims on the northern outskirts of Rome. He served John Paul for 39 years, becoming one of the most powerful men in the Vatican where he was known simply as "Don Stanislaw."

As archbishop of Krakow, John Paul's previous post, he is line to become a cardinal. He takes up the post Aug. 27.

He spoke of John Paul in affectionate terms, describing him frequently as a man with a "rich personality" and speaking of his "very deep" relationship with Jews, including several private dinners with Jewish families visiting Rome.

John Paul was the first pope to visit a synagogue, making a 1986 visit to Rome's central synagogue. Benedict will follow the gesture by visiting the synagogue in Cologne that was destroyed by the Nazis during his trip for World Youth Day.

Dziwisz confirmed that the late pope wrote a letter to the Turkish gunman who shot and seriously wounded him in 1981. A Polish newspaper recently reported that John Paul, in the letter written shortly after the attempt, asked Mehmet Ali Agca why he tried to take his life given that both men revered the same God.

Dziwisz declined to discuss the contents, saying only that the letter was never sent, and brushed off a question about who John Paul believed was behind the assassination attempt. A group of Bulgarians, allegedly linked to the Soviet KGB, were tried in Italy but acquitted for lack of evidence.

The archdiocese of Krakow will be involved in the sainthood process, interviewing witnesses and supplying documentation from Poland.

Dziwisz said there were several reported miracles attributed to John Paul's intercession before he died, although technically these would not be considered by the Vatican. The Vatican must confirm one miracle after death for John Paul to be beatified, and a second miracle occurring after the beatification for him to be made a saint.

Benedict, however, is free to change the rules -- as has been noted recently by Dziwisz, another Pole who is the main advocate pushing John Paul's case as well as the head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Associated Press writer Daniela Petroff contributed to this report.

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