Thousands of people are in Rome for the historic event- the beatification of Pope John Paul II, who is much loved in Chicago. Few were as close to John Paul II as Cardinal Dziwisz, who spoke to ABC 7 through a translator. Cardinal Dziwisz is the Archbishop of Krakow, Poland.
"For me he was and is a holy man," Cardinal Dziwisz said. Cardinal Dziwisz was there as the tomb of John Paul Ii was opened in the grotto beneath St. Peter's Basilica. He paused to kiss the lid of the coffin as workers prepared to move it to a more prominent location in the church for the beatification.
"When they gave a special honor to the body of John Paul II and I can say and I saw, workers, when they kneel down and venerate this casket, very touching to my heart," Cardinal Dziwisz said.
Cardinal Dziwisz was a confidant for the pope, assisting in ministry and making sure all was in order. He has no doubts he worked for a saint.
"My understanding he was always saint. Very holy man and of course now I see him differently. See him as holy one who can ask God for many things," Cardinal Dziwisz said.
Cardinal Dziwisz has another unusual role in this sainthood process. He has maintained samples of the late pope's blood that were taken from the pontiff during his final days in the hospital and from the assassination attempt on John Paul II in 1981, which occurred in the same location where the pope will be beatified Sunday.
"John Paul II is not the same as Jesus, but during the assassination he gave his blood, for the whole world. That's why for me, God means love. It means John Paul II gave his blood for the world for peace," Cardinal Dziwisz said.
Those blood samples will be used as relics, as is the Catholic tradition, and presented during the beatification and then given a place of honor in churches in Rome and Poland.