Polish archbishop receives award in Chicago

Sunday evening, he was honored by Chicago's Francis Cardinal George at a banquet in suburban Niles.

The dinner was a fundraiser for a program that brings men from Poland to Chicago, where they can be trained to become priests in the Chicago archdiocese.

ABC7 Chicago's Alan Krashesky was the master of ceremony at Sunday's event, and d earlier, Alan sat down to speak with the pope's right-hand man.

It's fair to say that no one was closer to the late pope than Stanislaw Dziwisz. For over four decades, he served as private secretary, advisor, and many would say, the pope's closest friend.

"I never dared to say I was his friend…out of respect. A lot of people call me his friend, and I, personally, couldn't. I did perceive myself as close to John Paul II but I would never call myself a friend," said a translator for the archbishop of Krakow, Poland, the same post once held by the late pope.

Cardinal Dziwisz spoke with ABC7 Chicago through a translator at the residence of Francis Cardinal Georg, the same home where, 29 years ago, a younger Fr. Dziwisz stood on a balcony with the new Polish pope, cheered by Chicagoans who stayed up late to give a Windy City welcome.

"The joy of the people helped John Paul II go around the world and strengthen him, as well as the people he was visiting," Dziwisz said.

For more than 35 years, those who came to see the pope at the Vatican came to see Stanislaw Dziwisz first. And when the pope traveled, people would often see his faithful assistant alongside him or riding in the back of the 'Popemobile.'

Dziwisz also made sure the pope had the correct reading material for his weekly audience at St. Peter's.

"I was dealing with a lot of the issues. He was dealing with in the church and the world, and I was going through a lot of things with him as secretary for so many years. And his issues were my issues, and his life was my life," said the cardinal.

As John Paul II entered the long twilight of his life, Dziwisz was there at the pope's bedside when his friend passed on.

"To the very end," he said.

At the funeral for John Paul II, some in the crowd at St. Peter's chanted "Sancto subito,' or 'Sainthood now.' There is a process under way in the Catholic Church that may end with the late pope being declared "blessed," and eventually, a saint.

Cardinal Dziwisz says there is no rush.

"You don't become a saint after you die, you become a saint while you live, but the church confirms that sainthood after you die," he said.

As the archbishop of Krakow, Cardinal Dziwisz heads up one part of the sainthood process, looking into the life of Pope John Paul II. He'll report his findings to Pope Benedict XVI, but there is no question in the cardinal's mind that he shared his life with a saint.

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