Aides advised St John Paul II against retiring as pope

St John Paul II, 2003 (CNS/Alessia Giuliani, Catholic Press)

St John Paul II discussed stepping down as pope with his aides but was advised against it in the interest of the Church, according to his former secretary, AP/Catholic Herald reports.

A book of interviews with Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki, Secretary of Two Popes, released in Poland last month, has offered some insight into the daily life at the Vatican with John Paul and his German-born successor, Benedict XVI. Archbishop Mokrzycki, now the Archbishop of Lviv, Ukraine, served as St John Paul’s secretary from 1996 until the pope’s 2005 death. He then became secretary to Benedict from 2005 to 2008.

While the book said that both pontiffs spent much of their days praying, it pointed out the contrast between gregarious John Paul, who would invite aides and friends to morning Masses and to debates at the table, and Benedict XVI, who liked to “eat in peace” and spent his free time playing the piano.

St John Paul II’s musings about resignation had previously been revealed by his personal secretary, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz. But Archbishop Mokrzycki described the circumstances.

He said that the ageing and ailing Polish pontiff would sometimes ask those gathered around the table during meals — his Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, and other cardinals and bishops — whether he should resign because of his old age and poor health.

“Everyone advised against it,” Archbishop Mokrzycki said. “They were saying he is the Holy Father and that that means carrying out the mission to the end.”

They argued that more people came to his Masses ever since they saw him performing his duties despite his evident suffering.

Born Karol Wojtyla in Wadowice, Poland, the popular pontiff died on April 2, 2005, at the age of 84. Benedict XVI declared him a saint in 2014.

The conclusion of the same dilemma was different for Benedict XVI, who unexpectedly stepped down in 2013, aged 83, citing his fading strength.

“He has excellent relations with Pope Francis and I don’t think he feels lonely.”


St John Paul II ‘asked aides if he should resign but was advised against it’ (Catholic Herald)

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