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Benedict XVI's Interview on Polish Television

John Paul II "Is Always Close to Me"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 18, 2005 (ZENIT) - Here is a translation of the interview Benedict XVI gave to the public television station in Poland. It was broadcast today, Pope John Paul II Day.

Last July the Polish Parliament established the day honoring the late Pontiff to be observed every Oct. 16, the day Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Krakow was elected Pope. He was elected 27 years ago today.

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Q: Thank you, Holy Father, for granting us this brief interview on the occasion of the Pope's Day, which is being celebrated in Poland.

On October 16, 1978, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla became Pope, and from that day Pope John Paul II, for more than 26 years, as the Successor of St. Peter, as you are now, led the Church together with the bishops and cardinals. Among the cardinals, your Holiness was also present, enjoying the appreciation and esteem of your predecessor: a person about whom Pope John Paul wrote in his book "Arise, and Let's Be on Our Way": "I thank God for the presence and help of Cardinal Ratzinger. He is a proven friend," John Paul II wrote.

Holy Father, how did this friendship begin and when did your Holiness meet Cardinal Karol Wojtyla?

Benedict XVI: I him personally during the two pre-conclaves and conclaves of 1978. Naturally I had heard about Cardinal Wojtyla, especially in the context of correspondence between the Polish and German bishops in 1965. The German cardinals told me about the great merits and contribution of the cardinal of Krakow and how he was the soul of this historic correspondence. I had also heard from university friends about his stature as a philosopher and thinker. But as I said, the first personal encounter took place during the conclave of 1978. I liked him from the beginning and, thanks to God, without any merit on my part, the then cardinal immediately made friends with me.

I am grateful for this trust that he showed me. Above all, when I watched him pray, I saw and understood, that he was a man of God. This was my first impression: a man who lives with God and in God. I was also impressed by the unprejudiced cordiality with which he made my acquaintance. On various occasions he addressed these pre-conclave meetings of the cardinals, and it was here I had the opportunity to experience his stature as a thinker. Without using big words, he created a heartfelt relationship and immediately after his election as Pope he called me to Rome several times for talks and in the end he appointed me prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Q: So this appointment and convocation to Rome didn't come as a surprise?

Benedict XVI: It was hard for me, because when I was made bishop of Munich, with a solemn consecration in Munich cathedral, I felt I had an obligation towards this diocese, almost like a marriage. So I felt bound to this diocese. There were several difficult unresolved problems and I didn't want to leave the diocese that way. I discussed all of this with the Holy Father, with great frankness and he was very paternal towards me. He gave me time to reflect and said he also wanted to reflect. Finally he convinced me that this was the will of God. Thus I could accept this calling and this great responsibility, which wasn't easy and which was beyond my capacity. But trusting in the paternal benevolence of the Pope and in the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I could say yes.

Q: This experience lasted for more than 20 years…

Benedict XVI: Yes, I arrived in February 1982, and it lasted until the death of the Pope in 2005.

Q: In your opinion, Holy Father, what are the most significant moments of the Pontificate of John Paul II?

Benedict XVI: We can see it (the Pontificate) from two perspectives: one "ad extra" -- toward the world -- and the other "ad intra" -- toward the Church. With regard to the world, it seems to me that through his speeches, his person, his presence, his capacity to convince, the Holy Father created a new sensitivity for moral values, for the importance of religion in the world. This has created a new opening, a new sensitivity towards religion and the need for a religious dimension in man. Above all, the importance of the Bishop of Rome has increased immensely.

Despite the differences and despite their non-recognition of the Successor of Peter, all Christians have recognized that he is the spokesman of Christianity. No one else in the world, on an international level can speak in the name of Christianity like this and give voice and strength to the Christian reality in the world today. He was the spokesman of the great values of humanity for non Christians and other religions too. He managed to create a climate of dialogue among the great religions and a sense of common responsibility that we all have for the world. He also stressed that violence and ...

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