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An Extraordinary Silver Jubilee


by Monsignor Charles M. Mangan
Catholic Online

Saturday, May 13, 2006 was the twenty-fifth anniversary of the assassination attempt made against the Servant of God Pope John Paul II.

Gratitude overflows when considering that horrendous event because God, as always, brought great good from it.

A beautiful reflection on the happenings of that day was penned some five years ago by the then Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz. I included his stirring meditation in a little booklet entitled: “What Do You Want of Me?” The Apparitions and Message of Our Lady of Fatima (Goleta, California: Queenship Publishing Company, 2002).

This text written by Cardinal Dziwisz originally appeared in the May 30, 2001 issue of the English edition of L’Osservatore Romano (pages 10-12) and was reprinted with the gracious permission of Doctor Carlo De Lucia, Editorial Secretary.

May you be spiritually enriched by the moving words of Cardinal Dziwisz, who is presently the Archbishop of Krakow.


13 May 1981
Conference of Bishop Stanislaw Dziwisz for Honorary Doctorate from University of Lublin

(On Sunday, 13 May 2001, the Catholic University of Lublin conferred a Doctorate “honoris causa” in theology upon Bishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, titular Bishop of San Leone, Adjunct Prefect of the Papal Household.

We are publishing the address which the Bishop gave for the occasion on that special date: “20 years from the day on which divine Providence, through the intercession of the Most Blessed Mother, saved the Holy Father from death at the hands of his assassin.”)

Dear Magnificent Rector, Distinguished Guests,

Today’s meeting is taking place on a very special occasion. Indeed, today marks 20 years since the day on which Divine Providence, through the Blessed Mother’s intercession, saved the Holy Father from death at the hands of a killer.

Neither we, nor especially, this university, which boasts the prestige of having had Pope John Paul II as a professor, can be left indifferent by the date of 13 May.

May this ceremony therefore be an opportunity to relive the event we witnessed. In this context it seems right to fit today’s meeting into the twofold dimension of “gift and mystery”, before which we must bow our heads and respect their deep value. The gift is the Holy Father’s life, which continues to bear fruit for the Church and the world; the mystery is the attempt on his life, which we are trying to see in the perspective of Divine Providence’s saving designs, despite the drama we lived through.

I asked to be spared the laudatio. However I thank Prof. Nagy for his words, presented in the form of a commemoration. There will not, however, be a lesson for us, but rather a testimony, the testimony of someone who only just touched on the mystery in which perhaps he was an instrument in God’s plans (I find it hard to recognize this) but who on the other hand has certainly been an eyewitness of how that gift of the Holy Father’s life has been lived in the course of 20 years.

I would like to delve into history, recent but nonetheless important, for certain events concerning the date of 13 May 1981. They are deeply impressed on my heart and only today have I mustered the courage to speak of them publicly. I know that it is impossible to tell the whole story or to understand it fully. Nonetheless, I consider them worth recalling. I hope that mentioning the details of those events, generally unknown, will serve not so much to satisfy curiosity but above all to help us see how the Holy Father’s life was truly saved by a wonderful grace of God, for which we must be constantly grateful.

For Poland, the year 1981 was a year of social and political tensions, but it also heralded new times. The Holy Father’s words at Gniezno, during the 1979 pilgrimage, on respect for dignity and human rights and the rights of nations and societies to freedom, sovereignty and self-determination made a deep impression on the common popular conscience. Echoes of the papal homily during the Mass that inaugurated the pontificate were still ringing out: “Do not be afraid, open wide the doors to Christ!”

In Italy too, May 1981 was a turbulent month. The referendum on the abortion law was to take place and so a large demonstration had been planned in Rome by the Communist Party on 13 May. That same day, the Holy Father was to found the Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family at the Pontifical Lateran University and to establish the Pontifical Council for the Family as an organ of the Apostolic See.

On the evening of 11 May, at the Pope’s request, I visited in his home in Poland Cardinal Wyszynski. The “Primate of the Millennium” was permanently confined to his bed by a serious illness. He kept me for a ...

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