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Death with dignity: A Recollection of Pope John Paul II’s last minute to Death

A once avid outdoors-man whose final years were marked by disability and suffering, Saint John Paul II witnessed to what it truly means to die with dignity, says a close friend who was with him until the end.

“He gave us tranquility and peace even up to the last day," Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, who was present at the Polish pope’s death ten years ago, told CNA in an interview.

“He restored dignity to death."

Cardinal Dziwisz, archbishop of Krakow, who at the time was serving as an aide to John Paul II, recalls singing the Te Deum – a hymn of praise to God – moments after the pope died, because those in the room “were convinced that he had died a holy man."

“A man prepares for a lifetime for this important moment, this passage from one life to another for the encounter with God," he said.

John Paul II died at 9:37 p.m. on April 2, 2005, the day before Divine Mercy Sunday – a feast he established during his pontificate – after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.

Throughout his pontificate, the Polish pope spoke out against what he referred to as the “culture of death" which promotes ideologies such as abortion and euthanasia, and in turn championed for the promotion of human life and dignity.

Cardinal Dziwisz recalled the Pope’s last words to him before he died. “I kissed his hands and he told me ‘Thank you’ and gave me his blessing," he recounted.

He also remembered how John Paul II, while on his deathbed, asked those who had come to say their farewells to read the Gospel to him.

“Priests read nine chapters of the Gospel of John for the love of God, and so he prepared for his encounter," the Polish prelate said.

Karol Jozef Wojtyla, who would later choose the name John Paul II upon his election to the papacy, was born the youngest of three children in the Polish town of Wadowice, a small city 50 kilometers from Krakow, on May 18, 1920.

In 1942, at the height of World War II, he began courses in the clandestine seminary of Krakow, and was eventually ordained in 1946.

He took part in Vatican Council II (1962-1965), being appointed archbishop of Krakow in 1964, and contributed to drafting the Constitution Gaudium et spes.

On Oct. 16, 1978, Cardinal Wojtyla was elected pope at the age of 58.

Over the course of his 27 year pontificate – one of the longest in Church history – he traveled to 129 countries, and was instrumental in the fall of Communism in Europe in the 1980s.

“He did not create resentment, but instead knocked down the walls between people," Cardinal Dziwisz said, observing he had close friends who were Jews, Muslims, and other religions. “Everyone was important for him because everyone was created in the image of God."

The archbishop of Krakow also spoke of John Paul II’s strong sense of discipline throughout his life, which was always centered on prayer.

“He was a very disciplined man from the point of view of moral ethics," he said. “Even at work, he never wasted time. He always had time for prayer."

In fact, for John Paul II, prayer was never separated from work, Cardinal Dziwisz said. “He was immersed in God and in everything he did, he always walked with God and in prayer."

“He always kept this intimate relationship with God, of contemplation, of contact with God, and here was his strength: peace of mind. God exists, God commands, God, we must follow him. If you follow God, you see peace, even in difficult times, which as Pope, he had many."

John Paul II was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on May 1, Divine Mercy Sunday, at a ceremony which saw an estimated two million pilgrims flock to Rome. He was canonized April 27, 2014 in Saint Peter’s Square by Pope Francis on the same feast day.

Cardinal Dziwisz touched on the impact that John Paul II being declared a saint had upon the faithful.

“I think people were convinced of his sanctity, that the supreme authority had approved the road of holiness, because we are sure that we could imitate his holiness."



  1. Lupe Kloer Reply

    I saw him twice when he visited in California & when I visited Rome. What an awesome feeling it was to be in the presence of His Holiness.
    Still gives me chills to think about it. Brings you to tears & warm fuzzies at the same time! I still carry the rosary that he blessed for me in Rome! May he RIP.

    1. Rinell Reply

      This Pope was really hand picked by our Lord…He lived and died in the Divine Mercy of Jesus his assassination was even foretold in the prophecies of Fatima and no wonder He loved Our Lady and Holy Mother so she was his guardian angel

    2. Kimatarle Reply

      Pray for us we Sinners.

  2. Margaret Delmonego Reply

    Just love

  3. Ogechi Olumba Reply

    St John paul II, pray for me and my family, Amen.

  4. Jeannie Reply

    There is no dignity in death . . . however, there is courage and that is beautiful, that’s what he was.

  5. Pat Orourke Reply

    His humility at his last angelus was awe inspiring

  6. Debra Ann Reply

    I love Pope John Paul to this day. I never met him but I bought his CD and loved him for his leadership of our faith. He brought me closer to Our Lord by his example. I work with children and I love how he also loved our youth. I hope and pray to meet him in the The Kingdom of Heaven. He is my favorite Saint. I feel blessed to have lived when he did. My heart misses him but I know he dwells in eternal life. ❤️

  7. Simplicius Anyahara Reply

    Pope John Paul ii’s life was quite inspiring in his uniqueness and his enduring pain in the face of failing health. He tarried to the end in suffering with Christ. He was not just the Pope for Catholics but the World’s. Could’nt hold back my tears at his last moments and eventual death. I dearly love him. I trust he is now with Christ interceeding for us.

  8. Thuto Segano Reply

    Holy man indeed. Intercede for us beloved Pope. Your spirit lives in us.

  9. Cyriacus Okoro Reply

    His Pontificate is equal to non faith,morals and inter-religious relationships.Canonized on our birthday(myself and my twin sis) alongside another favourite Pope of mine John XX111.RIP Your Holiness

  10. Ingemar Reply

    During the jubilee of the caznonization of St Bridget of Sweden in 1991 I had the big grace of getting to shake his hand.

  11. Vincent Reply

    Give me tears of true repentance, I love you dear Pope John Paul II

  12. Patrick Reply

    A holy man in real sense of it farewell dear holy padre of blessed memory.

  13. Robert Bouchard Jr Reply

    I always felt Pope John Paul II was a special gift me, among everyone else, because he was made Pope on my birthday in 1978, a year in which my life was such a wreck, of my own making, and I was so lost. And I felt God was saying to me, “Okay, Bob, here’s your way back to me. Here is my gift to you on your birthday, a way back to me. If you want to come home to me, watch this man closely and don’t ever let him out of your sight, and I’ll bring you back home, even through the huge wreck you’ve made of your life.” I didn’t instantly become a wonderful Roman Catholic, and my life has taken all these years to become more “respectable”, but I’ve kept my eyes, and my heart, attentive to now Saint Pope John Paul II, and I’ve found him to be a wonderful guide back to God, as imperfect as I still am. I know Saint Pope John Paul II has been a gift to so many, which is one of the reasons he’s a saint, but I’ll always be sure God spoke directly to me when He elected Karol Wojtyla to be Pope John Paul II, and now Saint Pope John Paul II. Eternal thanks, O Most Holy Lord our God, our Most Holy Father.

  14. Robert Bouchard Jr Reply

    I must try again to tell, about the significance of Saint Pope John Paul II in my life since my first attempt seems to have been lost in “computer-world” somehow.
    One Karol Wojtyla was made Pope on my birthday in 1978, a year that found my life in such hell because of my own choices. I was so lost in this hellish life that I couldn’t even begin to find a way out or “above-it-all”. And then I heard on my car radio that this Polish Cardinal had been “elected” to the Papacy, the first non-Italian in I can’t remember how many centuries, and somehow the significance of that caught my attention, for reasons I could not comprehend right away. But then I felt somewhat blessed or special as I realized it was my birthday when this new Pope was chosen. At first I sluffed it off as some childish egoism, as though God really gave-a-damn whether it was my birthday, and that He had a lot more important things to do than to worry about my birthday. And then, slowly, I began to think that God could have cared about my birthday along with all His other cards and concerns, and then as I thought about it, I began imagining God saying to me, “Okay, Bob, now that I have your attention, I am ” giving” you this Pope for your birthday as your way back to me. Pay attention to this man, Bob, and he will bring you back home. Fail to do so and He’ll is yours for the keeping.” Then I shook my head a bit as if to wake up out of some delusional state and see the world around me, and yet the significance of that “delusion” drew me back to it, as if God were saying to me, “Yes, Bob, you heard me right. You pay attention to my new Pope and he will be your path back home to me, or you can sit in the hell of your own creation.” Ever since that day I’ve paid attention to now Saint Pope John Paul II, and now have found myself back in his Roman Catholic Church for some time now. Oh, life wasn’t all suddenly fixed for me. I still had so much to “pay” for my sinning, but, somehow, through all the seeming hell that my life still was as a consequence of my sinning, I now had a powerful beacon to always look to, if I so chose. And then upon Pope John Paul’s death, I began to wonder, “What am I going to do now?”, and felt a bit lost and low, until I realized that the new Pope, one Joseph Ratzinger / Pope Benedict XVI, had worked very closely with Pope John Paul II for many years, and felt God comforting and reassuring me by saying, ” Not to worry, Bob. A new face but the same strong Roman Catholic I’ve led you with since 1978.”
    So I look back on those two men, beginning with now Saint Pope John Paul II, and know for sure, God does send His angels and saints down here to earth to keep us on the path back to Him. All we have to do is at attention. And Saint Pope John Paul II still has my attention, and always will.

  15. Tabitha Reply

    Holy men of God chosen from Him and for Him pray for me and my family to imitate Xt as you did,to cure all our illnesses and diseases and to bless each one of us with what we need most

  16. Marilyn Thompson Reply

    Pope John Paul 11 was and continues to be an inspiration and instrument of the Love Of God.

  17. daohuyha Reply

    Un grand Saint de notre monde,

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