Pope John Paul II’s secretary, Stanislaw Cardinal Dziwisz, has written a book aptly titled “Life With Karol”. While plans for this book’s release in English have not been announced yet, it is being released this month in Italian and Polish.

Catholic News Service has posted several articles about the book.

Here are few quotes:

In his last will and testament, made public after his death, Pope John Paul strongly hinted that he had considered resignation as he prepared to turn 80 in the year 2000.

Cardinal Dziwisz said the pope, in fact, decided at the time to consult on the question with his closest aides, including then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

The pope concluded that he would remain in office, saying that God had called him to the papacy and that “God will call me back, in the form that he wishes,” Cardinal Dziwisz wrote.

“At the same time, John Paul II also established a specific procedure for giving his resignation, in case he would not have been able to carry out his ministry as pope to the very end,” Cardinal Dziwisz said.”So, as one can see, he considered this possibility,” he said.

The book recounts other behind-the-scenes moments, according to excerpts provided by the Italian publisher, Rizzoli:

— On Sept. 11, 2001, shortly after two planes crashed into the twin towers in New York, the phone rang in the pope’s office in Castel Gandolfo outside Rome.

“On the other end of the line was the frightened voice of Cardinal (Angelo) Sodano, the secretary of state. We turned the television on, and the pope was able to see those dramatic images, the collapse of the towers with so many poor victims imprisoned inside.

“The pope passed the rest of the day going back and forth between the television and the chapel to pray, he said.”

He was worried, strongly worried that it wouldn’t end there, and that the attack could set off an endless spiral of violence,” Cardinal Dziwisz wrote.

— Toward the end of the book, Cardinal Dziwisz described the pope’s final moments.”It was 9:37 p.m. We had noticed that the Holy Father had stopped breathing. But only in that precise moment did we see on the monitor that his great heart, after continuing to beat for a few moments, had stopped.” Someone, he said, blocked the hands of the clock to mark the hour of the pope’s passing. Those around the pope’s bed began singing a “Te Deum” of thanksgiving, not a requiem.

“We were crying. How could one not cry! They were tears of both sadness and joy. It was then that all the lights in the house were turned on. … And then, I can’t remember. It was as if it had suddenly become dark. It was dark above me, and it was dark inside of me,” he said.

Read the complete article here.

And another:

In the winter of 1981, the pope, his secretary and two of his Polish aides decided to make a “getaway” to the mountains from the papal villa in Castel Gandolfo.

They packed into a car owned by one of the priests, in order not to raise suspicions, and when they passed the Swiss Guard post one prelate opened wide a newspaper to hide the pontiff in the back seat.

Then they drove to the central Italian ski town of Ovindoli without an escort, winding through mountain towns and carefully respecting the speed limits.

Once they arrived, they chose a deserted slope and the pope was able to ski all day long. On the way back, the pope smiled and said, “We did it!” It was the first of many such escapes, the papal secretary said.

In the beginning, no one — including journalists and other Vatican officials — knew about the mountain excursions.

And the odd thing was that, for a long time, no one recognized the pope, Cardinal Dziwisz said. He would dress as other skiers, with a ski jacket, beret and sunglasses, taking his place in line at the lifts with the rest.

One of the first people to recognize the pope was a young cross-country skier, a boy no more than 10 years old, who was lagging behind the rest of his family when he came upon the papal party. He asked them if they had seen his family go by, and one of the priests pointed to the trail.

At that moment, the pope arrived at the bottom of the slope.The boy looked astonished, pointed to the pontiff and began yelling, “The pope! The pope!”

One of the pope’s aides intervened quickly: “What are you saying, silly! You’d better think instead about hurrying up, you’re going to lose your group.”

The boy skied away, and the pope and his friends quickly returned to their car and headed for Rome before the word got out.

Read the complete article here.

If the entire book is as good as these several stories, it should prove to be a vivid view into the life of our beloved departed Holy Father, John Paul the Great. I, as a proud member of the JPII generation, cannot wait for this book to be released in English.

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