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RIP: Cardinal who gave JPII last rites and his left hand (What a story!)

Marian Jaworski
OSSERVATORE ROMANO | AFP
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Cardinal Marian Jaworski died this month at the age of 94. His life was intimately connected to that of John Paul II.

Cardinal Marian Jaworski, retired archbishop of Lviv of the Latin Rite Catholics of Ukraine, died on September 5 at the age of 94. He was a close friend of John Paul II, and administered the last sacraments to the Polish pope on his deathbed in 2005.

Jaworski was born in 1926 and entered the major seminary of Lviv in 1945. Following the occupation of the territory by Soviet troops, he was sent to Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, Poland. Ordained a priest in 1950, he continued his studies at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow (Poland) and then at the Faculty of Philosophy of the Catholic University of Lublin (Poland). It was during this period, while far from his country, that he met the future Polish pope.

At his death, various commentators recalled how John Paul II thought his life and the life of Cardinal Jaworksi were intertwined not just in their friendship and physical proximity, but in a mystical way.

PBS Frontline once told the story: It was recounted by another friend of the Holy Father’s, Stefan Swiezawski, who explained that John Paul was convinced that certain important moments in his life were connected to his friends’ suffering. 

On the night of John Paul II’s election to the papacy, Bishop Andrzej Deskur suffered a devastating stroke … John Paul II spent much of the first day of his papacy at the bedside of his beloved friend and supporter. He reflected on Deskur’s illness with his former teacher, Stefan Swiezawski. … Swiezawski recalled their conversation: “John Paul II spoke about his conviction that the most important events in his life have been connected to the suffering of his friends. He believes that Bishop Deskur’s stroke was a way of paying for his election to the papacy and also that his elevation to cardinal was intimately tied to the tragedy of another friend, Father Marian Jaworski, who had lost his hand in a railway accident.”

Cardinal Jaworski lost his hand because of a train accident. But he was on the train because of the future John Paul II.

It was June of 1967 and Karol Wojtyla (the future John Paul II) had been called to Rome to be made a cardinal. Wojtyla already had had something on his schedule for the date of the consistory — a trip to Olsztyn, Poland — and he asked Jaworski to take his place. It was during this trip that the accident occurred, which led to the amputation of Jaworski’s hand.

But why would John Paul II think of his elevation to the role of cardinal as somehow linked to such an unfortunate tragedy? What could John Paul II mean? How could his friends’ suffering somehow be related to the grace of his elevation to cardinal and then to the Throne of Peter?

The Holy Father’s mysterious reflection is rooted in his sense of what St. Paul speaks about: That all the baptized form one body, the body of Christ.

Since we are all joined in the mysticus corpus, our actions affect each other spiritually, both for good and ill. My sins wound not only myself, but the whole body. As well, the sacrifices we unite to the Cross can become, through the power of God, channels of grace, for ourselves and for the whole body.

John Paul II felt that in the great battle of good and evil underway until the end of time, and in light of the role he was destined to have in the Church, that his friends’ sacrifices, accepted with docility and holiness, were channels for the great graces given to him in his mission as Vicar of Christ.

The Holy Father wrote and reflected about the redemptive mystery of suffering on many occasions, and even dedicated an entire document to the “Christian Meaning of Human Suffering.”

There, for example, he says:

The Redemption, accomplished through satisfactory love, remains always open to all love expressed in human suffering. In this dimension—the dimension of love—the Redemption which has already been completely accomplished is, in a certain sense, constantly being accomplished. Christ achieved the Redemption completely and to the very limits but at the same time he did not bring it to a close. In this redemptive suffering, through which the Redemption of the world was accomplished, Christ opened himself from the beginning to every human suffering and constantly does so. Yes, it seems to be part of the very essence of Christ’s redemptive suffering that this suffering requires to be unceasingly completed.

More about Cardinal Jaworski

He taught at the Catholic Academy of Theology in Warsaw, and then became full professor at the Pontifical Faculty of Theology in Krakow in 1976. He was appointed Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Lubaczów (Poland) in 1984 by John Paul II, who appointed him Archbishop of the Latin Archdiocese of Lviv in 1991. Upon his return to his native country, he worked patiently to rebuild the diocese, which had been destroyed by the Communist regime.

The Ukrainian high prelate was himself made a cardinal by the Polish pope in 1998, though his elevation wasn’t made public until 2001.

He participated in the conclave of 2005 that elected Benedict XVI.

He resigned his office in 2008 at the age of 82.

With his death, the Sacred College is now composed of 219 cardinals, including 122 electors and 97 non-electors (i.e., those who are older than 80).

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