34th Anniversary of the election of Cardinal Karol J. Wojtyla
to the Petrine Service
16th October 1978 - 16th October 2012
Two days in October 1978
After centuries of Italian Popes, the first non-Italian one. And to the enthusiastic acclaim of the faithful in
and around the world. A new Pope from Rome , a young Pope full of life,
enormously capable and very well prepared. This certainly was an extraordinary
Pope Hadrian VI- The last non-Italian Pope who ruled the Church between 1522-1523
It all took place in the year of the three popes. At dawn on the 29th of September 1978 the
was in deep
mourning for the loss of its second spiritual leader in just 45 days. The Feast
of the Transfiguration had seen the passing of Paul VI, now the Feast of the
Angels announced the end of John Paul I short reign. Roman
Pope John Paul I: He served the Church as Pope for thirty three years
Once more, in mid-October, the Cardinals were summoned to
to ponder under the gaze of the Almighty
in Michaelangelo's Last Judgment whom they would choose to step into the Shoes
of the Fisherman, Prince of Apostles. Rome
Cardinal Giuseppe Siri: The front-runner in both conclaves of 1978
The favourite of the conservatives at this second conclave was Cardinal Giuseppe Siri, Archbishop of Genoa while Cardinal Giovanni Benelli, Archbishop of Florence was favoured by the more liberal Cardinals. However a number of other profiles of possible candidates had been prepared, among them that of the Archbishop of Cracow, Cardinal Karol Jozef Wojtyla.
Journalist Gianni Licheri ignored the embargo.
Cardinal Siri's candidacy had been marred ahead of the conclave by the untimely publication of an interview he had given to Gazzetta del Popolo journalist , Giovanni Licheri. The 'Me Pope?' (Io Papa?) interview had been embargoed for publication only after the Cardinals were in conclave. However Licheri ignored the embargo and thus allowed the Cardinals several hours to learn of Cardinal Siri's criticism of Pope John Paul I's pontificate as well as of Siri's attack on the collegiality of Bishops. Every Cardinal had received and read a copy of the interview before entering the conclave on October 14th, 1978. Cardinal Siri would have the face the consequences.
Before entering the conclave, the Archbishop of Cracow embraced his Private Secretary, Don Stanislaw in farewell.
Although Cardinal Siri at one point came within five votes of being elected, in the first day of voting it became clear that the two factions would block one another. To break the stalemate, the cardinasl sought a compromise candidate in the Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Giovanni Colombo.
Papal Conclave of October 1978
However at the start of the next morning's session, the 76-year-old Cardinal Colombo announced that after a night of prayer, he was sure that he should not be chosen and that even if the conclave elected him, he would not accept the papal tiara. This decision caused a lot of uncertainty.
Cardinal Ugo Poletti: One of the last Italian prelates that was considered as a compromise candidacy
For a while it seemed that Proto-Deacon, Cardinal Pericle Felici or the Vicar General of Rome, Cardinal Ugo Poletti might be chosen.
The Archbishop of Krakow - Cardinal Karol J. Wojtyla
Meanwhile Cardinal Wojtyla was not yet aware of what lay in wait for him. At the August conclave that had elevated Cardinal Luciani to the See of Peter, Wojtyla had seen just five preferences expressed in his favour.
It was at this point that the Primate of Austria, Cardinal Franz Koenig, the Archbishop of Philadelphia, Cardinal John Krol and the Archbishop pf Cologne, Cardinal Hoeffner took the initiative to draw together a coalition among European, African, Latin American and United States cardinals including some Italians who had previously backed Cardinal Benelli's candidacy.
The Primate of Poland Cardinal Stefan Wyscinski accompanied by Cardinal Karol Wojtyla
The cardinals who assisted Cardinal Koenig and Cardinal Krol in building support for Wojtyla's candidacy were Dutch Cardinal Willebrands, Brazilian Cardinals Arns and Lorscheider as well as the Spanish Cardinals Enrique Y Tarancon and Leo Suenens and a number of German Cardinals including the young Archbishop of Munich Joseph Ratzinger.
Cardinal Johannes Willebrands
On the day, 111 cardinals made up the conclave. It was only at the eighth vote that 98 of them ended the conclave in the Sistine Chapel by electing Karol Wojtyla to be the next Pope.
"Yes..it may have been so. He was inspired by this saint. St Stanislaw was Bishop of Cracow and killed by the king… killed while saying mass, a truly inspiring figure. " Cardinal Grocholewski
"When his name was announced I was at the
. I was with a
number of students watching television when all at once Cardinal Felici came on
screen to announce that a pope had been elected. I noticed immediately that
something unusual had happened…… I had known Cardinal Felici for several years
He was the Prefect of the Aposolic Segnatura where I used to work. He was
usually goodhumoured and smiling but (on television) he appeared to be very
serious indeed. He seemed to be concerned about this extraordinary election. He
was a Roman, he wrote poems in Latin….His second appearance on the balcony in
two months! Yes, the first time he had been all smiles…but the second time he
was serious and when he spoke (the words) 'Annuntio Vobis Gaudium Magnum
Habemus Papaem 'Carolum' we exploded in joy and cried 'Wojtyla' as he continued
Sanctae Romana Ecclesiae Cardinalem Wojtyla..It was an immense joy… all the
students….” Cardinal Grocholewski Polish
Pope John Paul II
However even as he emerged onto the central loggia of St Peter's Basilica, Karol Wojtyla immediately eluded the strict Vatican protocol by going beyond the customary urbi et orbi blessing and addressing the crowd gathered in the square in Italian. He won over the Italians immediately when he encouraged them to correct his Italian if he made any mistakes.
"When the new pope was announced, I was in St peter's Square close to the fountain on the left. Afterwards I went to the conclave hall to greet the new pope. "Look what they've done!" he told me as he returned my greeting . Cardinal Dsiwisz
Although he was not the cardinals' first choice at the conclave, several princes of the Church knew him well from his writings or from the 50 or so visits he had made to other archdioceses when he was Cardinal of Cracow. He had been to the
United States, to Canada,
Latin America and
visiting countries with numerous Polish migrants. France
"When he was elected to the throne of St Peter, he was well aware of the drama unfolding in the countries of the East (
Eastern Europe), of the
massive Iron Curtain raised after the Second World War and therefore felt a
personal commitment to strive for freedom of worship. 'States do not own their
citizens…but exist to serve their citizens' Freedom of worship is as essential
as all other freedoms". Cardinal Sodano
Through this decision the College of Cardinals had shown its intention to change the Church's course…. It was a brave decision and intended to bear much fruit.
Cardinal Leo Jozef Suenens