|Romero, Dziwisz and John Paul.|
After meeting Oscar A. Romero and hearing first-hand his response to accusations that the Salvadoran archbishop was too political and one-sided, “John Paul II was so convinced of Romero’s arguments that he always defended him within the ranks of the Curia.” That account comes from one who should know—Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, who is now the Archbishop of Krakow, and was then Bl. Pope John Paul’s personal secretary in the Vatican. The account appears in Cardinal Dziwisz new book “Ho vissuto con un Santo” (“I Have Lived with a Saint”). The excerpts relating to Romero, which have been publicized because they shed light on how John Paul was sometimes ill-served by his advisors, also appears to change the known narrative about John Paul’s relationship with Romero.
The conventional storyline usually portrays a skeptical John Paul, whose anti-Communist zeal leads him to remain suspicious of Romero until well-after the Salvadoran prelate was assassinated by rightwing extremists, because he had been accused of Marxist leanings. According to previous accounts, including one told by Maria López Vigil, a Central American activist—supposedly based on Romero’s own version of events—Romero was unable to win the Polish Pontiff to his side during their face-to-face encounter. According to López Vigil, the Pope refused to look at documents Romero attempted to give the Pope to defend himself. López Vigil’s account varies significantly from descriptions of the meeting in Romero’s diaries and in sermons and interviews in which he described it. The López Vigil story also differs dramatically from what Cardinal Dziwisz says.
According to the Dziwisz telling of the story, “when Romero came to Rome and met John Paul II, he carried with him his memoirs.” Romero reportedly told the Pope, “Please, judge me on the basis of my testimony, and not on what is told you about me.” Dziwisz seems to agree that the reports that had come to Rome via the Pope’s nuncios were official versions of events that reflected the views of the Salvadoran regime, which was hostile to Romero because of his criticisms of the government’s human rights abuses. Cardinal Dziwisz’ suggestion that John Paul was persuaded by Romero’s arguments in his own defense, either during the meeting or soon thereafter, mark a dramatic departure from the formerly prevailing view, which portrays a Pope who remains cold, or even antagonistic. Equally dramatic to Romero’s followers is the fact that John Paul’s defenders should be citing the Romero case to bolster the soon-to-to-be-sainted Pope’s standing. Until recently, it would have been Romero’s promoters who would have sought to link Romero to John Paul to boost Romero’s cause for the sainthood.