A Crack Vatican Team Brings the Itinerant Papacy of John Paul II to the New World
10/08/1979 at 01:00 AM EDT
This week Pope John Paul II is scheduled to arrive for the longest visit to the U.S. a reigning Pontiff has ever undertaken. PEOPLE'S Leonora Dodsworth reports from Rome on the Vatican team that will accompany him to make sure the historic tour goes well.
An American is the advance man
"I'm really just an usher," says Bishop Paul Marcinkus (above, in his Vatican office), but his self-effacement is camouflage. The 6'3", 225-pound American priest is often referred to as "the Pope's bodyguard." He confirmed the title by foiling a Bolivian painter who attacked Paul VI with a knife in Manila in 1970. Marcinkus' official job is running the Vatican bank—known as the Institute for Religious Works. Unofficially he serves as the Pope's advance man. Last month he traced every step of John Paul's journey, personally supervising arrangements in each city.
As "chief cashier" of the church, Marcinkus, 57, is in a position to do important people useful favors—and the jovial pipe-smoking priest likes to affect a hard-guy facade. "I was born in Cicero, Ill.," he reminds visitors, imitating the chatter of a machine gun, "where Al Capone had his headquarters." Still, observers say that Marcinkus lacks the fine Italian hand at politics to rise to the top rank of curial heavyweights. The bishop seems more at ease discussing travel and sports—golf and basketball are his favorites. "Today's young seminarians are all so busy saving the world," he complains, "that they don't find sports important." Questions about Vatican investments turn the bishop's blue eyes icy.
In John Paul II, who has made three major international tours in less than a year, the peripatetic bishop has found a boss who is perfect for him. Marcinkus loves the intricate details of papal visits. "You have to be independent," he says. "Drip-dry shirts are the answer."
His Polish secretary is homesick
From cleaning up the archbishop's desk in Krakow to accompanying the Supreme Pontiff through Mexico (above, left), Stanislaw Dziwisz has served Karol Wojtyla devotedly for 13 years. As his personal secretary, Dziwisz (which is pronounced, Bishop Marcinkus cracks, "Gee-whiz") is often the only other passenger allowed in the papal limousine. He frequently dines with the Pope, and back in Poland they hiked and skied together. Yet Dziwisz, 35, is said to feel the Holy City has somehow taken his old friend away from him. Neither an intellectual nor a sophisticate (though a highly intelligent, well-read man), Dziwisz has reportedly asked the Pope to release him from his job. He may be homesick or simply ambitious; according to tradition, Dziwisz can rise no higher than monsignor in his current job.
An ex-cop is in charge of security
"I believe in setting my men an example," says 53-year-old Commendatore Camillo Cibin. A former Vatican City cop who now heads the Pope's small security force, Cibin personally works the crowds at papal appearances (right, outside Rome). Cibin and his men will leave their uniforms at home for this trip, but their dark suits and bulging muscles make them as easy to spot as a Secret Service detail—and, Cibin claims, every bit as efficient. His quiet assurance: "We are not afraid of anything."
A priest fusses over his boss
Monsignor Virgilio Noè has been familiar to TV viewers since the reign of Paul VI as the priest who adjusts the microphone and whispers directions at official functions. The monsignor—whose title is Master of Pontifical Ceremonies—is a stickler for tradition, nettled by John Paul's habitual departures from convention. The impatience seems mutual: Whenever the fussy Noè puts on the Pope's skullcap, John Paul invariably takes the hat off and adjusts it to a more comfortable position.
The doctor stands by 'out of sight'
Dr. Renato Buzzonetti, 55, signed the death certificate of John Paul I, whose fatal coronary reportedly might have been prevented if Buzzonetti had been able to schedule a thorough physical examination. The new Pope has proved an equally elusive patient. He has yet to ask his Krakow doctor, Mieczyslaw Wyslocki, to send along his medical history ("What's the hurry?" John Paul asks), and he has refused to have a checkup. Buzzonetti's position as Vatican Health Commissioner (left, at the Vatican Health Services) should make him the official papal physician, but John Paul has not appointed him and still asks Wyslocki to travel with him too. Neither man will be much in evidence on the U.S. tour. The Pope has ordered them to "keep out of sight." The father of two teenagers, Buzzonetti says: "I hope neither of them becomes a doctor."
A servant holds the bag
Always dressed in a dark suit and striped tie, Angelo Gugel is Steward of the Papal Chambers—and a manservant of infinite discretion. His main public role is carrying the briefcase containing religious medals and souvenirs that the Pope distributes to crowds. What else the bulging briefcase holds is Gugel's secret.
The Pope's No. 2 is his Kissinger
Vatican City gossip in the 1960s held that Monsignor Agostino Casaroli might be the perfect successor to Pope Paul VI someday. Ironically, it was Casaroli, now 64, who urged the Pope to bestow a cardinal's hat on Karol Wojtyla, Archbishop of Krakow, thus setting him on the path to the throne of St. Peter.
Casaroli, known as "the Vatican's Kissinger" during his career as a traveling diplomat, had his own reasons for recommending Wojtyla to the Pope. He expected Wojtyla to be more conciliatory to Poland's Communist government than the country's other cardinal, Stefan Wyszynski. He wasn't, and relations between the two cooled. Despite their disagreements, John Paul II chose Casaroli for the Vatican's second most powerful job, Secretary of State. The job came with a stately office (above), an apartment directly beneath the Pope's—and the rank of cardinal.
Some say the elevation was a tribute to Casaroli's diplomatic skill. But others think differently. "Casaroli is a man for all policies," scoffs one churchman. "He does what he's told to do." He is indeed a man of rare flexibility, who doffs his ecclesiastical finery for a business suit and tie when traveling in Communist countries—and who never lets ceremony stand in the way of an objective. "He has floated through four pontificates," grouses a retired Vatican diplomat. "To get along with Pope John, Pope Paul and then with Pope John Paul II is his greatest diplomatic feat." Nevertheless, the Pope has announced Casaroli will serve as his second in meetings at the U.N. and with U.S. officials. The decision makes clear the cardinal's role as frontline executive in the Vatican's campaign for world peace.
Although his career has been more political than priestly, Casaroli tries to get in some pastoral work every weekend. Dressed in a simple black cassock, he visits a home for delinquent boys outside the Vatican walls. There he dispenses candy, cigarettes and fatherly advice to the inmates, who know him only as "Father Agostino." This, he professes, is his real love. "The Vatican candy and tobacco store ought to give me a discount," he jokes. "I'm such a good customer."