In Private as in Public, John Paul Ii Is a Pilgrim Pope in Perpetual Motion
By now a sense of his distinct personality has clearly emerged (occasionally reinforced through such dramatizations as the scheduled Easter Day airing of the CBS film biography Pope John Paul II). The Church of Rome's first Polish pontiff is at 63 a direct yet convivial man, more pragmatist than dreamer. While quick to condemn any activity that he believes may weaken the Catholic presence, he remains, even in his Vatican inner sanctum, his gregarious, spontaneous self. Despite a near-fatal 1981 encounter in St. Peter's Square with a would-be assassin, the Pope, now totally recovered, is as energetic as ever, as the following account of a "typical" Pope's day, chronicled by a leading Vatican expert, reveals:
At 6 a.m. sharp in his top floor Vatican apartment overlooking an inner courtyard and the Swiss Guard barracks, John Paul II rises, showers and shaves himself, then dresses without a valet's assistance. The Pope's daily wear never varies: collarless white shirt with French cuffs, black trousers, white socks in Burgundy-red high slippers, a clerical collar under a cape-topped cassock of 31 or 32 buttons (fortunately, also zipper-equipped) and a skull cap called the zucchetto.
The Pope's spacious bedroom is almost stark in its simplicity. His bed is three-quarter size covered with a red hand-brocaded spread. A crucifix is on the wall above, and nearby hangs a replica of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa. A flat-topped desk on which John Paul does most of his writing is bathed in the light from two of three windows. There is also a prie-dieu where he usually spends about 15 minutes in private morning prayer.
After downing a cup of coffee with milk, John Paul is met at his bedroom door by his Polish secretary, Msgr. Stanislaw Dziwisz. Often they are joined by a second secretary, Msgr. Emery Kabongo of Zaire, and together they stride to the nearby papal chapel. When in Rome, the Pope says 7 o'clock Mass daily, and a number of guests (often visiting clergy or pilgrims) are invited. He likes to try out different languages. In preparation for his forthcoming Asia-Pacific trip, for example, he has been celebrating the Mass with Korean priests in their language and with priests from Papua in Pidgin English.
A half dozen or so of those attending Mass may be invited to breakfast with the Pope, who likes meaty, pungent sausages of the Polish and Italian varieties along with an occasional egg. But this is not a long, drawn-out meal, and John Paul is at his desk in a half hour. He is briefed first on the day's schedule of audiences by the French-born Bishop Jacques Martin, prefect of the pontifical household, who has been at the Vatican for more than 40 years. Then he meets with Agostino Cardinal Casaroli, the Vatican Secretary of State, to hear the latest reports from papal nuncios and apostolic delegates around the world. Afterward the pontiff has a few moments to take care of paperwork, including encyclicals or apostolic letters that he writes longhand in Polish. These will be translated later into Italian and Latin by a team headed by Fr. Reginald Foster, a Milwaukee-born Carmelite priest.
At around 11 a.m. John Paul leaves his apartment and descends one flight to his imposing official study for the first of his private audiences. These may involve a visiting head of state or churchman and generally last 15 to 20 minutes. Public audiences held in various Vatican facilities are far larger. The weekly general audiences each Wednesday morning may involve up to 15,000 people indoors and 75,000 in St. Peter's Square. (During Holy Week, as at other special times on the Church calendar, the Pope conducts a series of Masses and ceremonies in which tens of thousands may participate.)
His packed schedule of audiences often forces lunch to be delayed until 1:30 or 2. John Paul makes his midday repast a social event. His guests may be ecclesiastics or lay persons, a visiting bishop or perhaps the papal translation staff. Some sort of pasta or rice dish may be served, or fruits and cold soups in hot weather. Much of the poultry, eggs, milk and vegetables come from the farm of Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer palace. There and at the Vatican a corps of some 40 Polish nuns—Servants of the Sacred Heart—work in rotation, preparing food, serving and cleaning.
After lunch the Pope retires for a nap (not a siesta, just a short snooze) in his living-room armchair. Then he heads for the roof terrace (originally built for Pope Paul VI)for a brisk half-hour walk or jog. John Paul has been given exercise bikes and rowing machines, but it is not known if he ever uses them. The same goes for the score of white painted bicycles he has received. Once an enthusiastic skier, he hasn't been on the slopes since he was Archbishop of Krakow, although in the summer he has been photographed swimming in the pool of Castel Gandolfo.
Around 4 p.m. he changes his white cassock and shirt. (He averages two cassocks a day in Rome's muggy atmosphere and three changes on the road.) As Bishop of Rome, he makes a point of visiting at least 25 parish churches a year. And each year as bishop he officiates at confirmations and ordinations as well as baptisms, confessions and weddings. He assists at an annual mass wedding in St. Peter's, and he once presided over the marriage of a parish garbage collector whose fiancée had asked for the favor.
On ceremony-free afternoons, the Pope deals with paperwork, presides over meetings of administrative groups or deals with matters brought before him by his Secretary of State, individual cardinals or his secretaries. At about 8 in the evening, he calls a halt and relaxes with informal talk before the 8:30 evening meal. He has not forgotten Krakow and Warsaw friends, particularly his college companions and boyhood classmates of the Wadowice school, and always entertains them when they come to Rome. One regular visitor to the papal apartment and table is Jerzy Kluger, a Jewish classmate now living in Rome who, with his English-born wife and their granddaughter, calls on John Paul at least once a month.
Like lunch, the Pope's dinners have increasingly taken on an Italian flavor, despite his fondness for Polish soups. But whatever the menu, he tends to pick sparingly at the meals placed before him and drinks mostly mineral water or coffee. John Paul enjoys lingering in conversation after dinner though he is mainly an avid listener. He possesses a magnificent baritone voice and is something of a tunesmith, but he is not the sort who loses himself in operas or symphonies. And while he admires artists, he lacks the highly honed artistic knowledge and tastes of Paul VI.
Around 10 or 10:30 John Paul bids his guests goodnight and retires. Doffing the cassock, he sits down in shirtsleeves at his bedroom desk and puts in another hour or more of paperwork. Finally, as close to midnight as possible, he changes into pajamas and kneels at the prie-dieu for evening prayers. In the silence of the Vatican, the man who has made peace among nations and the Christian family the central themes of his reign is at rest.