DAILY CATHOLIC TUESDAY December 20, 1999 vol. 10, no. 242
NEWS & VIEWS
CARDINAL PAOLO DEZZA DIES
Confessor to Paul VI and John Paul I
VATICAN CITY, DEC 19 (ZENIT).- Cardinal Paolo Dezza died on Friday in the Jesuit General Directorate in Rome. As soon as he heard the news, John Paul II sent his condolences to Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, Superior General of the Society of Jesus, and announced that he would personally preside at the funeral service in St. Peter's Basilica.
The Cardinal turned 98 on December 13; he was the second eldest Cardinal, after Chinese Cardinal Ignatius Kung (Gong) Pin-mei, who lives in exile in the United States.
Born in Parma, Italy, after being ordained a priest in the Society of Jesus, in 1929 he was assigned to the Pontifical Gregorian University as professor of metaphysics. His students remember the lucidity and clarity of his mind. Among them was Karol Wojtyla, as well as other seminarians who later became Church leaders throughout the world. He was appointed Rector of the University in 1941, a post he held for the next ten years.
Fr. Dezza knew how to combine the acuteness of his intelligence with disarming simplicity of life. It was not by chance that two Popes -- Paul VI and John Paul I, chose him as confessor. The Cardinal held numerous critical posts in the Society of Jesus, but his great service to his brothers in religion was as delegate (appointed by the Pope) to substitute for the General Superior, Fr. Pedro Arrupe, when the latter was taken ill in October 1981. The Pope asked Fr. Dezza to govern the religious Order while awaiting the General Congregation that re-established the Society's ordinary government. Fr. Dezza led the congregation until the election of the new Superior Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, elected on September 13, 1983, during the Society's 33rd General Congregation.
The Jesuit director of Vatican Radio's programs, Fr. Federico Lombardi, recalled that "the way Fr, Dezza guided this delicate moment was perhaps his masterwork, thus meriting the profound gratitude of his brothers, and of the one who entrusted him with the task. From then on, Fr. Dezza, who continued to live in the mother house, returned to being the man of great experience and serene human and spiritual advice sought by many persons, often with important posts, who found light, encouragement and singular discretion in him."
The Holy Father made Fr. Dezza a Cardinal in 1991, in recognition of his highly meritorious service to the Church. Fr. Dezza asked the Pope to allow him to continue as a simple priest, without being ordained a Bishop.
A piece of Church history goes to heaven with Fr. Dezza. He was close to the life of all the passengers in the Bark of Peter since the 70s. Once, he revealed how he assisted Paul VI at his death. "I went to visit him in the afternoon, as his state of health had deteriorated and I was present at his peaceful and tranquil death. Something incredible happened. At the moment of death, the alarm clock went off. It was a little alarm clock he had had for years and it was a bit damaged. That morning the secretary had fixed it and, without realizing it, set the alarm precisely for the time the Pope died. I gave him the last absolution and saw how he expired serenely."
"Faithful servant of the Church" were the words used by John Paul II in his telegram of condolence. A servant, "who in the multiple tasks carried out during his long existence was always an authentic witness of the Gospel, a religious of great faith and fervid piety."
Remembering his "appreciated professor of metaphysical philosophy," the
Holy Father underlined that, following St. Ignatius of Loyola, the
Cardinal "demonstrated in all circumstances that he was a passionate
servant of Christ in the person of his Vicar."
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NEWS & VIEWS