Dying John Paul "was aware of crowd"

As he lay dying, Pope John Paul II was aware of the presence of the crowd in St Peter's Square below his apartment window and calmly viewed death as a "passage from one room to another," his longtime secretary said in an interview broadcast on Friday night.

"He heard everything. He heard the square, he heard the prayer, the presence of the young people. The Holy Father heard, because he was conscious right to the end, almost to the end, even the last day," Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz told private Italian Canale 5's TG5 news in an interview in Krakow, Poland, where he will be installed as archbishop on Saturday.

Associated Press reports that Dziwisz served as Karol Wojtyla's secretary in Krakow, where the future pope served as cardinal, and continued to serve him in the Vatican until John Paul's death on 2 April at age 84.

The archbishop was referring to the crowd of faithful that had gathered in the square below John Paul's apartment window to pray and keep vigil for the pontiff in the last days of his life.

The former papal secretary said the last words he heard the pope utter were "Totus tuus," the pontiff's Latin motto for "Completely yours," dedicating himself to Mary.

"In the last hours of his life there was a great tranquility and peace. He knew that he was going to his destination, to the Lord," the archbishop said. "He had not one bit of fear," but was in "great peace the last day," Dziwisz said.

Shortly after John Paul's death, many among the crowd in St. Peter's Square shouted: "Sainthood immediately."

Within weeks of succeeding John Paul as pontiff, Benedict XVI said he was waiving the traditional five-year waiting period to start the process for eventual sainthood.

Referring to the certified miracle which is required for sainthood, Dziwisz said: "The Holy Father didn't want to hear talk of such things. He would say `If by chance something should happen, God makes miracles, not me. I pray. These are mysteries. Let's not talk of these things.'

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29 Aug 2005