Cardinal Deskur was born in the palace at
in the diocese of Kielce, Poland, on February 29, 1924. He is the son of
Andrzej and Stanisława Deskur and was a close friend of Pope John Paul II since
the 1940s. He died at 18:00 on September 3, 2011 at 87
years of age.
He studied Law at the Jagellonian University of Cracow, where
he was secretary of the most important Polish student association, the Bratniak.
He then entered the Seminary of Cracow. Due to the Stalinist oppression
particularly of those
belonging to the nobility, in the late 1940s Cardinal Sapieha sent him to finish
his studies in Switzerland. After studies in Fribourg, he was ordained in Saint Bonnet-les-Oules, France on August 20, 1950
although as a priest of the diocese of Cracow. In 1952 he
was called to Rome to work in the Secretariat of State.
He was secretary of the Preparatory Secretariat for the Press
and Entertainment during the 2nd Vatican Council (Vatican II) (1960-1962) and
peritus (expert) for Social Communications for the assembly of the Council (1962-1965)
From 1973 to 1984 he served as President of the Pontifical Council for Social
Communications. He was ordained a bishop and was named Titular Bishop to the
Church of Tene, Tunesia by Paul VI on June 17, 1974, and promoted to Archbishop
on February, 1980. He was then elevated to the cardinalate by John Paul II
during the Consistory of May 25, 1985.
Since 1996 he was the President of the Pontifical Academy of the
On October 12, 2006 the Polish Prime
Minister Jarosław Kaczyński awarded him the highest Polish decoration, the
"Order of the White Eagle".
He is a Bailiff Grand Cross of the
Order of Malta.
Election of John Paul II
In the weeks before the election of John Paul II as pope in
1978, the then bishop Deskur, president of the Pontifical Council for Social
Communications and Curia insider for 26 years, hosted a series of important
dinners at his Vatican apartment in the Palazzo San Carlo introducing Cardinal
Wojtyła to the most influential cardinals of the coming conclave. On September
13th, the day before the conclave started, Bishop Deskur suffered a crippling
stroke, which left him paralysed on the left side of his body ever since.
Despite press reports that he had died and requiem masses said for him, he
nonetheless recovered albeit handicapped. Pope John Paul II visited
Bishop Deskur on the day after his election in the Gemelli Polyclinic and
according to Tad Szulc told the hospital staff
"He taught me how to
be Pope". Writing to
Bishop Deskur's mother only 10 days after his election, JPII wrote that his dear
friend "prepared me for what was to happen on October 16, he taught me what
the Apostolic See really is and he facilitated contacts for me to Church
leaders from Europe and all around the world."
One of his
greatest achievements as the president of the Pontifical Council for Social
Communications was the creation and development of Radio Veritas,
a catholic radio station based in the Philippines, which since 1969 has been
very popular broadcasting Catholic news and information throughout Asia but
particularly aimed at Communist China.
"Court Jester of
He has always been one
of John Paul II's most trusted advisors. Traditionally he ate Sunday lunch every
week with the pontiff, considering himself to be the "Court Jester of the
Vatican" whereby he would collect the best jokes he had heard during the week to
entertain the Holy Father on his "afternoon off".
Hospitable Family Man
Deskur is an exceptionally family oriented man, opening his home in the Vatican
to every member of the family whenever possible.