John Paul II's longtime secretary consecrated archbishop of Krakow

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KRAKOW, Poland (AP) - Pope John Paul II's longtime aide Stanislaw Dziwisz was installed Saturday as archbishop of Krakow - the post once held by John Paul - fulfilling the late pope's wish for his trusted secretary and friend.

Pope Benedict XVI, who appointed Dziwisz to lead the important diocese in June, described him as "the best person to hold this position," in a papal bull read out by Rev. Jan Zajac during a ceremony in Krakow's Wawel Castle cathedral.

"By now, the faithful have come to know your responsibility and dedication and I am sure they will be obedient to you," the bull said.

The words were met with strong applause by a crowd of thousands watching the ceremony on a large screen outside the cathedral.

Dignitaries in attendance included Pier Ferdinando Casini, president of the lower house of the Italian parliament and Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the vicar of Rome and a longtime collaborator of John Paul.

Also present was Poland's President Aleksander Kwasniewski and candidates in the October race for his successor - Warsaw Mayor Lech Kaczynski, Parliament Speaker Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz and the deputy speaker, Donald Tusk. A procession to St. Mary's church was scheduled to follow the ceremony.

Dziwisz, 66, who was at John Paul's side for nearly 40 years in Krakow and then Rome, returns to a warm welcome from Poles, due to widespread reverence for John Paul. But after the decades Dziwisz spent in Rome in the pontiff's shadow, his positions on church doctrine are still largely unknown in his homeland.

Over the years, Dziwisz grew into an important figure at the Vatican, where he was known simply as Don Stanislaw. His role as John Paul's gatekeeper developed as the pontiff's health worsened in the last years.

But to John Paul, he was simply "Stasiu," an affectionate nickname that revealed the closeness of the two men. They shared a love of sports and would ski and walk in the mountains together before John Paul became too frail.

After the assassination attempt against the pope in 1981, Dziwisz was by his side, cradling him in his arms and ordering the car's driver to rush to Rome's Gemelli Polyclinic - a decision credited with saving his life.

After John Paul's death April 2, Dziwisz refused to carry out a provision in his will calling for his personal papers to be burned, arguing the documents contain "great riches" that should be preserved.

As archbishop of Krakow, he will have a key role in the process of beatifying John Paul by supplying needed evidence from Poland. Benedict announced in May that he was putting John Paul on a fast track to sainthood, waiving a five-year waiting period.

One of Dziwisz's first public tasks as archbishop will be to represent Benedict at ceremonies next week marking the 25th anniversary of Poland's Solidarity freedom movement in Gdansk, on the Baltic coast.

John Paul is credited with inspiring Solidarity, the Soviet bloc's first free trade union, during his first return to his homeland as pope in 1979.

In an interview broadcast Friday by private Italian TV's Canale 5's TG5 news, Dziwisz recounted John Paul's last hours of life.

"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," Dziwisz said, referring to the huge crowd in St. Peter's Square that had gathered below the pope's apartment window to pray and keep vigil as the pontiff's health worsened.

The former papal secretary said the last words he heard the pope utter were "Totus tuus," the pontiff's Latin motto dedicating all of himself to Mary, mother of Jesus.

Dziwisz said that a nun who was near to John Paul in the pontiff's final hours told him that the pope said: "'Let me go to the Lord."'

Dziwisz succeeds Cardinal Franciszek Macharski, who is retiring at the age of 78.
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