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Local pastor recalls special moment with pope cleared to be saint

DARIEN – It came as no surprise to Pastor Walter Dziordz when Pope Francis cleared Pope John Paul ll and Pope John XXlll to become saints.

“You look at both these men and they both exemplify the best in the Catholic Church, the deepest wisdom and the deepest teaching,” said Dziordz of Our Lady of Peace in Darien.

According to a Vatican news release, Pope Francis approved a miracle needed to canonize John Paul ll and waived Vatican rules to honor John.

The Vatican said Francis had the power to dispense with such requirements and proceed with one confirmed miracle to John's name.

It's the character of the individuals, Dziordz said, that contributed to them being declared saints, which he said serve as role models to those following the Catholic faith. He said both men exemplify the best teachings of Roman Catholicism and that's why they're being put forward as role models.

Years ago, Dziordz got to have a private mass with John Paul and said he immediately noticed how caring and approachable he was. Dziordz had to make a presentation to him and said he was “really nervous.”

“He took my hand and looked like he was very fascinated and interested in what I was saying,” he said. “I couldn't help but smile because I knew what he was doing, he wanted to make me feel comfortable.”

Dziordz said John Paul and John were both well liked not only among Catholics, but also across all faiths, believers and nonbelievers because of their character. John Paul was a world traveler, and John even visited prisons to spread the message of healing.

“The faithful can look upon them and say this is a person worth emulating,” he said.

The Catholic Church has always held a foundation of helping the poor, and Dziordz said that was not only a strong characteristic among the two declared saints, but also with Francis.

“Someone like Pope Francis, what's notable, is he doesn't drive around in a great limousine, but apparently rides the train or bus and he lives a very simple life,” he said. “As a bishop he was always reaching out to poor people.”

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