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 CNS Story:

OBIT-DESKUR Sep-6-2011 (730 words) With photo. xxxi

Staunch supporter of world's media, Cardinal Deskur, dies at 87

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI mourned the death of Polish Cardinal Andrzej Deskur, a longtime promoter of media and communications and close friend of Blessed John Paul II. The cardinal died at home in Vatican City Sept. 3 at the age of 87.

"I recall with gratitude his precious decades-long collaboration with the Holy See, serving six pontiffs" and his special dedication to promoting Christianity in the fields of media and communications, the pope wrote in a telegram sent to Polish Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow.

The Vatican released a copy of the telegram Sept. 4.

The pope wrote that the late cardinal, who was confined to a wheelchair the past 33 years, was closely tied to Pope John Paul and lived "in consistent and generous adherence to his own vocation as a pious and zealous priest, who enriched his ministry by accepting his infirmity" in a life surrendered to God.

His funeral Mass was Sept. 6 in St. Peter's Basilica with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the dean of the College of Cardinals, presiding.

Vatican Radio said Cardinal Deskur, born in 1924 in Sancygniow, Poland, was a man of great cultural depth, having grown up in a noble family with French heritage.

He developed a close friendship with then-Karol Wojtyla when they were studying at Krakow's seminary in 1945. The late cardinal said he considered the pope "a brother and friend."

Cardinal Deskur received a degree in law from Krakow's Jagellonian University in 1945 and a theology degree from Germany's University of Freiburg. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1950 serving the Archdiocese of Krakow.

He was called to work at the Vatican's Secretariat of State in 1952 and soon began his long career in the field of communications.

He first served as undersecretary of the Pontifical Commission for Cinematography, Radio and Television, 1954-64; then as secretary of the preparatory secretariat for the press during the Second Vatican Council, 1960-62; and he acted as an expert during the 1962-65 Vatican II assembly.

Cardinal Deskur played a key role in advising Pope Pius XII on matters of the media, especially with the pope's 1957 encyclical "Miranda Prorsus" ("On the Communications Field: Motion Picture, Radio and Television").

He helped prepare the council's 1963 Decree on the Instruments of Social Communication ("Inter Mirifica"), which called on the church and laity to instill "a human and Christian spirit" into newspapers, magazines, books, films, radio and television.

He also was a member of the Conciliar Commission for Bishops, Clergy, Laity and the Press and Entertainment, and was one of the promoters of Radio Veritas for Asia and Oceania.

In 1973, he was named president of the Pontifical Commission (now Council) for Social Communications and served as head of the council until his retirement in 1984.

Since 1996, he has been president of the Pontifical Academy of the Immaculate Conception.

He was named a bishop in 1974 and archbishop in 1980 by Pope John Paul. The Polish pope elevated him as cardinal in 1985.

Pope John Paul credited Cardinal Deskur with explaining how the Vatican worked and introducing the then-archbishop of Krakow to the other cardinals during the weeks before the conclave in 1978, in which Cardinal Wojtyla was elected pope.

Before the conclave, then-Bishop Deskur suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed and bound to a wheelchair.

Pope John Paul's first "pastoral visit" outside the Vatican was less than 24 hours after his election as pontiff to see his friend, who was recovering at Rome's Gemelli hospital.

Cardinal Deskur was a staunch supporter of the world's journalists and photographers, calling those who died on the job modern-day martyrs who died not "out of curiosity or for some other useless or banal reason, but in order to realize the ideal of their lives: the duty of making public opinion aware of its responsibilities by means of speedy and truthful information."

Despite being confined to a wheelchair, the cardinal remained very active. He said Pope John Paul encouraged him to see his physical restrictions as a sign of his new mission to the church by living "the saving value of Christian suffering." For this reason, the cardinal had said his infirmity "never weighed on me too much."

His death leaves the College of Cardinals with 193 members, 114 of whom are under the age of 80 and, therefore, eligible to vote in a conclave.


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