Byline: EXCLUSIVE By AINE BONNER
AN IRISH bishop who was like a son to the Pope has revealed how his successor John Paul I eerily predicted his own death and named Karol Wojtyla as his successor.
Bishop John Magee acted as private secretary to both pontiffs and now he tells of some of the most private conversations he had with both Vatican leaders.
The Bishop of Cloyne said John Paul I somehow knew his pontificate would not last long and his insight into the future was so profound he knew he would never leave Rome and always questioned why he had been chosen as pope.
Bishop Magee, based in Cobh, Co Cork, said: “He never said that he wasn’t the one God wanted. But it was a recurring theme during his 33 days that he didn’t know why he had been chosen.
“He was a very humble man and he felt that there were others there who were of greater statue, spiritually and in every other way.
“God chose the most humble men to come to the See of Peter and to point the way to the one who would come after him.”
The Pope‘s startling predictions began almost immediately after he became pontiff in August 1978 when he received an invitation to visit Mexico.
“At the very first general audience, when Pope John Paul I received from Mexican journalists a facsimile of an air ticket inviting him to go to Mexico for the conferences of South America in Pueblo, Mexico.
“He took the ticket, handed it to me and thanked them. On our way back to the Papal apartment he asked me ‘Could you give me that ticket?’ And I said: ‘It’s not a ticket, Holy Father.’
“He said: ‘It doesn’t matter, I just want to see it.’ So he looked at it and then he handed it back to me and he said: ‘I will not make any visits outside of Rome. And I want you to give this ticket to my successor. He will go to Pueblo’.
“The meeting in Pueblo was in February 1979 which was only a few months later and he was giving me that ticket and told me to hold onto it.
“And in fact, I gave it to John Paul II and I accompanied John Paul II to Pueblo in Mexico in February 1979, which is a clear indication.”
Bishop Magee said: “Two nights before he died I was sitting alone with him at dinner and he started to talk about the fact there were others in the conclave that he thought would have made a very good Pope.
“And I kept saying: ‘Well you’re doing fine Holy Father. The Holy Spirit doesn’t make any mistakes.’ And he said: ‘Oh I know that but right in front of me was one that Paul VI had indicated’.
“Now he had judged that because Paul VI had called Cardinal Roydiva in 1976 to preach the retreat to the Roman Curia and to the Pope in the first week of Lent. And so that was considered by many as an indication that Paul VI was presenting him as a candidate.”
Then John Paul I told him: “He will come where I am.”
Bishop Magee never asked John Paul I who was sitting opposite him at the conclave. And when he died and John Paul II was elected, he never asked the new Pope where he was sitting either.
The bishop said: “Four years later when John Paul II appointed me as Master of Ceremonies, I went to the ceremonial office and I went on a tour of it.
“I found a cupboard with the name of the conclaves of ’78 on it. I asked for the key. When I opened it and took out the seating positions in the Sistine Chapel during each of the conclaves, I saw that sitting right opposite Cardinal Luciani – John Paul I – was Cardinal Wojtyla.”
He had correctly predicted that the Polish cardinal he called “the foreigner” would be the next pontiff.
And the next day, when Bishop Magee told John Paul II the story of what happened, all the Pope would to him was: “Well, John Paul I was a very holy man.”
Bishop Magee said that although John Paul I never felt God didn’t want him to be Pope, he was very modest and felt others would have been better leaders in the Vatican.
And John Paul I showed just how humble he was when he became the first Pope to refuse the traditional crowning ceremony and the Papal Tiara.
He was also the first Pope to admit that being Pope daunted him so much that other cardinals had to encourage him to accept it.
And it is rumoured that he told the conclave after they elected him: “May God forgive you for what you have done on my behalf.”
John Paul I thought Cardinal Wojtyla would be the next Pope because in 1976, Pope Paul VI appointed him to preach at the Lenten Retreat.
And he felt John Paul II would make a more suitable leader because of his strength and his holiness.
John Paul II proved in his 26 years as Pope that he was indeed highly qualified to lead the world’s 1.2billion Catholics.
And at his funeral last week mourners held up banners calling for him to be made a saint immediately.
Since the death of the pontiff, reports have emerged about miracles he performed during his lifetime. A friend of the pontiff claims that John Paul II cured a man dying from a brain tumour.
The American Jew is said to have fully recovered from the cancer just a few hours after receiving communion from the Pope in 1998.
And another report claimed that a cardinal regained his speech after the Pope touched his throat after surgery left his vocal chords paralysed.
Other miracles attributed to the late Pontiff include curing a Mexican boy of leukaemia and a 16-year-old Polish boy of lymph cancer.
Sunday Mirror (London, April 17, 2005)