Tribute to Msgr Zygmunt Zimowski–

The passing of Archbishop Zimowski was a great loss to the Church and to healthcare workers in particular. As President of the Pontifical Council for Healthcare Workers, Msgr Zimowski was a strong advocate of life and the dignity of the sick. He said “Dignity is not lost when one is weak. As Christians, we don’t just take physical strength into account but also the strength of our spirit.” These were not just mere words for him but the philosophy of how he lived his life. For some years he suffered the debilitating effects of pancreatic cancer yet within days of his surgery he would be back behind his desk working. The way he handled his illness was an inspiration and embodiment of the triumph of the human spirit over illness. He must have learnt from the courageous way that his good friend, Saint Pope John Paul II carried himself despite suffering from multiple illness including Parkinsonism.

What struck me about Msgr Zimowski was his humility. Despite his exulted status he was very friendly and approachable. I remember his graciousness in agreeing to say mass for a few of us when we had a meeting in Rome last September only weeks after a major surgery. After mass, he had to rushed back to his office for a meeting but found his car stuck because of an inconsiderate driver who had parked behind his vehicle. He not only remained cheerful during the several minutes it took to locate the driver but also gave the man a friendly greeting. Later that day despite his obvious fatigue he spent an hour with a few of us discussing a four-page letter which I had sent discussing direction for FIAMC. He even had a translator present to make sure that we understood each other. The meeting ended with him promising that he would grace the FIAMC session scheduled for World Youth Day to be held in his beloved country of birth later this month. Sadly it is not meant to be.

Like Saint Pope John Paul, Archbishop Zimowski was a strong defender of the dignity of life. In an era of increasing secularisation, he remained committed to promoting the pro-life and pro-family teachings of the Catholic Church while embracing the Holy Father Pope Francis approach of reaching out to the disenfranchised. His wisdom and indefatigable leadership will be sorely missed.

His legacy of holiness and responsible stewardship will continue to inspire me and countless others. In my heart, I will always remember Msgr Zygmunt Zimowski.

Dr John Lee (President FIAMC)