An autographed photo of Pope John Paul II, dated December 3rd, 1983. This was received personally by Bishop Robert Brom, former Bishop of Duluth, MN, during an ad limina visit in 1983. Upon Father Kunst’s ordination, Bishop Brom gave it to him as a gift.
While a young seminarian at the North American College in Rome, Robert Brom had his first encounter with a young bishop from Krakow, Poland, Karol Wojtyla. The following story is his account of this remarkable bishop who became Pope John Paul II.
Bishop Robert Brom’s Encounter With the Auxiliary Bishop of Krakow,
The Future Pope John Paul II
John Paul II’s attention to each person is summed up in an encounter he had with San Diego’s Bishop Robert Brom.
Brom’s first meeting with the Pope occurred in 1963 during the second session of the Second Vatican Council. Brom was a seminarian at the North American College and Pope John Paul was the auxiliary bishop of Krakow. Brom and several classmates were leaving the Church of the Gesu after a visit there when some Polish seminarians with Bishop Wojtyla were entering. At that time Brom and his classmates briefly met the man who would thereafter become the Cardinal Archbishop of Krakow and the first non-Italian Pope in 455 years. Subsequently, Brom forgot all about the exchange.
In 1983 after his appointment as Bishop of Duluth, Bishop Brom in the context of his first Ad Limina Visit met Pope John Paul for what he thought was the first time. However, John Paul, looking into Brom’s face said, “I think we have met before.” Brom assured the Holy Father that they’d never met. “I believe we have,” insisted the Pope, but Brom was equally sure they had not.
Some days later, during the same Ad Limina Visit, the secretary to the Holy Father, then, Monsignor Stanislaw Dziwisz, now Cardinal, approached Bishop Brom to say, “Don’t argue with the Pope, he remembers when he met you.” “When?” Brom asked. “In November of 1963 outside the Church of the Gesu in Rome.” Brom’s memory refreshed, he asked Monsignor Dziwisz, “How can he do that?” to which Dziwisz explained that for John Paul to meet another person is to encounter God.
It was only years later in another Ad Limina Visit toward the end of the Pope’s life that John Paul brought up the subject again. One on one he asked Brom, “How many times have we met, and when was the first time?” to which Brom responded properly. John Paul slapped the desk and with a smile said, “Finally you remember!”
Papal Artifacts gratefully acknowledges the contributions of Bishop Robert Brom.