KRAKOW, Poland (AP) – Pope John Paul II’s longtime aide, who worked with the pontiff for 40 years and cradled him in the popemobile after a 1981 assassination attempt, was installed Saturday as archbishop of Krakow, the post once held by the late pontiff.

Pope Benedict XVI, who appointed Stanislaw Dziwisz to lead the important diocese in June, described him as “the best person to hold this position” in a papal bull read out by Rev. Jan Zajac during a ceremony in Wawel Castle cathedral.

“By now, the faithful have come to know your responsibility and dedication and I am sure they will be obedient to you,” the bull said.

Dressed in a white-and-gold robe and miter, Dziwisz walked in a procession to St. Mary’s church, surrounded by hundreds of priests and bishops in white robes, nuns and city officials. He held a silver-and-gilded staff given to Karol Wojtyla – the future John Paul – when he became archbishop of Krakow in 1958.

Dziwisz blessed the crowds as he walked through the city, smiling as he repeatedly made the sign of the cross. Tens of thousands of people who lined the streets under the scorching sun responded with applause and shouts of “Bravo!”

Dziwisz was to deliver a homily in a service outside St. Mary’s, a double-spired brick church that is a city landmarks.

Dignitaries in attendance included Pier Ferdinando Casini, president of the lower house of the Italian parliament, and Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the vicar of Rome and a longtime collaborator of John Paul’s.

Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and Warsaw Mayor Lech Kaczynski also were in attendance.

Dziwisz, 66, was at John Paul’s side for nearly 40 years in Krakow and then Rome. While he received a warm welcome from Poles because of their reverence for John Paul, his positions on church doctrine are largely unknown in his homeland.

Over the years, Dziwisz grew into an important figure at the Vatican, where he was known simply as Don Stanislaw. His role as John Paul’s gatekeeper developed as the pontiff’s health worsened in the last years.

But to John Paul, he was simply “Stasiu,” an affectionate nickname that revealed the closeness of the two men. They shared a love of sports and would ski and walk in the mountains together before the pope became too frail.

After the assassination attempt against the pope in 1981, Dziwisz was by his side, cradling him in his arms and ordering the car’s driver to rush to Rome’s Gemelli Polyclinic – a decision credited with saving his life.

After John Paul’s death April 2, Dziwisz refused to carry out a provision in his will calling for his personal papers to be burned, arguing the documents contain “great riches” that should be preserved.

As archbishop of Krakow, he will have a key role in the process of beatifying John Paul by supplying needed evidence from Poland. Benedict announced in May that he was putting John Paul on a fast track to sainthood, waiving a five-year waiting period.

One of Dziwisz’s first public tasks as archbishop will be to represent Benedict at ceremonies next week marking the 25th anniversary of Poland’s Solidarity freedom movement in Gdansk, on the Baltic coast.

John Paul is credited with inspiring Solidarity, the Soviet bloc’s first free trade union, during his first return to his homeland as pope in 1979.

Dziwisz succeeds retiring 78-year-old Cardinal Franciszek Macharski.

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