It is my last full day in Krakow and the past week has been so wonderful that I am very reluctant to leave. Krakow is a beautiful city whose pulsating heart is the stunning, 40,000 square meter (430,000 square feet) Market Square, known locally as Rynek Glowny. It is filled with and surrounded by historical monuments – the medieval Cloth Hall, St. Mary’s Basilica, St. Adalbert Church, to name a few – and marvelous restaurants, pastry stores, five-star hotels, BnBs, elegant, brand name stores and – for me at least, the frosting on the cake – Krakow’s inimitable, white horse-driven carriages whose beautifully costumed drivers entice you with a smile and a reasonable fee to take a ride around old town. A carriage ride is a must here.

I have seen old friends and made new ones. I had a wonderful visit last Friday with Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, newly retired archbishop of Krakow and, as I think you all know, for 40 years he was Pope John Paul’s secretary, right-hand man and best friend. We have known each other for about 30 years. It was a joy to see him, he looked very happy and certainly seemed as busy as ever!

Cardinal Dziwisz asked me, as he always does when we meet, if I had brought some of my cookies and, for the first time in all our meetings, I had to say ‘no, Eminence, it is Lent.” And he replied, “You did well, I do not eat sweets in Lent.”

I knew two of his secretaries for a number of years and had the joy of seeing both of them during this visit. Fr. Dariusz Ras is now the parish priest, also called archpriest, of Saint Mary’s basilica on Market Square (it is twinned with St. Mary Major in Rome). We met Thursday morning in his office behind the basilica.

I did learn that the beautiful Mass I attended last Wednesday at St. Mary’s (which was where Fr. Dariusz and I caught up) was celebrated by one of Krakow’s auxiliary bishops. Krakow’s new Archbishop Marek Jedraszewski has started the custom of Station Churches in the diocese during Lent (you know of those through my blog and my recent Vatican Insider special), so a different church is used each day throughout Lent. (photo from St. Mary’s – I forgot to take a picture!)

By the way, the diocese of Krakow was established in the year 1000!

I also had a great meeting this morning with Fr. Tomasz Szopa, another former secretary to Cardinal Dziwisz, who is now the chancellor of the diocese! A lot to catch up on!

Yet another friend is Fr. Piotr Studnick, communications director for the diocese. We were able to have a chat over coffee and one of Krakow’s fabulous sweets. I’ve never in my life seen sweets and desserts like those I’ve seen here (anywhere except perhaps Jordan!). I’ll have to come back some time when it is not Lent.

You’ll learn of my new friends when I write about them in my book about Pope John Paul!

Back to Rome tomorrow. Today is the fourth anniversary of the election of Pope Francis to the papacy and is a holiday in the Vatican. At 3 this afternoon there was a celebration in St. Peter’s Basilica of Anglican vespers, presided over by Anglican Archbishop David Moxon, head of the Anglican Center of Rome. Archbishop Arthur Roche, secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments delivered a homily.

So, for now I say, ‘Do widzenia – arrivederci, good bye Krakow!