"When you met him, you got the very strong impression that you were the only person in the world for him."
That was the way Archbishop Jean Jadot recalls the late Pope Paul VI. The Belgian-born prelate, who is the official representative of the Vatican in this country, reminisced for a visitor about his impressions of the dead pontiff.
"We he talked with you, you felt the conviction that you were the most important to him," the archbishop continued.
"Every time I met him - and I talked with him at least twice a year - I was so impressed. He would say: 'What can I do to help? What can I do for the church in the United States?'"
The archbishop observed that Pope Paul was "very well informed about this country." Jadot recalled the first conference he had with the pope after being in his post as apostolic delegate to this country for only a few months.
The pontiff had before him "two sheets of paper with notes hand-written - 20 points that he wanted to talk about," the archbishop said. The 20 points formed the basis for a two-hour conversation.
Archbishop Jadot said that, although his conferences with the pope dealt almost exclusively with church affairs, he was nevertheless aware that the pontiff was well informed about the United States generally. "He had great respect for the presidents - Carter, Ford, and also for President Nixon," the archbishop said.
Archbishop Jadot characterized Pope Paul as having "an amazing trust" in people. "There are few people in the world who had such a trust in the possibility, the resources, of any human being - whether he was the most poor, if he was Marxist, if he was capitalist . . . "
The archbishop stressed that Pope Paul was first and foremost a deeply spiritual person "Too many people see him only as a human personality," he said, adding that the religious motivation was the real driving force of the late pope.
"That was what was pushing him from the inside," said Archbishop Jadot. "He did not look on the church with the eyes of a politician or of a manager . . . He was looking at the church as a means for Christ to work in the world today. All of his major decisions for the church . . . were centered on his concern to make the church more Christ-like, more fit to preach Christ."
The criticisms directed at the pope, whether from conservatives or liberals "pained him very much," said Archbishop Jadot.
"He was a very senstive man, and any criticism, no matter how unjust, hurt him very deeply," the archbishop said. He said that the cumulative effect on the pope's health.
But at the same time, he related, when Pope Paul was convinced "he had acted in good faith" in making the decision that elicited the criticism, he was "so peaceful", despite the criticisms.
The Apostolic Delegation here is following the custom followed by the diplomatic community on the death of a national leader, by maintaining a book of condolences, that other diplomats may sign.
At the specified hours, each day this week, sleek black limousines pull in and out of the delegation's offices at 3339 Massachusetts Ave. NW across from the vice president's residence as the world's diplomats pay their respects.
In addition to the outpouring of sympathy from these official sources, Archbishop Jadot said he was especially impressed by calls and comments from Christians of other denominations.
He recalled particularly the comments of worshiper at the memorial mass for Pope Paul on Monday at St Mathews Cathedral. "He was a young, strong man, with bright red hair, and he came to us saying: I am a Baptist but I came to this mass because I wanted to pray for such a great religious man,'" the archibishop recalled.
While Pope Paul was alive, he contined, "we heard so often from many sides that the prestige of the Holy Father has never been so low - that nobody cared what he says. But when I see the coverage (of his death) in the newspapers . . . the expressions form non-Catholics, that impresses me. . . He was an inspiration for all of us."