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 in June to lead the important diocese, described him as "the best person to hold this position" in a papal bull read by the Rev. Jan Zajac during a ceremony in Wawel Castle cathedral.

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, 66, was at John Paul's side for nearly 40 years, in Krakow and then Rome. 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 grew worse 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 often skied and walked in the mountains together before the pope became too frail.

After the assassination attempt against the pope, 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.

Dziwisz succeeds Cardinal Franciszek Macharski, 78, who is retiring.

Stanislaw Dziwisz spent 40 years working with John Paul II.