If you want a window into how much the legacy and memory of St. Pope John Paul II hangs over the 2016 World Youth Day in Krakow, consider the photo exhibit on mercy on display in the run-up in a small local park next to the Archbishop’s Palace, which contains exactly one shot each of Popes Francis and Benedict.

How many of John Paul II does it feature? A robust 25.

The display is, in a sense, understandable, given that for an average 18-year-old Polish Catholic today, precisely the demographic to which a World Youth Day is designed to appeal, he or she would have been seven years old when John Paul II died.

As one media officer for the 2016 WYD put it to us on Tuesday night, by now John Paul II “is a figure from the history books” for the new generation of Polish youth, something akin to the 11th century St. Stanislaus of Poland as a national hero.

The key difference is that unlike Stanislaus, John Paul II still has someone around here keeping his memory not only alive but almost ubiquitous: Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the 77-year-old Archbishop of Krakow who for almost forty years was the private secretary of Archbishop, and then Cardinal, Karol Wojtyla, who went on to become Pope John Paul II.

To be honest, “private secretary” doesn’t come close to describing his role, because the truth is that Dziwisz was the son Karol Wojtyla never had. My Crux colleague Inés San Martín and I dropped in on Dzwisz on Wednesday, five days before the formal opening of World Youth Day.

For those whose memories stretch back, it’s basically impossible to overestimate the significance of Dziwisz to John Paul’s papacy, especially in its later stages when the pope was restricted in his ability to communicate and interact, and often needed someone able to interpret his mind for the outside world.

For instance, when John Paul visited Kazakhstan and Armenia in 2001 just days after the Twin Tower attacks on 9/11, the dominant media question heading in was whether the pope would have something to say about the prospect of US military strikes in the region in retaliation.

On day one, John Paul said something along the lines of a prayer for peace, which was interpreted as an anti-war stance, and was subsequently muddled with conflicting statements from the Vatican Press Office and Vatican Radio, which left everyone confused about what the pope actually thought.

We pulled Dziwisz aside to ask for clarification.  He calmly and authoritatively responded: “The pope is against the war.”

That settled it, because everyone knew and accepted back then there was really only one figure who could speak with certain knowledge based on personal intimacy with John Paul about what was truly in his mind and heart, and he’d just spoken.

Beyond that, Dziwisz had a devilish sense of humor that could erupt at any moment and take the edge off potentially tense situations.

For instance, at the end of that Kazakhstan and Armenia trip Dziwisz called all the journalists on the papal plane up to the front row, one by one, to get a moment with John Paul II. Immediately before me was Bruno Batoloni of the French press agency AFP, who had a reputation for writing conflict- and scandal-laced accounts of Vatican affairs – in other words, doing what journalists do.

Bartoloni was nervous about encountering a pope about whom he’d written so much, and relatively little of it flattering. When he plunked down next to the pontiff, Dziwisz smiled and said: “Holy Father, you need to cast out the demons that swirl around inside this guy!”

Everyone burst out laughing, and the tension was gone.

On another occasion, I was in a small pool of reporters covering a visit by some world leader to see the pope – I honestly can’t remember now who it was – and it was the first time I had stood outside the papal library to wait while the pope and the VIP had their meeting.

At one stage, Dziwisz came by with a small plate of chocolate candies. (I later realized this was his standard practice for the reporters and photographers who had to cool their heels during some papal happening.)

No one had briefed me on the protocol, so when he stopped before me I grabbed a handful of chocolates, stuffed them in my mouth, and then belched out an utterly Homer Simpsonesque, food-filled “thank you.”

He stood there for a moment, clearly mortified by the brutish American standing in front of him, but then just smiled and walked off.

Later, when he introduced me to John Paul, he said: “Holiness, you don’t have to give this guy a blessing … he already blessed himself with chocolates!”

John Paul laughed, and I felt like Dziwisz had just made me a friend of the papal household.

Today, Dziwisz is at the end of his run as the Archbishop of Krakow, and Poles are already speculating about the succession as the city’s chief shepherd. Going forward, it’s unlikely he’ll have a terribly active role leading the Polish church or acting as a voice in national affairs.

For the rest of his life, however, none of that actually constitutes the heart of Dziwisz’s legacy. Instead, he’s the keeper of the flame, the man more than anyone else whom history and providence have positioned to ensure that the legacy of St. Pope John Paul II is transmitted to the next generation and beyond.

On Wednesday, he told us that the memory of John Paul II, this “extraordinary person,” is still alive in the “whole world.” That’s certainly true — and part of the reason it will remain so is because the stubborn, charming, and unfailingly loyal Dziwiwz will simply refuse to let it die.