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“I had no doubt,” he said recently. “These notes are so important, they say so much about the spiritual side, about the person, about the great pope, that it would have been a crime to destroy them.” He noted the despair of historians after Pope Pius XII’s letters were burnt.

Respected church commentator, the Rev. Adam Boniecki, wrote in a Polish Catholic weekly that he was at first “surprised in an unpleasant way” by Dziwisz’s decision, but after reading the book “I am grateful to him for having taken the risk of following his own conscience and not being a meticulous formalist.”

Some ordinary worshippers were also supportive.

“The teaching and prayers of our pope are most precious to us and we should study them with attention,” said Maria Welgo. “We should be thankful that Cardinal Dziwisz left these notes for us.”

Lawyers in Poland are not sure whether Dziwisz broke the law by disobeying the will - which explicitly said: “Burn my personal notes.” There is scant tradition in Poland of having will executors so the rules are not clear-cut.

Jacek Stokolosa of the Domanski Zakrzewski Palinka Law Firm said that without studying the entire will he was not even sure whether Dziwisz was an executor under Polish law.

The Rev. Jan Machniak, who wrote the preface, told The Associated Press that the book is intended for readers who need to bring order into their life, or need guidance in their own spiritual growth.

The book may be more surprising for what it does not contain: reference to world events and the collapse of communism in John Paul’s native Poland, which the pope played a critical role in bringing about.

But John Paul gave an enigmatic insight into his social, and possibly literary, concerns by writing about an “American female writer O’Connor” — an apparent reference to short story writer Flannery O’Connor.

“Lack of emotional approach to the human person — seemingly substituted by the notion of the ‘quality of life’ — a symptom of our times.”