Many letters and photographs that reveal Pope John Paul II had a close relationship with a married woman – a friendship that lasted more than 30 years – have just surfaced. The letters were obtained by BBC.
The letters, reportedly written by the Pope to Polish-born American philosopher Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka, had been hidden from public eye for years.
Concealed in the National Library of Poland, the letters uncover the hardly known side of the late pontiff, who died in 2005 after he ruled the Catholic church for 27 years.
The redeeming thing about the said friendship which the letters show, is that the pope appear to have had a close but Christian relationship with the married woman.
They were intimate, yet they had nothing sexual. In fact, there is no suggestion in the letters that the Pope broke his vow of celibacy.
Declared a saint in 2014, nobody can say if the letters were seen before the declaration, as the Church goes through all private and public writings before naming someone a saint.
When naming someone a saint in the Catholic Church, a long and very costly procedure is usually followed, but John Paul II was fast-tracked to sainthood in just nine years.
The friendship started in 1973 at the time Ms Tymieniecka wrote to future Pope, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, who was Archbishop of Krakow then, concerning a book on philosophy that he had written.
The then 50-year-old Cardinal jetted from the US to Poland to have a talk with her about the work.
Later on, the two started to exchange letters. The Cardinal’s initial letters were formal but as time swung by, their friendship became more intimate, as were his letters to her.
The pontiff, through one of his many letters written in 1974, said that he was re-reading four of Ms Tymieniecka’s letters written in one month because they were “so meaningful and deeply personal”.
Rare Photographs which have never surfaced before shows Pontiff Karol Wojtyla at his most relaxed where Ms Tymieniecka joined him on country walks and skiing holidays.
She had also joined him on a group camping trip as well. There were also photos of the woman’s visit to the Vatican.
Another letter reveals Ms Tymieniecka one time invited the Cardinal to stay with her family at their country home in New England, in 1976, when Cardinal Wojtyla came for a Catholic conference in the US.
The married woman seemingly professed serious feeling for the pope as his letters shortly afterwards suggest a man fighting to understand their friendship in Christian terms.
In one letter dated September 1976, he writes:
My dear Teresa, I have received all three letters. You write about being torn apart, but I could find no answer to these words.
He further describes her as a “gift from God”.
Ms Tymieniecka’s letters have not been seen yet.
It is thought copies of them were among the archive that Ms Tymieniecka sold to the Polish National Library in 2008, six years prior to her death.
The National Library of Poland has not confirmed that they have Ms Tymieniecka’s letters.
Marsha Malinowski, a rare manuscripts dealer who negotiated the sale of the letters, told BBC she believes Ms Tymieniecka developed intense feelings for the Cardinal Wojtyla in the early days of their relationship.
According to her:
I think that it’s completely reflected in the correspondence.
Meanwhile the letters indicate that Cardinal Wojtyla in an apparent bid to help the woman fend off the human content controlling her, sent Ms Tymieniecka one of his most treasured possessions, a scapular – a small devotional necklace worn around the shoulders by Catholics.
He also wrote in a letter dated 10 September 1976:
Already last year I was looking for an answer to these words, ‘I belong to you’, and finally, before leaving Poland, I found a way – a scapular.
He added that his precious gift to her allowed him to
accept and feel you everywhere in all kinds of situations, whether you are close – or far away.
After becoming Pope he wrote:
I am writing after the event, so that the correspondence between us should continue. I promise I will remember everything at this new stage of my journey.
Cardinal Wojtyla had a number of female friends, including Wanda Poltawska, a psychiatrist with whom he also corresponded for decades.
His letters to Ms Tymieniecka are at times more intensely emotional, sometimes battling with the meaning of their relationship, though the documentary does not claim he broke his vow of celibacy with Polish-born philosopher and writer Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka.