Pope’s let­ters to mar­ried woman raise eye­brows

Lesotho Times - - International -

LON­DON — Hun­dreds of let­ters and pho­to­graphs that tell the story of Pope John Paul II’S close re­la­tion­ship with a mar­ried woman, which lasted more than 30 years, have been shown to the BBC.

The let­ters to Pol­ish-born Amer­i­can philoso­pher Anna-teresa Tymie­niecka had been kept away from pub­lic view in the Na­tional Li­brary of Poland for years.

The doc­u­ments re­veal a rarely seen side of the pon­tiff, who died in 2005.

There is no sug­ges­tion the Pope broke his vow of celibacy.

The friend­ship be­gan in 1973 when Ms Tymie­niecka con­tacted the fu­ture Pope, Car­di­nal Karol Wo­jtyla, then Arch­bishop of Krakow, about a book on phi­los­o­phy that he had writ­ten.

The then 50-year-old trav­elled from the US to Poland to dis­cuss the work.

Shortly af­ter­wards, the pair be­gan to cor­re­spond. At first the car­di­nal’s let­ters were for­mal, but as their friend­ship grew, they be­come more in­ti­mate.

The pair de­cided to work on an ex­panded ver­sion of the car­di­nal’s book, The Act­ing Per­son. They met many times - some­times with his sec­re­tary present, some­times alone - and cor­re­sponded fre­quently.

In 1974, he wrote that he was re-read­ing four of Ms Tymie­niecka’s let­ters writ­ten in one month be­cause they were “so mean­ing­ful and deeply per­sonal”.

Pho­to­graphs which have never been seen be­fore by the pub­lic re­veal Karol Wo­jtyla at his most re­laxed. He in­vited Ms Tymie­niecka to join him on coun­try walks and ski­ing hol­i­days — she even joined him on a group camp­ing trip. The pic­tures also show her vis­it­ing him at the Vat­i­can.

“Here is one of the hand­ful of tran­scen­den­tally great fig­ures in pub­lic life in the 20th Cen­tury, the head of the Catholic Church, in an in­tense re­la­tion­ship with an at­trac­tive woman,” says Ea­mon Duffy, Pro­fes­sor of the His­tory of Chris­tian­ity at Cam­bridge Univer­sity.

In 1976, Car­di­nal Wo­jtyla at­tended a Catholic con­fer­ence in the US. Ms Tymie­niecka in­vited him to stay with her fam­ily at their coun­try home in New Eng­land.

She ap­peared to have re­vealed in­tense feel­ings for him be­cause his let­ters im­me­di­ately af­ter­wards sug­gest a man strug­gling to make sense of their friend­ship in Chris­tian terms.

In one, 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 de­scribes her as a “gift from God”. The BBC has not seen any of Ms Tymie­niecka’s let­ters. It is be­lieved copies of them were in­cluded in the ar­chive that was sold to the Pol­ish Na­tional Li­brary by Ms Tymie­niecka in 2008, six years be­fore she died. But they were not with the Pope’s let­ters when the BBC was shown them. 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, says she be­lieves Ms Tymie­niecka fell in love with Car­di­nal Wo­jtyla in the early days of their re­la­tion­ship. “I think that it’s com­pletely re­flected in the cor­re­spon­dence,” she told the BBC.

The let­ters re­veal that Car­di­nal Wo­jtyla gave Ms Tymie­niecka one of his most trea­sured pos­ses­sions, an item known as a scapu­lar - a small de­vo­tional neck­lace worn around the shoul­ders.

In a let­ter dated 10 Septem­ber 1976 he wrote: “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. The di­men­sion in which I ac­cept and feel you ev­ery­where in all kinds of sit­u­a­tions, when you are close, and when you are 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. — BBC

The Pope at the Vat­i­can with Anna-teresa Tymie­niecka.

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