Monday, 15 February 2016


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.

Find out more
In the UK, you can watch Ed Stourton's Panorama report: The Secret Letters of Pope John Paul II on BBC One on Monday 15 February at 20:30.

And read the full story of Pope John Paul II and Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka
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.
But his letters to Ms Tymieniecka are at times more intensely emotional, sometimes wrestling with the meaning of their relationship.
Pope John Paul II died in 2005, after an almost 27-year reign. In 2014 he was declared a saint.
and very costly, but John Paul II was fast-tracked to sainthood in just nine years.
Normally the Vatican asks to see all public and private writings when considering a candidate for sainthood, but the BBC has not been able to confirm whether the letters were seen.
The Congregation for the Causes of Saints said it is up to individual Catholics to decide whether to send in documents.
"All our duties were done," it told the BBC in a statement. "All private documents, sent by faithful as a response to the edict, and documents found in important archives were studied."

The National Library of Poland disputes that this was a unique relationship. It says it was one of many warm friendships the Pope enjoyed throughout his life.


  1. He found love through friendship. Didn't make him a hypocrite, but a human being. We all need love.

    1. No one is suggesting that his friendship was anything but a friendship.

      As it says EARLY in the Blog:


    2. Then why report on it, Pat. What's so newsworthy about a friendship, even one that involves a man who would become pope and saint...unless you're hoping to detect the whiff of scandal. Are you?

    3. Because its world wide news today and the subject of a BBC Panorama programme this evening.

      Should a Blog that comments on all things Catholic ignore such a widespread news story.

      To date NO ONE has suggested scandal.

  2. This actually deepens my admiration for St John Paul II rather than detracts from it. Here we see someone who enjoyed the benefits of a close and loving friendship with at least two women. It is clear to those who know (and I did work in the Vatican during the saints papacy) that these were enduring human relationships and close ones, but not physically expressed - apart from the chaste peck illustrated in the photograph. Popes are particularly isolated and there has been a long history of the men who inhabit the rarefied and isolating rooms of the Papal Private Appartment having intensely personal friendships with their staff. You only have to think of Pope Pius XII and his Bavarian housekeeper Mother Pasqulina Lennert; Blessed Pope Paul VI and his almost paternal relationship with his Private
    Secretary John Magee ("caro" "beloved" the old pope always called him); Pope John Paul I and Sister Vicenza, and latterly Pope Benedict XVI and his lay woman housekeeper Professor Ingrid Stampa. I recall the consternation caused in the retired Popes entourage when she took over the papal apartments and was seen (and photographed) opening the windows of the papal bedroom. She was merely flinging open all the windows of the apartment after Benedict took them over, but wasn't savvy enough to realise the Italian Press were training their cameras on the Terza Loggia. It all goes to show that these are men. Men with their needs. I could put money on the fact that none of these relationships have been anything other than chaste, but they do highlight the need for all human beings to have human warmth and comfort and the special warmth and comfort that comes from having someone close by who understands. As he was dying St John Paul asked for three women to be summoned so that he could say farewell. All three were present as he slipped away; the two mentioned in Sturton's report and a third, the Reverend Mother of the Brigitenne Convent in Rome. Now there is a problem. Have not all these Popes upheld clerical celibacy and chastity for all clerics? John Paul II in particular was extremely harsh with priests and bishops who sought dispensations from Holy Orders to marry. If they did so without a canonical dispensation, they were summarily excommunicated and in the early years of his pontificate these dispensations were few and far between. Surely whats sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander? And if JPII was having intimate and close relationships with women (and he did) why not allow all priests and bishops and cardinals who wish too do the same, with men or women? Surely that is preferable to the toxic combination of self-loathing and acting out and repenting and then performing the whole cycle over and over again that is to be found right to the highest echelons of the Catholic Church? Former Vatican Minutante.

    1. FVM, well written.

      Of course we must also remember that in the long history of the Papacy there were many popes who had sexual relations with both men and women and who indeed fathered children.

      The whole story does call for a serious re-examination of COMPULSORY clerical celibacy.

  3. Many married women enjoy close friendships with gay men. It's all very sweet, something very special - and they have lots to talk about.

    1. Are you implying that John Paul 11 was a gay man who enjoyed friendships with married women?

    2. Of course not. Did you skip your logic classes in the seminary?

    3. I'm sorry - it was one very logical possibility.

    4. They used to call them faghags, but it is not pc today.

  4. Sounds perfectly plausible what J P did. I tried being "special friends" with a small few women through the years until eventually....the rest is history...

    1. Thats one of the best comments you have ever contributed Sean :-)

    2. Thanks Pat. Priests going the special friends route are like people driving with the handbrake on-the psychological heartache can be earth shattering. Something has got to give. I don't believe God would purposely want people to endure this man made suffering. Not even in lent...

  5. will this story bring about the official abolishment of required celibacy? unfortunately the church has itself back into a corner that it cant really be seen to start admitting its wrong now. sure why not persevere with its soul destroying rules a bit more. Why stop now?

  6. I'm no fan of the late jp2 but I watched the programme last night and failed to see what the big story was . Man is friends with woman ! It's no big deal . I wonder what nxt wks story will be ? Pope benny has a ginger pussy