LIFESTYLE

Letters reveal close relationship between Pope John Paul II and Polish woman

In this May 2, 2001 file photo, Pope John Paul II waves to faithfuls gathered for the weekly general audience at St. Peter's Square in the Vatican.

In this May 2, 2001 file photo, Pope John Paul II waves to faithfuls gathered for the weekly general audience at St. Peter's Square in the Vatican.  (AP)

She was a philosopher, he was a man of the cloth.

Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka wrote a letter to Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, then Archbishop of Krakow, about a book on philosophy that he had written.

It was 1973, and the letter to the future Pope John Paul II proved to be launching of what would be a deep relationship that spanned decades, largely off the public radar until now, when BCC is reporting the existence of hundreds of letters and photographs that offer a glimpse of their closeness.

The letters were kept at the National Library of Poland for many years, the BBC said.

Though there is no evidence of the relationship between the pope and the married philosopher ever having crossed the line from platonic, it was arguably intense and close, the letters evidently indicate, according to BBC, which got access to them.

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The letters between the two began with a cordial tone, but then got more personal.

The two decided to work on a more ambitious work building on the cardinal’s book, The Acting Person, and met numerous times. The BBC report says when the two met, the cardinal’s secretary was sometimes there with them, and sometimes they were alone.

They also went on trips together, and photos show her at the Vatican visiting him when he was the pope.

"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," the BBC quoted Eamon Duffy, a history professor at Cambridge University, as saying.

Toward the latter 1970’s, BBC reported, Tymieniecka apparently indicated to the cardinal that she had special feelings for him because several of his letters at some point suggest he was experiencing an internal struggle with their relationship and trying to put it in context, given his religious role.

One of his letters said:  "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 called her "gift from God.”

The BBC reported that it did not get to see Tymieniecka’s letters, which likely were part of the archive that she sold to the Polish National Library in 2008. The pope died in 2005, she died in 2014.

The person who negotiated the sale of the letters told BBC that in her opinion, Tymieniecka was in love with Cardinal Wojtvyla.

"I think that it's completely reflected in the correspondence," Marsha Malinowski, a rare manuscripts dealer, was quoted as saying by BBC.

Cardinal Wojtyla evidently gave the philosopher a special gift known as a scapular, a small devotional necklace worn around the shoulders.

A 1976 letter by him to her said "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 scapular, he continued, let him "accept and feel you everywhere in all kinds of situations, whether you are close - or far away.”

He apparently did not want her to think that his become a pope was going to end, or dramatically alter, their relationship.

Once he was Pope John Paul II, he wrote: “The correspondence between us should continue. I promise I will remember everything at this new stage of my journey."

BBC noted that the pope became a saint in 2014, and that it is unclear if the Vatican followed its usual vetting step of examining private and public writings before deciding on sainthood.

The BBC added that the National Library of Poland downplayed the uniqueness of the pope’s relationship and correspondence with Tymieniecka, saying it was merely one of many special friendships he had.

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