“Deeply personal”

Letters reveal significant woman in Pope John Paul II’s life

Pope John Paul II at the Vatican with Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka in an undated photo. (Photograph provided by Bill and Jadwiga Smith)

Pope John Paul II shared a 32-year-long close relationship with a married woman, Polish-born American philosopher Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka, according to letters discovered by the BBC. The friendship between the two began in 1973, as she contacted Cardinal Karol Wojtyła, the archbishop of Kraków, who would later become Pope John Paul II, about a book he had written on philosophy, and then traveled to Poland from the U.S. to discuss the work. Their relationship grew over the years, as they met on several occasions to work on an updated version of his book. At one point in 1974, he wrote to tell her that he was re-reading four letters she had written in one month, because they were “so meaningful and deeply personal.”

While the BBC was able to access the pontiff’s own letters, which had been sheltered from public view in Poland’s National Library for years, they did not see any of Tymieniecka’s letters. Even though the letters contain no indication that the pontiff ever broke his vow of celibacy, they appear to suggest that Tymieniecka at one point developed strong feelings for him. After he was invited to attend a Catholic conference in the U.S., she invited him to stay at her family home in New England and his letters afterwards seem to suggest she had told him about these feelings: in one letter, 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.”

A later letter also shows that the church leader sent her a prized scapular (a small devotional necklace), writing “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,” which allowed him to “accept and feel you everywhere in all kinds of situations, whether you are close — or far away.”

Pope John Paul II died in 2005 and was declared a saint in 2014. Tymieniecka died in 2014 at age 91, according to her obituary.

Read the full story at BBC.

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