Their correspondence started as a question of theological philosophy and developed into intense friendship
A long-lasting and close relationship between Pope John Paul II and a married woman, consisting of hundreds of letter and photographs sent across three decades of correspondence, has revealed a new side of the Pope, the BBC is reporting. Despite the letters revealing a close bond between the two, there is no suggestion that the Pope, who died in 2005, broke his vow of celibacy.
The letters, sent to the Polish-born American philosopher Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka, had been stored in a private collection in the Polish National Library in Warsaw.
"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," Eamon Duffy, Professor of the History of Christianity at Cambridge University, told the BBC.
The pair’s friendship began in 1973, after Tymieniecka wrote to the future Pope, then Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, to ask a number of questions about philosophical theories he had published. Tymieniecka later travelled from the US to Poland to interview the then Archbishop of Warsaw.
The meeting of minds led to a new correspondence, with the letters growing more and more personal and intimate as their friendship grew. Photographs in the collection, never before seen by members of the public, reveal that the American would routinely pay visits to the Pope, joining him on country walks, skiing holidays, and camping trips. She also visited him at the Vatican.
Tymieniecka and the Cardinal during a skiing trip [BBC]
When the Archbishop was visiting the US in 1976, it is strongly hinted in the correspondence that Tymieniecka told him she was in love with him, with his letters during this period showing a man of faith trying to comprehend how to regard their relationship in Christian terms.
After being elected Pope in 1978, John Paul II wrote to Tymieniecka saying: “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.”
Pope John Paul II died in 2005, after leading the Catholic Church for nearly 27 years, which declared him a saint in 2014. Tymieniecka, who died in 2014, sold her collection of letters of the Polish National Library in 2008, though her letters were not revealed to the BBC and a spokesperson would not confirm whether they are being kept in private storage along with John Paul II’s.