John Paul Letters Show 'Intense' Friendship With Married Woman

32-year correspondence includes 'deeply personal' notes, pics
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 15, 2016 10:16 AM CST
John Paul Letters Show 'Intense' Friendship With Married Woman
In this Feb. 21, 2000, file photo, Hungarian President Arpad Goncz, left, meets Pope John Paul II during a private audience at the Vatican.   (AP Photo/Plinio Lepri, file)

Photos and more than 350 "intense" letters from Pope John Paul II to a married woman he corresponded with for more than three decades have been found at the National Library of Poland, Deutsche Welle reports, via a BBC documentary. The notes and images—often showing the pontiff, who was made a saint in 2014, in casual wear—reveal a friendship between himself and American philosopher Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka that included holidays spent together and an intimate relationship that historians are trying to figure out. "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," a Christianity history professor at Cambridge University tells the BBC, which notes there's never a "suggestion [he] broke his vow of celibacy." "I would say they were more than friends but less than lovers," Edward Stourton, the documentary maker, tells AFP, via Deutsche Welle.

Tymieniecka, who was born in Poland, first wrote to Karol Wojtyla in 1973 when he was still a cardinal, and their friendship deepened over the years. Stourton writes for the BBC that he believes Tymieniecka first told Wojtyla she was in love with him in 1975 and that it appeared the cardinal struggled with their relationship, writing that she was "a gift from God" and that "if I did not have this conviction, some moral certainty of Grace … I would not dare act like this." He also gave her a scapular—a piece of devotional clothing—that his own father had given him at his first Holy Communion. "I was looking for an answer to these words, 'I belong to you,' and finally, before leaving Poland, I found a way—a scapular," he writes in a September 1976 letter. "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." Tymieniecka, who the BBC says visited the pope the day before he died in 2005, sold her letters to the Polish library in 2008 and died in 2014, per the Independent. (See some of their pics here.)

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