In September of 1976, two years before becoming Pope Saint John Paul II, then-Archbishop Karol Józef Wojtyła wrote, “...I accept and feel you everywhere in all kinds of situations, when you are close, and when you are far away.” But he wasn’t writing to the father, the son, or the holy ghost. No, the object of Wojtyła’s affection was something more typical of human men: a human woman.
In a new documentary premiering on the BBC Monday evening, researchers sift through 350 letters written between 1973 and 2003 from Wojtyła/Pope John Paul II to a philosopher and writer named Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka and explore their “intense” relationship.
Writes BBC News:
When the two met in 1973, [he] was the Archbishop of Krakow. Tymieniecka was Polish by birth, and, like him, had endured the searing experience of the Nazi occupation during World War Two. After the war she left to study abroad and eventually pursued an academic career as a philosopher in the United States, where she married and had three children.
But though the sexless tale of a sitting Pope fancying a married woman isn’t quite TMZ-worthy in its juiciness, it’s definitely a hmmmm-able look into the life of a man thought by Catholics to be on a constant hotline with God.
Writes Yahoo! News:
Edward Stourton, the senior BBC journalist who made the documentary, said more than 350 letters were found at the National Library of Poland, the first dated in 1973 and the last a few months before his death in 2005.
“I would say they were more than friends but less than lovers,” he said.
“One of the fascinating stories that comes out of these letters is of a struggle to contain what was certainly a very intense relationship which mixed emotions and philosophical ideas in proper Christian boundaries.”
Though their friendship was “public knowledge” for years, the letters revealed their relationship to be “much deeper and more complex...than has previously been recognized.” But even though the former Pope called Tymieniecka a “gift from God,” and came close to Mariah Carey-level romance by saying, “I belong to you,” Vatican reps think we should all move along and find something more interesting to talk about.
In an interview with The Guardian, the church said “it was known that he was friendly with Tymieniecka.” And in a statement to Yahoo! News, they added:
“[There was] nothing out of the ordinary in the fact that pope John Paul II had close friendships with different people, whether men or women.”
“Nobody will be amazed at this information,” a spokesman said.
Don’t speak for me, Vatican spokesman!
An even more interesting statement came from the “editor-in-chief of the progressive Tygodnik Powszechny Catholic weekly,” Father Adam Boniecki, who said:
“Women fall in love with priests all the time, and it’s always a big headache...If she was in love with Wojtyła, she was most likely not alone.”
Without bringing up The Thorn Birds, can you direct me to these women who are constantly falling in love with priests, Father Boniecki? And since you brought up “big headaches,” I think it’s worth noting that the Catholic Church has more important ones that don’t involve some married woman giving a former Pope (and current saint) three decades of blue balls.
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image via Getty.