The BBC had its day

Pope John Paul II had an "intense friendship" (BBC) with a married woman and mother of three children for over three decades.

The new BBC documentary "The Secrets of Pope John Paul II." According to the then Cardinal of Cracow, Karol Wojtyła (1920-2005), had a friendship with the Polish-American philosopher Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka (1923-2014) from the beginning of the 1970s, which lasted until the Pope's death on April 2, 2005 . That should be a report of the Guardian According to insider circles, however, it was already known.

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Hikes and skiing holidays

What is new about the documentation is that several hundred letters and private photos document the kinship, reports the BBC. The friendship began in the early 1970s when Tymieniecka asked the Krakow cardinal to translate his book "Person und Tat", published in 1969, into English. The exchange of letters on philosophical questions quickly developed into a very personal correspondence. According to the documentation, there were soon personal encounters, joint hikes or skiing holidays. In 1976 she even invited the cardinal to her family in the Vermont countryside.

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The authors of the film make it clear: There is no evidence that Karol Wojtyła broke celibacy. Nevertheless, the married mother of three children and the clergyman were also very close emotionally for three decades.

"My dear Teresa"

Some of the letters indicated intense feelings. This is how Cardinal Karol Wojtyła Tymieniecka called a "gift from God" in a letter from September 1976. "My dear Teresa", he wrote, "You write that you are torn, but I cannot find an answer to these words." Wojtyła added that he felt it "everywhere, in all situations", even if it was "far away".

The film's writer, BBC journalist Edward Stourton, said the two were "more than friends but less than lovers". "These letters are the most extraordinary glimpse into the private life of one of the most famous personalities of all time," said Stourton. The documentary is based on more than 350 letters penned by John Paul II, which Tymieniecka donated to the Polish National Library in 2008. The first letter dates from 1973, when the philosopher and the clergyman met; the last was written by John Paul II a few months before his death in 2005.

In the documentary, which will be broadcast on Arte on Tuesday evening, it remains unclear how far Wojtyła was aware of the deep feelings of the woman, who comes from a Polish-French aristocratic family. In any case, the cardinal did not break off contact with her. She also had easy access to the Vatican and the papal summer residence of Castelgandolfo during his pontificate

One day before the Pope's death, the philosopher visited him in the hospital.

Vatican distances itself from BBC documentary

If the authors of the documentary are to be believed, Tymieniecka was systematically hushed up by the Vatican after April 2, 2005 - also in order not to endanger the quick beatification and canonization of the Pope. With reference to friends of Tymieniecka, the film suggests that at least Karol Wojtyła's letters could be published. According to the authors, a great contradiction in the personality of the Polish Pope would then become more clearly visible: How could a man who was so open and frank on a personal level pursue such a doctrinal course in his proclamation of the faith, the film asks.

The British Guardian reported, without naming a more precise source, that the Vatican had distanced itself from the contribution. It contains "more smoke than fire".

As early as 2009, reports of Karol Wojtyła's previous close personal relationship with a married woman caused a stir. At the time, 94-year-old Wanda Poltawska, a psychiatrist who survived the Nazi concentration camps, published a book about her correspondence with the Polish priest. Wojtyła had been helping her come to terms with her experiences in the concentration camp since the 1950s.