Pope John Paul II's special friend: A married American lady
It's not often that we get a glimpse into the private affairs of a pope. However, recently uncovered documents reveal the late Pope John Paul II had a decades-long intimate correspondence with a married American woman. But before you get your robes all in a knot, the Pope seems to have kept her entirely in the friend zone.
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It all began back in 1973, when the future pope was still known as Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, Archbishop of Krakow. Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka, a philosopher who was born in Poland but lived in the US, reached out to the Cardinal about a philosophy book he'd written. She then traveled to Poland to talk about the book with him, and it seems to have been the beginning of a beautiful friendship. The two began a regular correspondence, which was at first formal but eventually grew far more intimate. Tymieniecka, who was 50 and married when she struck up this unlikely friendship, also met with the future Pontiff many times (sometimes with his secretary in the room, sometimes not) and collaborated with him on an expanded version of his book.
By 1976, things seems to have come to a boil. FuturePope was in America attending a conference and visited Tymieniecka's family at their country house in New England. It is there where Tymieniecka is believed to have revealed that she had feelings for him. His letters following the visit suggest he's grappling with how to navigate their friendship. In September of that year, he wrote:
"My dear Teresa, I have received all three letters. You write about being torn apart, but I could find no answer to these words."
Sounds a bit harsh, but he went on to call her a "gift from God." They must have found some kind of peace eventually, because their friendship continued for more than three decades until he died. They went on walks, skiing trips, and a group camping outing—she even visited him at the Vatican.
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While we've seen the Pope's side of their relationship, we've yet to get a glimpse of Tymieniecka's side of the story. Copies of her letters were reportedly sold to the Polish National Library, and Marsha Malinowski, who negotiated the sale of the letters, says the correspondence indicates Tymieniecka was in love from early on.
Look back at Pope John Paul II's papacy:
Pope John Paul II passed away in 2005; we may never fully understand what was going in the Pope's heart of hearts, but there is nothing to suggest he broke his vow of celibacy. Still, their correspondence provides a fascinating insight into the very private life of one of the most mysterious figures in the world—and it has all the makings of a fantastic romantic comedy.
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