Karol Wojtyla in 1967

Cardinal Karol Wojtyla in 1967 (Photo: Wikimedia)

Pope John Paul II was an exceptional human being, a long-serving pope who traveled the world and was canonized fewer than 10 years after his death. At the BBC, Ed Stourton looks into another exceptional part of his life: his relationship with Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka, a philosopher with whom the pope had an unusually intimate relationship.

Tymieniecka met cardinal and Archbishop of Krakow Karol Wojtyla in 1973, five years before he became the pope. They quickly developed a very emotional relationship, as Stourton writes:

I believe that at an early stage of the relationship—probably in the summer of 1975—Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka told Karol Wojtyla that she was in love with him… Far from ending the relationship, as a more prudent prelate might have done, he gave her one of his most treasured possessions—an item of devotional clothing known as a scapular.

Tymieniecka died in 2014, but back in 2008, she sold the National Library of Poland the letters the pope had sent her over the years. They’ve not been written about, but Stourton was given a chance to read through them. He also gathered together photos that Tymieniecka took during their visits together.

There’s nothing overtly scandalous in the letters, according to Stourton, but they do reveal how close these two people were. As his health declined, the pope wrote to his friend, “I am thinking about you, and in my thoughts I come to Pomfret”—Tymieniecka’s home—“every day.”

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