HUNDREDS of never before seen letters and photographs reveal an “intense” friendship between the late Pope John Paul II and a married woman, according to the BBC.
Tonight’s BBC Panorama programme, The Secret Letters of Pope John Paul, will reveal the full extent of the letters exchanged between the Pontiff and Polish-born American philosopher Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka, which had been kept in the National Library of Poland for decades.
The letters date back as far as the 1970s and reveal a rarely seen side of the Pope as well as a deep friendship with Tymieniecka.
The relationship between the pair began in 1973, when Ms Tymieniecka contacted the then Cardinal Karol Wojtyla about a book he had written on philosophy.
The BBC reports that their correspondence began in a formal tone but as time passed, the letters became more intimate in tone.
There is no suggestion that Pope John Paul II, who reigned as the Supreme Ruler of the Catholic Church from 1978 until his death at the age of 84 in 2005, broke his vow of celibacy.
The photographs included in the documents show the Pope as he had never been seen before – on group camping trips with Tymieniecka and friends.
Other pictures show the philosopher visiting the Pope at the Vatican.
“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,” Dundalk native Eamon Duffy, Professor of the History of Christianity at Cambridge University told the BBC.
In one letter to Ms Tymieniecka, John Paul II describes her as “a gift from God” – going on to say: “You write about being torn apart, but I could find no answer to these words.”
The National Library of Poland has distanced itself from comments made by the BBC ahead of the programme airing tonight.
“The statements made in the media have no basis in the content of the letters of John Paul II to Anna Teresa Tymieniecka which are in the National Library of Poland’s archives. The friendship described in the media is well known and has been presented in many publications,” a spokesperson told The Irish Post.
“John Paul II was surrounded by a circle of friends – including clergymen, nuns and laypeople – with whom he stayed in close contact. Anna Teresa Tymieniecka was within this circle of friends – John Paul II’s friendship with her was neither secret nor extraordinary.”
John Paul II’s tenure as Pope saw him as an extraordinarily popular and unifying head figure for the Catholic Church.
The Polish Cardinal was elected in August of 1978, after his predecessor Pope John Paul I died after 33 days of his papacy.
His historic visit to Ireland in 1979 saw more than 2.5million people attend events around the country to mark the occasion.
Ms Tymieniecka, who was married to Dutch-American economist in Hendrik S. Houthakker for over 50 years, passed away in 2014 at the age of 91.
The full contents of the letters written by the Pontiff will be revealed in tonight’s episode of Panorama at 8.30pm on BBC Panorama.