'No basis' for claims Pope John Paul II had improper relationship with married woman: Library

Pope John Paul II arriving at the National Stadium for the Papal Mass on Nov 20, 1986.
Pope John Paul II arriving at the National Stadium for the Papal Mass on Nov 20, 1986.PHOTO: ST FILE

WARSAW (AFP) - Poland's national library on Monday (Feb 15) said there was "no basis" for suggestions that pope John Paul II had improper relations with a married woman, after a BBC documentary, based on letters from its archives, detailed their "intense" 30-year friendship.

While the report does not claim the late pontiff broke his vow of celibacy with Polish-born philosopher Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka, it does say that the tone of some of his letters to her point to intense feelings between them.

But the library said its documents did not point to anything improper in their relationship.

"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," it said in a statement on Monday ahead of the programme's broadcast.

"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."

But a close associate of John Paul II said it was "possible" that a married woman had fallen in love with him before he became head of the Roman Catholic church.

"Women fall in love with priests all the time, and it's always a big headache," Father Adam Boniecki, editor-in-chief of the progressive Tygodnik Powszechny Catholic weekly, told AFP.

"If she was in love with Wojtyla, she was most likely not alone," said Boniecki, himself the author of a detailed account of the pope-turned-saint's life.

Ms Tymieniecka "translated Karol Wojtyla's books into English, making his work known to US academics... but her translations caused tension between the two," Father Boniecki told AFP.

Mr 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.