Cardinal Vincent Nichols has commented on the controversy ignited by newly-revealed letters from St John Paul II to the philosopher Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka, reaffirming that the late Pope was committed and faithful to God.
In a tweet sent yesterday at 21:26, just half an hour after a Panorama programme revealing highly personal letters from the Pope to Anna-Teresa was broadcast on BBC One, the cardinal said: “We love Pope St John Paul II: faithful to God, faithful to his vows, faithful to his loving friends.”
Catholics responded by liking and retweeting the message, with one priest tweeting: “Thank you Eminence for speaking out!”
The Panorama report quoted from private letters written between 1973 and 2004. The correspondence gives a new insight into a deep friendship between two people who grew in mutual affection and respect while collaborating on a philosophy book together when John Paul II was still Cardinal Wojtyla.
We love Pope St John Paul II: faithful to God, faithful to his vows, faithful to his loving friends.— Cardinal Nichols (@CardinalNichols) February 15, 2016
The letters contain no evidence of sexual scandal, but do reveal a complex relationship between two people struggling to understand their mutual attraction within a Christian context.
In one of the letters Pope John Paul tells Anna-Teresa she is a "gift from God", and goes on: "If I did not have this conviction, some moral certainty of Grace, and of acting in obedience to it, I would not dare act like this."
The letters – over 350 in total – were sold to the National Library of Poland in 2008. Broadcaster Ed Stourton, who gained access to St John Paul II’s side of the correspondence, said the nature of the relationship “defies definition”. They were “more than friends and less than lovers”, he insists.
The Panorama report: The secret letters of Pope John Paul II aired on Monday 15 February at 20:30. The report is available for 11 months on BBC iPlayer.