A BBC documentary will explore the possibility that Pope John Paul II fell in love with a married Polish-American academic.
The latest Panorama programme will delve into the late Pope’s relationship with women and is thought to have discovered a stack of letters sent between him and Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka.
Tymieniecka worked with the Pontiff in the 1970s, when he was still known as Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, on his philosophical treatise The Acting Person.
Monday night’s show will investigate claims the Pope and Tymieniecka engaged in a four-year correspondence during the period in which they were working together on the book, when they were both in their fifties.
Pope John Paul II waving to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square in 2005, and right, Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka
Tymieniecka, a philosopher and academic, was born into an aristocratic Polish family before later marrying a Harvard professor in 1995, but remained close to the Pope up until his death in 2005.
It is understood that the show will not make the claim that the Pope ever breached his vow of celibacy nor make any firm statements about his relationship with the academic, who died in 2014.
Carl Bernstein, a journalist who wrote a John Paul II biography, conducted interviews with Tymienecka, in which she denied any romantic involvement with the Pope.
However Tymieniecka friend’s told the author that she did have romantic inclinations towards him, with one friend, Harvard professor George Hunston Williams, claiming the Pope did not know the depths of her feelings towards him.
Speaking about the Pope, Tymieniecka once told a biographer: ‘He had a way of moving, a way of smiling, a way of looking around that was different and exceedingly personal. It had a beauty about it.’
Pope John Paul I, left, greets then Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, in 1978, the future Pope John Paul II
Turkish gunman Mehmet Ali Agca takes aim at Pope John Paul II in 1981. Agca left John Paul critically injured when he fired several shots at close range in St Peter’s Square
Pope John Paul won many admirers after visiting his would-be assassin Mehmet Ali Agca in prison
The programme will also investigate the Pope’s relationship with Wanda Poltwaska, who caused a stir in 2009 when she revealed 570 pages of intimate messages between them.
The pair met in the 1950s when Poltawska, a Holocaust survivor, reached out to him to help her deal with the trauma of surviving a concentration camp.
Correspondence between the two sees the Pope refer to Poltawska as ‘my dear Dusia’ and sign his letters ‘Br’, or brother.
After the letters were published by Poltawska, 94, Vatican officials said talk of them being close was exaggerated, and that the Pope had a gift of making people feel they had a ‘special relationship’ with him.
Vatican sources said they were aware of the Panorama programme and its interest in Poltawska, with one Vatican official telling the Daily Telegraph: ‘There was never any suggestion of wrongdoing.
‘It’s not like they had a secret lovechild or anything.’
Pope John Paul II at St George’s Cathedral in Southwark during his 1982 visit to the United Kingdom