Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Pope St. John Paul II's Friendship With American Philosopher Comes to Light

It is no secret that Pope Saint John Paul II had many good friendships, with Christians as well as people from other religions.  Friendships are good for human beings. St. Augustine wrote about the blessings a good, holy friendship can bring into one's life.

 I was however surprised to read in an article that Pope St. John Paul had a special relationship with a woman philosopher that spanned many decades. I had never heard of it before and that's why I found it so surprising.  But recently letters that he wrote to the American philosopher Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka have been made public and they show that they had a deep, intellectual friendship that they both found rewarding and special. He called her "a gift from God." How endearing.
Pope Francis spoke about the relationship to reporters on his recent trip back to the Vatican from Mexico. He remarked that he was aware of the special relationship between St. John Paul II and the American philosopher Anna-Teresa but that he felt it was fine for even popes to have good, healthy, holy friendships with women. I would agree.

As Pope Francis pointed out,  many saints have had special friendships such as St. Francis of Assisi and St. Clare of Assisi and the Carmelite saints,  St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. Also St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac were friends and co-founded the Daughters of Charity. So friendships between saints is nothing new or between a saint and a layperson.
Unfortunately,  when some people have tried to have good, intellectual, platonic friendships because of gossip and lies, lives have been ruined. There's nothing wrong with friendships but sometimes in the Church, people like to gossip and spread misinformation and that's a cause for concern because a good friendship based on intellectual respect can become suspect. That's unjust.

As far as Pope St. John Paul II having a special friendship with a woman, I think it makes him more human, at least in my eyes. He had the need for friendship with another intellectual and given the pressures he had in life and all he accomplished in his blessed life, it seems it was a good thing for him.