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Controversy erupts over letters between Pope John Paul, Wanda Poltawska

June 02, 2009

Pope John Paul II’s closest aide is strongly criticizing Dr. Wanda Poltawska over her decision to publish five decades’ worth of private correspondence with the late Pontiff. Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow says that Dr. Poltawska-- a psychiatrist and concentration camp survivor-- is claiming “a special relationship where none existed” and that many others corresponded privately with Pope John Paul.

Father Adam Boniecki, former editor of the Polish edition of L’Osservatore Romano, countered that Pope John Paul and Dr. Poltawska had a strong relationship, like that of a brother and sister-- akin to that of St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane Francis de Chantal.

Meanwhile, Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, is asking Poltawska to send photocopies of the entire correspondence to Rome, to be reviewed by officials involved in the cause for beatification of the late Pontiff. Italian journalists have reported that the progress toward beatification of John Paul II has bogged down, in part because of questions raised by the Poltawska correspondence.

Another factor reportedly delaying the investigation, Vatican-watchers report, is the reluctance of Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the longtime Secretary of State, to testify before the investigating commission. Cardinal Sodano, according to several accounts, has reservations about the accelerated process of the investigation; he remains a powerful influence within the Roman Curia.

Also Cardinal Leonardo Sandri has not yet testified, Italian journalists report. Cardinal Sandri, who is now prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, was Cardinal Sodano's top deputy, the sostituto, or assistant Secretary of State, from 2000 to 2007. The sostituto supervises virtually all of the paperwork flowing through the Roman Curia, and in that capacity then-Archbishop Sandri met with the Pontiff daily.


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