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She who taught the pope of love and sex

A half century of letters between John Paul II and a close, female friend may delay sainthood.

As a young priest, Wojtyla was particularly interested in human sexuality, and Poltawska’s hardline views on love and sex helped shape his view on the inadmissibility of artificial means of contraception, views that influenced Pope Paul VI when he banned such methods of contraception in 1968.

Wojtyla held that sex was an expression of love between a man and a woman, a fairly radical view at the time, but he was strongly against abortion, masturbation, premarital sex and, together with Poltawska, tried to cure homosexuals.

The ties between the two were so close that, when he heard that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 1962, while he was attending the Second Vatican Council, Wojtyla asked for an intervention from controversial miracle worker Padre Pio. Poltawska’s quick recovery from cancer persuaded Wojtyla that a miracle had occurred, and when he was pope he made the Italian priest a saint.

When Wojtyla was made pope in 1978, Poltawska felt lost and alone, writing, “I felt like a tree standing on suddenly dry ground, like an empty bell which cannot ring because it lacks a heart.”

But she quite quickly saw that having her closest friend as one of the most powerful men on earth would allow her to have enormous influence over areas she felt most strongly about — sexuality and abortion.

She remained close to John Paul II throughout his papacy, and was at his bedside when he died in 2005.

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