Wednesday, 17 February 2016

BBC Radio 4: "The Pope's Letters"

I did not see the Panorama programme broadcast on Monday, but I have just listened to the 45 minute Radio 4 broadcast "The Pope's Letters". As I understand it, this programme contained more substantial extracts from the letters themselves - having 15 minutes more than the Panorama broadcast. The comments below relate to the radio programme - I am unable to say how much they might also apply or not apply to the television broadcast.

The programme is available to listen to at the BBC website: here. I do strongly recommend it. It is not clear how long it will be available here, but I would expect a week or a month. Hopefully it will be available as a podcast at some point for download.

I do strongly recommend the programme. It is, as I suggested at the end of my previous post about these letters, a story of a friendship. The extracts from John Paul II's letters chosen in the programme portray this friendship wonderfully and, particularly in connection with Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka's reaction to the shooting in St Peter's Square, very movingly. The programme provides a testimony to a friendship of a profoundly Christian character. Interestingly, both Ed Stourton and Carl Bernstein recognise the friendship as being one that does not fit readily into any category - in Carl Bernstein's phrase it is "sui generis". There is a model of friendship here - and, indeed, of love, in its truest sense - for both Christians and for others.

The suggestion that there was a degree of romantic engagement of Anna-Teresa towards Karol Wojytla is made in the programme by Bill and Jadwiga Smith, the executors of Anna-Teresa's estate. In the programme, and in comparison to the extracts from the letters read in the programme, this comes over as somewhat speculative on their part. Likewise speculative is some of the comment on the attitude of "the Vatican" towards Anna-Teresa's contact with Pope John Paul II. But together, these two elements make up less than two minutes of a 45 minute programme.

It would be fascinating to be able to read the discussion in the correspondence, from both sides, about Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem. This is referred to in the programme, but not cited. Their discussion is reportedly quite extensive.

The programme does full justice to the origin of the friendship between Anna-Teresa and Karol Wojtyla in their shared philosophical interests. The inter-relation of matters of philosophy and of personal life in the correspondence are apparent in the programme. Those familiar with the letters of Edith Stein to Roman Ingarden will recognise this in their correspondence, too. There is a real sense of a community of both ideas and life within the particular phenomenological school to which these writers belong.

As I say, highly recommended.

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