By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
A new book written by the man in charge of the process leading to the canonization of the late Pope John Paul II reveals that in addition to signing a document promising to resign should he ever become incurably ill, the late pontiff was also in the habit of mortifying himself with a belt and sleeping on a bare floor to practice self-denial.
Reuters is reporting that the book, entitled, “Why a Saint?” and written by Monsignor Slawomir Oder, reveals previously unknown aspects of the pope’s private prayer life.
“In Krakow as in the Vatican, Karol Wojtyla flagellated himself,” Msgr. Oder writes in the book, citing testimony from people who were close to the Holy Father during his days as Archbishop of Krakow and after he was elected pope in 1978.
“In his closet, among his vestments, there was hung on a clothes hanger a particular kind of belt for pants, which he used as a whip,” the monsignor writes.
When he was bishop in Poland, he was also known to sleep on the bare floor so he could practice self-denial and asceticism, Msgr. Oder writes.
The book also revealed that John Paul signed a document on Feb. 15, 1989 stating his intention to resign as pope if he ever became incurably ill or permanently impaired from carrying out his duties as pope. In the document, which is published in full for the first time in Oder’s book, John Paul said he would resign “in the case of infirmity which is presumed incurable, long-lasting and which impedes me from sufficiently carrying out the functions of my apostolic ministry.”
Even though he eventually died of a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system known as Parkinson’s disease, he chose not to step down, saying it was for the “good of the Church,” Reuters reports.
In addition to suffering from Parkinson’s during his pontificate, the Holy Father was shot and nearly killed in 1981 and underwent several surgeries in his lifetime, including one for cancer.
Pending approval of the miraculous healing of a French nun with Parkinson’s who was restored to health after praying to him, John Paul II could be beatified, which is the last step before canonization.
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