Pope John Paul II 'whipped himself as penitence'

Pope John Paul II whipped himself with a belt and slept on the floor as acts of penitence and to bring him closer to Christian perfection, according to a new book.

The book by the Polish prelate spearheading his sainthood case "Why He's a Saint" also includes previously unpublished speeches and documents written by John Paul, including one 1989 signed memo in which he said he would resign if he became incapacitated.

The book also reported for the first time that John Paul forgave his would-be assassin in the ambulance on the way to the hospital moments after he was shot on May 13, 1981, in St Peter's Square. And it reported that he initially thought his attacker was a member of the Italian terrorist organisation the Red Brigades.

The book was written by Monsignor Slawomir Oder, the postulator, or main promoter, for John Paul's canonisation cause and was released today. It was based on the testimony of the 114 witnesses and boxes of documentation Oder gathered on John Paul's life to support the case.

Today Mgr Oder defended John Paul's practice of self-mortification, which some faithful use to remind them of the suffering of Jesus on the cross.

"It's an instrument of Christian perfection," he said, responding to questions about how such a practice could be condoned considering Catholic teaching holds that the human body is a gift from God.

In the book Mgr Oder wrote that John Paul frequently denied himself food - especially during the holy season of Lent - and "frequently spent the night on the bare floor," messing up his bed in the morning so he wouldn't draw attention to his act of penitence.

"But it wasn't limited to this. As some members of his close entourage in Poland and in the Vatican were able to hear with their own ears, John Paul flagellated himself. In his armoire, amid all the vestments and hanging on a hanger, was a belt which he used as a whip and which he always brought to Castel Gandolfo," the papal retreat where John Paul vacationed each summer.

While there had long been rumours that John Paul practised self-mortification, the book provides the first confirmation and concludes John Paul did so as an example of his faith.

The Pope put John Paul on the fast-track for possible sainthood weeks after his April 2, 2005 death by waiving the customary five-year waiting period before the process can begin.

Last month he moved John Paul a step closer to possible beatification - the first major milestone in the process - by approving a decree on his "heroic virtues."

The Vatican must now confirm that a miracle attributed to John Paul's intercession occurred in order for him to be beatified - a step which many Vatican watchers have suggested may come as early as October.

The book publishes for the first time a never-delivered speech John Paul prepared for his weekly general audience October 21, 1981, five months after the Turkish gunman, Ali Agca, shot him in St. Peter's Square.



Agca served a 19-year sentence in an Italian prison for shooting the pope, and earlier this month was released from a Turkish jail where he served a 10-year sentence for killing a Turkish journalist in 1979.



John Paul had publicly forgiven Agca on May 17, 1981 - four days after the assassination attempt. And he visited Agca in prison in 1983.



But five months after the attack, John Paul prepared a lengthy treatise on the power of forgiveness and the need for it in society, using his own experience as an example.



The book also reports for the first time that John Paul initially thought that the shooter had been a member of the Red Brigades, the radical leftist group that terrorised Italy in the 1970s and 80s.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk