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pope-john-paul-IIWhat ever the integrity of tonight’s Panorama programme about Pope John Paul II, it seems to be likely milked by many others as a source of potential scandal and innuendo.

‘Did the Pope have a lover?’ asked John Humphries on the Today programme – despite all the BBC publicity saying: ‘There is no suggestion the Pope broke his vow of celibacy’. A sordid and tawdry beginning to an interview with Edward Stourton this morning. And surely there’ll be more to follow…

The publication of the personal letters between the Pope and Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka from the over 30 years of their friendship is new. But the fact of their relationship and its intensity, and its importance to both of them is not.

The BBC programme might be an opportunity  for us to be edified by an account of two people, strong in faith and in virtue, one with vows of celibacy and the other committed to her marriage, also benefiting from the gift of love for each other.

Maybe that love and friendship was sometimes beset with temptations against chastity. Maybe not. Perhaps the letter and the programme will tell us. But what does seem entirely clear from the pre-publicity is that whatever temptation there may have been it was resisted, and it did not lead to the breaking of their vows.

Yesterday’s Gospel reminded us of the force of temptation, and also of the great example given when it is thwarted and the good, the best, chosen in its place.

A programme that talks about human maturity and faithfulness striven for in challenging circumstances – now that would be good viewing for Lent. Maybe the BBC will offer us one tonight.

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