Wednesday, February 13, 2002

An interesting item on the Spirit Daily page:



A new book by two Italian authors asserts that the Pope's mother, Emilia Wojtyla, ignored advice to terminate the pregnancy that led to John Paul II's birth.



The assertion appears in Fatima: The Story Behind the Miracles, by Renzo Allegri, a prize-winning journalist and biographer, and his brother, Roberto Allegri, who is also a journalist. "In 1906, at the age of 23, she became the mother of a baby boy, Edmund," they write of the Pope's mother, who was very frail in health. "She had a difficult pregnancy, and the doctors forbade her to have any other children. In the autumn of 1919, when she was 35, she learned that she was pregnant. The doctors told her she should have an abortion. She did not listen to them."



It was then that Karol Wojtyla was born. The date was May 18, 1920. We are currently trying to corroborate this striking claim -- that a man who would later become the leading defender of the unborn, who would revive the papacy, who would lead to the fall of Communism as the Church's supreme pontiff, and who as such would change the world -- appeared on the scene only because his mother had the courage to forsake termination of a pregnancy that medical experts said could harm her.



While we have not yet been able to verify the Allegris' reportage, a review of major papal biographies confirms the tenuous nature of Emilia's health. After a daughter died in 1914, Emilia's health deteriorated, according to His Holiness by Carl Bernstein and Marco Politi. "She never complained about the way her pregnancies had undermined her health." This book goes on to say that during the pregnancy "her weakened body was tested almost beyond endurance."



Just six years earlier Emilia had lost a daughter, Olga, either in infancy or stillborn. But she went on to give birth to Karol Wojtyla, and when she did, it is said that she asked the midwife to open the window "so that the first sounds her newborn son heard would be the singing in honor of Mary, Mother of God," write Politi and Bernstein. "And so the midwife sprang from the foot of the bed to the window and threw back the shutters. Suddenly the little bedroom was flooded with light and with the intonations of May vespers to the Blessed Virgin, from the Church of Our Lady, in the very month dedicated to her."

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