Vatican City, Jan. 10 (Reuters): The best-kept secret in the Vatican these days has nothing to do with sex or scandal. It is about love and nature, couplets and verse.
Pope John Paul, a prolific poet before his 1978 election as Catholic leader, has returned to one of his first passions after a quarter-century break imposed by the weight of his office.
A 14-page poem with a working title of Roman Triptych — Meditations by John Paul II, has been cloaked in secrecy over the past six months.
While the Pope was writing it in the quiet of his lakeside summer residence south of Rome, fewer than a handful of close aides and Polish friends knew of its existence. The Vatican confirmed it last month after Polish media reports. Then, the curtain of secrecy fell again and its publication next month in Poland is eagerly expected.
Aides familiar with the work say the Pope wrote it longhand and dictated it to a Polish nun in the papal household. The first part is called The Stream. It is an ode to nature, to people’s relationship with creation and the Creator.
The second is set in the Sistine Chapel, where he was elected on October 16, 1978, and where his successor will be elected after he dies. It is inspired by Michelangelo’s awesome frescoes of the Creation and the Last Judgment.
The third part of the poem is a meditation on the story of Abraham, the Biblical figure honoured by all three of the great monotheistic religions — Christianity, Islam and Judaism.
Age, ailment and the shadow of death apparently have given the Pope fresh inspiration to return to poetry, an inspiration he once said the weighty office of the papacy had knocked out of him.
In a television documentary in 1999, British historian Eamon Duffy recounted a revealing episode about the Pope and poetry.
Duffy told of a priest who sat next to the Pope at a dinner in the Vatican in the early 1980s.
He asked: “Holy Father, I love poetry and I’ve read all your verse. Have you written much poetry since you became Pope'”
The Pope froze, said “no”, but did not explain. After 20 minutes, he turned to the man and said only: “No context”.