Pope John Paul II Regularly Whipped Himself, Says Book
The last Pontiff Pope John Paul II regularly whipped himself with a trouser belt that he kept in his wardrobe and signed a secret document saying that would resign if he became incurably ill, a book published on Wednesday reveals, says a Telgraph report from London.
It had long been rumoured that the Polish-born pontiff, who died five years ago, engaged in acts of penance and self-flagellation.
But the practice has now been confirmed by Monsignor Slawomir Oder, the Vatican "postulator" who has the task of reviewing John Paul's life and preparing a case for him being made a saint.
In the new book, "Why he's a saint", Monsignor Oder writes: "As members of the Pope's close entourage heard with their own ears, Karol Wojtyla used to flagellate himself.
"In his wardrobe, in between all his robes, a special trouser belt hung on a coat hanger, which he used as a whip. He always took it with him when he went to Castel Gandolfo (the traditional summer residence of the popes outside Rome)."
In November a Polish nun claimed that when she stayed at Castel Gandolfo she often heard John Paul whipping himself.
"Several times he would put himself through bodily penance," said Tobiana Sobodka, a nun from the Sacred Heart of Jesus order.
"We would hear it – we were in the next room at Castel Gandolfo. You could hear the sound of the blows when he flagellated himself."
Self-flagellation is used by some Catholics to remind themselves of the agonies endured by Christ on the cross, in particular members of the controversial organisation Opus Dei.
In The Da Vinci Code, the best-seller by Dan Brown which was turned into a film, self-flagellation is practised by the albino monk Silas, a member of Opus Dei, who draws blood as he lashes himself with a whip.
The book also described how, as a bishop in Poland, the future pontiff would often sleep on a bare floor as an act of self-denial and asceticism.
Msgr Oder, who like the former Pope is Polish, also revealed in the new book that John Paul had decided that in the event of an "incurable sickness" he would voluntarily step down rather than stay in office until his death.
He declared in 1989 that in "the case of sickness that is deemed to be incurable, which prevents me from sufficiently fulfilling the functions of my apostolic ministry," he would renounce his positions as the head of the Roman Catholic Church and the Bishop of Rome.
Senior Vatican cardinals would then have been entrusted with the task of putting the resignation into effect, after which a new Pope would have been elected.
During his papacy, John Paul was shot and nearly killed by a Turkish gunman in St Peter's Square in 1981, underwent several operations, including one for cancer, and suffered from Parkinson's disease for more than decade.
In the end, he remained in office until his death, saying it was for the good of the Catholic Church.
Had he stepped down, he would have been the first Pope to do so willingly since 1294.