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
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."
Even those who didn't know her recognized Emilia's calm and religiousness, and
if the Allegri account is accurate, the birth was one of many miracles
surrounding her and the future Pope. Indeed, Emilia died on April 13, 1929 --
anniversary of the first apparition at Fatima and also the very year Fatima
seer Lucia dos Santos was granted a vision repeating the request that the
Pope, in concert with the world's bishops, consecrate Russia to her Immaculate
It turned out to be Karol who, as Pope 55 years later, finally succeeded in
carrying forth the request for consecration. And it was also John Paul II who
was shot by a Turkish gunman on May 13, 1981 -- another major Fatima
anniversary. He would later credit Our Lady of Fatima with saving his life
(the bullet took an unusual zigzag path through his body, barely missing the
aorta, spine, and organs). According to the Allegris, there were many other
times the Pope narrowly escaped death. "When Karol was 10 years old, he was
playing at the house of a friend," they assert. "His friend wanted to show him
his father's gun. Thinking it was empty, he pointed it at Karol's face and
pressed the trigger. The bullet broke into pieces in the air. The boy's
parents ran to the room. Karol, pale and frightened, was leaning against the
wall in the room. The plaster of the wall behind him was riddled with
fragments from the bullet, but not one fragment had touched his face."
During the war, they say, when Germans
combed Kracow, the Nazis searched every part of the Pope's apartment complex
-- he heard them in the apartment next door and in the apartment below and in
the apartment above -- but mysteriously, they never came to his apartment.
(Karol had prostrated himself on the ground during this time, offering himself
In another case -- this time on February 29, 1944 -- the future Pope was on
his way home after working a double shift when an army truck hit him and flung
him into a ditch. Bearing a large head wound, Karol showed no life when a
woman ran over to assist him and alerted an official who took him to the
hospital. "Wojtyla spent two days in a coma and was miraculously saved," say
the Allegris. "Afterwards, no one ever knew what happened to the woman."
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