So why DID Pope John Paul II whip himself?
By Peter Stanford
Last updated at 9:40 AM on 24th November 2009
The image is as arresting as it is intriguing. Pope John Paul II, who died in 2005, regularly used to whip himself, according to one of the team of Polish nuns who looked after him.
‘We were in the next room and we would hear the sound of the blows,’ reports Sister Tobiana Sobodka, in evidence revealed this week by the Vatican Commission considering whether to declare John Paul a saint.
In Catholicism, there is a long tradition among saints, mystics and scholars of inflicting pain on your body as both a form of penance for sins, and in imitation of Christ’s suffering at the hands of the Roman soldiers who whipped him before putting him to death on the cross.
So, to the members of the Vatican Commission making public these details of John Paul’s life may have seemed a normal way of demonstrating what a holy man he was.
But to those outside the Catholic faith in our secular, sceptical age, mortification of the flesh, to give the practice its proper religious name, appears more than a bit strange.
In Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, for instance, the murderous albino monk, Silas, is depicted flagellating himself while praying, using a ‘discipline’, a cat-tail whip made of knotted cord, flung over the shoulder until it draws blood.
The clear implication of the scene is that he is a ghastly villain with perverse if not perverted habits.
Yet there is a long list of distinguished figures in the Church who mortified their flesh like Silas.
Pope John Paul ‘would whip himself before he ordained priests’
By Nick Pisa
Last updated at 1:18 AM on 24th November 2009
Pope John Paul II regularly whipped himself in ‘remorse for his sins’, a nun has revealed.
Pope John Paul, who died in 2005, is being considered for sainthood by the Catholic Church – the ultimate accolade and a tribute to his holiness.
As part of the Vatican’s investigation, thousands of documents have been collected and examined by officials from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
Among them is the testimony of Polish nun Tobiana Sobodka, of the Sacred Heart of Jesus order, who worked for Pope John Paul in his private Vatican apartments and at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo near Rome.
Sister Sobodka said: ‘Several times he (Pope John Paul) would put himself through bodily penance.
‘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. He did it when he was still capable of moving on his own.’
The flagellation is also confirmed by another bishop who has given testimony, Emery Kabongo, who for several years was a secretary for Pope John Paul.
He said: ‘He would punish himself and in particular just before he ordained bishops and priests. Before passing on the sacraments he wanted to prepare himself.
‘I never actually saw it myself but several people told me about it