John Paul II used belt to whip himself, says book
POPE John Paul II whipped himself with a heavy leather belt and slept on the floor as acts of penitence and to bring him closer to Christian perfection, according to a new book.
The book, 'Why He's a Saint' by the Polish prelate Monsignor Slawomir Oder, who is spearheading the sainthood case for John Paul II, also includes previously unpublished speeches and documents written by the late Pope, including one 1989-signed memo in which he said he would resign if he became incapacitated.
The book also reported for the first time that John Paul II forgave his would-be assassin in the ambulance on the way to the hospital moments after he was shot on May 13, 1981, in St Peter's Square.
And it says that he initially thought his attacker was a member of the Italian terrorist organisation, the Red Brigades.
The book, released yesterday, is based on the testimony of 114 witnesses and boxes of documentation that Oder gathered on John Paul II's life to support the sainthood case.
Yesterday, Msgr Oder defended John Paul II's practice of self-mortification, which some faithful use to remind them of the suffering of Jesus on the cross.
"It's an instrument of Christian perfection," he said, responding to questions about how such a practice could be condoned, considering Catholic teaching holds that the human body is a gift from God.
In the book, Msgr Oder wrote that John Paul II frequently denied himself food -- especially during Lent -- and "frequently spent the night on the bare floor" messing up his bed in the morning so he wouldn't draw attention to his act of penitence.
"But it wasn't limited to this. As some members of his close entourage in Poland and in the Vatican were able to hear with their own ears, John Paul flagellated himself.
"In his armoire, amid all the vestments and hanging on a hanger, was a belt which he used as a whip and which he always brought to Castel Gandolfo (the papal retreat where John Paul vacationed each summer)," Msgr Oder said.