Karol Wojtylas visit to Padre Pio
In the long-ago summer of 1947, Wojtyla had been a priest for less than a year. He was in Rome in the midst of a two-year study program, working on his first doctorate. Extremely interested in Carmelite spirituality and mysticism, he had chosen for his dissertation topic the mystical theology of Saint John of the Cross. It was in Rome that he first heard about another Catholic mystic, a Capuchin rather than a Carmelite, whose fame had not yet spread beyond the iron curtain into Poland. He was said to bear the wounds of Christ, the only priest ever to do so, and he lived only half-days journey by train and bus from Rome.
During a break in the school year, Wojtyla decided to visit this modern-day mystic, Padre Pio of Pietrelcina. He spent almost a week in San Giovanni Rotondo that summer, and was able to attend Padre Pios Mass and make his confession to the saint. Apparently, this was not just a casual encounter, and the two spoke together at length during Wojtylas stay.  Their conversations gave rise to rumors in later years, after the Polish prelate had been elevated to the Papacy, that Padre Pio had predicted he would become Pope. The story persists to the present day, even though on two occasions "Papa Wojtyla" has denied it. In 1984, the Capuchin Minister General, Bishop Flavio Carraro personally asked him about the prediction. Also Monsignor Riccardo Ruotolo, president of Pios hospital, The House for the Relief of Suffering, asked the same question of the Pope three years later. On both occasions the Holy Father emphatically denied that Padre Pio had made such a prophecy.
Back in Rome, the news reaching Bishop Wojtyla about the condition of his dear friend Wanda Poltawska continued to be ominous. A major operation to stem the growth in her intestine now loomed a few days hence. With no time to lose, he took pen in hand and hastily wrote a short, urgent letter to Padre Pio in Latin. The letter, written on the official stationery of the diocese of Krakow, was dated November 17, 1962. Brief and to the point, the Bishop pleaded:
Venerable Father, I ask for your prayers for a certain mother of four young girls, who lives in Krakow, Poland (during the last war she spent five years in a German concentration camp), and now her health and even her life are in great danger due to cancer. Pray that God, through the intercession of the Most Blessed Virgin, has mercy on her and her family. Most obligated in Christ, Karol Wojtyla.
Since it was essential that the letter arrive as soon as possible, Bishop Wojtyla, acting through intermediaries, enlisted the help of Angelo Battisti in order to have it hand-delivered to Padre Pio. Battistis positions at the Vatican Secretary of State and as the administrator for Pios hospital, guaranteed him virtually unlimited access to the saint at almost any hour. He was told that the letter was of utmost importance, and was asked to leave at once and deliver it personally to Pio. The hastily summoned messenger later remarked: "I had never received such an urgent assignment. I quickly went home to get my car, and departed immediately."
This One Cannot be Refused!
Battisti drove to the friary at San Giovanni Rotondo and headed straight for Padre Pios room. There he found the priest seated with his head bowed over his chest, engrossed in prayer. The messenger held out the envelope, explaining that it dealt with a pressing matter. Without moving, Pio simply replied, "Open it and read it." He listened in silence as Angelo Battisti read the letter, and remained silent for some time afterwards. Battisti was now surprised that this missive had to be urgently delivered; it seemed to be similar to the torrent of grave requests about life and death matters that daily reached Padre Pio, imploring his prayers. Finally, the Padre raised his head, and with a serious demeanor turned towards the messenger. "Angelo, to this one [questo] it is not possible to say no!" Then he bowed his head as before and resumed praying.
Battisti understood that by using the term "questo", a masculine pronoun, Pio was referring to the person (this one) who sent the letter. On the drive back to Rome, he thought about the many years he had known Padre Pio, and how every single word he wrote or spoke was carefully chosen and had a profound significance. He did not use the feminine "questa," which would have referred to the request or to the letter itself. No, it was "questo" he who sent it that could not be refused. But who was this Polish Bishop? Though Battisti worked at the Secretariat of State, he never heard of him. Nor, he found out when he arrived at the Vatican, had any of his colleagues ever heard of Bishop Wojtyla. Yet, why had Padre Pio considered him so important?
The operation to remove the tumor in Dr. Poltawskas intestine was to take place on a Friday in late November, 1962. On Saturday, Bishop Wojtyla telephoned the sick womans husband Andrei to learn whether or not the tumor had been malignant. Andrei started to explain that the operation never took place because the doctors had found that there was nothing they could do. The Bishop immediately began to console his friend, believing that the cancer had been declared inoperable. Andrei interrupted: "Oh no, you do not understand...The doctors are confronted with a mystery... They could not find anything." The growth, which had been previously confirmed as present by the doctors, had now completely disappeared! For Bishop Wojtyla, only one explanation for this cure was possible the prayers that Padre Pio had raised to heaven.
At the time, the Poltawskas knew nothing about their friends letter to the holy man of the Gargano, and they did not find out until later. In fact, the couple had never heard of Padre Pio, since Poland was still a closed-off Iron Curtain country, and there was little opportunity for them to learn about events in the free world. Thus, at first Wanda attributed the results to the one-in-twenty possibility that it was an inflammation which had healed on its own, and not a tumor at all.
Upon hearing the good news, Bishop Wojtyla composed a second letter to Padre Pio, this time thanking him for interceding before God for this mother of four children. In the letter dated November 28, again in Latin, he clearly attributes the doctors failure to find any diseased tissue to divine intervention.
Venerable Father, the woman living in Krakow, Poland, and mother of four children, on the twenty-first of November, prior to the surgical operation, was suddenly cured. Thanks be to God! And also to you venerable father, I offer the greatest possible gratitude in the name of the woman, of her husband, and all of her family. In Christ, Karol Wojtyla, Capitular Bishop of Krakow.
Once again the bishops letter was consigned to Angelo Battisti, with instructions from Vatican officials to immediately carry it to San Giovanni Rotondo. He departed at once, and upon reaching Our Lady of Grace Friary, the messenger approached Padre Pio in his cell. As before, Pio spoke the simple command: "Open it and read." This time Battisti himself was extremely curious, and upon reading aloud "the truly extraordinary and incredible news" he turned to Padre Pio in order to congratulate him. But the friar was immersed in prayer. "It seemed that he had not even heard my voice as I was reading the letter." The minutes passed by in silence, and finally the Padre asked Angelo to keep these letters from Bishop Wojtyla, because some day they would become very important.
Returning to Rome, Battisti secured the letters in a safe place, and as the years passed, he almost completely forgot about them. Then, after sixteen years, the evening of October 16, 1978 arrived. Gathered with the crowds in front of Saint Peters Basilica, he waited anxiously for the announcement of the name of the new pope. When he heard the words "Karol Wojtyla," Battisti was stunned. His first thoughts were of the words of Padre Pio from long ago, "Angelo, to this one it is not possible to say no!" and then tears came to Battistis eyes.
Thank you for posting this absolutely marvelous reminder of the saints who have lived in our days - Padre Pio and JPII. Like Battisti, it has brought me to tears.
Whaht a great story!