There are few items in the Papal Artifacts’ Collection to compare with this rare acquisition of a letter, signed by Pope John Paul in 1985, with the affectionate term, Wujek (Uncle).
We are featuring the letter today, a prelude to the feast of the Assumption, because his ministry to young people in Poland was a prelude to the World Youth Day events he began as Pope.
The Curator has recently acquired two additional “Wujek” letters, one signed by him and the other, entirely written in his own hand. They are also featured below.
The Story of the Endearing Term, “Wujek” (Uncle) for Beloved Saint John Paul II
While a priest in Kraków, groups of students regularly joined Wojtyła for hiking, skiing, bicycling, camping and kayaking, accompanied by prayer, outdoor Masses and theological discussions.
In Stalinist-era Poland, it was not permitted for priests to travel with groups of students. Father Wojtyła asked his younger companions to call him “Wujek” (Polish for “Uncle”) to prevent outsiders from deducing he was a priest.
The nickname gained popularity among his followers. In 1958, when Wojtyła was named auxiliary bishop of Kraków, his acquaintances expressed concern that this would cause him to change.
Wojtyła responded to his friends, “Wujek will remain Wujek,” and he continued to live a simple life, shunning the trappings that came with his position as Bishop.
This beloved nickname stayed with Wojtyła for his entire life and continues to be affectionately used, particularly by the Polish people.
The Translation of the “Wujek” Letter
+ Dear Sophie,
I thank you for this longer letter with the information about our common acquaintances.
I have to tell you that acknowledgement of contributions of Professor H. Wereszycki gladdens me so much, as well as the improvement of Professor Rostworowski’s health. I pray for the good result of the second operation.
I would like to ask you to pass my warm greetings to The Prelate, priest J. Turowicz, and I with the light of the Holy Spirit for the participants of the “military training ground” on the Holy Ann Mountain.
In the mention about Mr. Jurek, who passed away, I find the sign of God’s Providence. God somehow and sometimes uses significant facts for execution of His plans.
I entrust you, Elisabeth, and all your close ones, to God’s Mother’s care, and I bless you warmly.
Vatican, 8 July 1985
Mrs. Zofia Stąpor, M.A. Cracow
Saint John Paul, pray for us!