ROME (LifeSiteNews) — Just over 100 years ago, a Polish mother chose to give birth despite a doctor’s recommendation to abort the child due to complications and risk to her own life — a choice that gave the Church a saint and the world an unparalleled defender of the sanctify of human life, Pope St. John Paul II.
In 1920, in Wadowice, Poland, Emilia Wojtyla was expecting her third child. According to the testimony of midwife Tatarowa, and that of her friends, Helena Szczepańska and Maria Kaczorowa, detailed in the recently published book “Emilia and Karol Wojtyla, Parents of St. John Paul II,” by Milena Kindziuk, Emilia’s first doctor, Dr. Jan Moskała, insisted that she have an abortion due to complications. Depressed at this recommendation and determined to give birth at all costs to her baby, Emilia and husband Karol sought out another doctor.
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Cardinal Joseph Zen, the Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong, was arrested by the pro-China security police in Hong Kong in a major escalation of intimidation against pro-freedom activists in the region.
Zen was one of four people arrested on May 11th on suspicion of "colluding with foreign forces", with the 90-year-old's detention marking the first high-profile move by Hong Kong's new Chief Executive, John Lee.
The Hong Kong security police targeted Zen as a trustee of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, which provided “legal, medical, psychological and emergency financial assistance” to those involved in the 2019 protests against the government’s Extradition Law Amendment Bill, which allows prisoners to be transferred to China for trial.
Cardinal Zen has since been released, but his passport was confiscated to prevent him leaving Hong Kong.
The arrest was made possible under the terms of Hong Kong’s draconian national security law, passed in 2020, which Zen warned would be used to silence the Church.
The outspoken cardinal previously confessed that he was prepared to go to prison under the terms of the new law, saying, “If right and proper words were considered against their law, I will endure all the suing, trials, and arrests.”
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They eventually found Dr. Samuel Taub, who had recently moved from Krakow to Wadowice after the First World War. “Emilia’s friends have kept memories of that visit,” Kindziuk told ACI Stampa in an interview. “The doctor confirmed that there was a risk of complications during childbirth, including Emilia’s death. However, he did not suggest an abortion.”
The pregnancy did turn out to be a difficult one for Emilia, requiring bedrest as she came closer to giving birth. On the evening of May 18, 1920, with the help of the midwife, Emilia gave birth to the boy who would become the future John Paul II.
Around the same time, husband Karol and oldest son Edmund had gone to pray Vespers and the Litany of Loreto at the parish church across the street. After giving birth, Emilia asked her midwife to open the window so that the first thing her baby boy would hear was the chanting of Our Lady’s litany. St. John Paul II was born amid the singing of the praises of Mary.
Throughout his pontificate, the saintly pope was known for his strong devotion to Our Lady; his papal motto was “Totus tuus” — all yours — from St. Louis de Montfort’s prayer of consecration to Jesus through Mary.
The pontiff is also known for his staunch defense of the sanctity of human life from the first moment of conception, especially in the Encyclical Evangelium Vitae. The example of Wojtyla’s own mother in her choice of life may have played no little part in his defense of the unborn.
The causes of canonization for John Paull II’s parents, Emilia and Karol Wojtyla, were formally opened in Poland in May 2020. Karol, a lieutenant in the Polish Army, and Emilia, a schoolteacher, were married in Krakow on Feb. 10, 1906. Both died before the future pontiff became a priest and were remembered by him for their deep piety and faith. He kept their wedding picture next to his bedside throughout his pontificate.