“It’s unbecoming for a cardinal to ski badly.”
So said Karol Wojtyla when someone asked if skiing was a “fitting pastime” for a cardinal.
It’s a well-known fact that Pope John Paul II loved the outdoors—hiking and skiing in the mountains were particularly beloved hobbies of his.
As a young priest, he often took groups of young Catholics on outdoor excursions for hiking, kayaking, Mass, prayer, and catechesis, far from the communist authorities then in charge of Poland’s political order.
One of his favorite skiing spots in Poland was the highest range in the Carpathian Mountains: the Tatra Mountains, which lie on the border between southern Poland and northern Slovakia. During the winters of his years as Bishop of Kraków and then Cardinal, JPII would make regular winter visits to the town of Zakopane to ski the Tatras.
At some point he was dubbed the “Daredevil of the Tatras” due to his fearlessness on the ski slopes, which he navigated with expert skill.
Although he had to stop skiing a few years into his pontificate, he still escaped to the mountains of Italy whenever he could for the serenity and closeness to God that the mountains always seemed to bring him.
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