Vatican marks anniversary of pope’s shooting
...Mass commemorates assassination attempt on John Paul II 25 years ago
ROME – The Vatican marked the 25th anniversary of the near-fatal assassination attempt on Pope John Paul on Saturday, holding a mass to commemorate one of the most notorious and mysterious crimes of the last century.
Italy’s most senior cardinal, Camillo Ruini gave thanks for the life of the late pontiff who believed he was spared death by the direct intervention of the Virgin Mary.
“John Paul II spent his whole life converting, bringing us to meet the Lord. He did so tirelessly with his word, with the example of his life, with his blood, shed that day in St. Peter’s square,” Ruini told the congregation.
“He also did it with his constant prayer to the Holy Mary, to whom he even dedicated the bullet that hit him.”
The Vatican has laid a marble plaque on the cobblestone floor of St. Peter’s Square at the exact spot where John Paul was shot as he traveled in his open-top ‘pope-mobile’ on May 13, 1981, by Turkish gunman Mehmet Ali Agca.
John Paul said he survived the attack because the Madonna of Fatima — a vision of the Virgin who first appeared to Portuguese children on May 13, 1917 — intervened to divert the bullet. “One hand shot me and another hand saved me,” he once told a close aide.
A statue of the Madonna of Fatima was dangled from a helicopter above the crowds heading to St. Peter’s basilica for the mass.
The Vatican believes the attack was predicted in the “Third Secret of Fatima,” a message given to the children who saw the Virgin’s apparition.
No less mysterious is the motive behind the attack.
Agca, a right-wing gangster, was found guilty of attempted murder and served several years in an Italian prison before being deported to Turkey where he is still in jail for the killing of a newspaper editor in the 1970s and for robbery.
But a report by an Italian parliamentary commission published in March this year said the assassination attempt was a plot by the Soviet Union. The Russian government dismissed the report’s findings.
At the time of the shooting, events in the pope’s Polish homeland were starting a domino effect that was eventually to lead to the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe in 1989.
At a trial in 1986, Italian prosecutors failed to prove charges that Bulgarian secret services had hired Agca to kill the Pope on behalf of the Soviet Union.
The pope lived for another 24 years after life-saving surgery and died on April 2, 2005, of natural causes.