On May 13, 1981 an attempt to assassinate Pope John Paul II was carried out as the Pope entered St Peters Square in Vatican City. As the Pope stood waving to the crowd in the back of his Fiat Popemobile, a Turk named Mehmet Ali Agca opened fire with a high-power Browning semi-automatic 9mm handgun striking the Pope three times including two shots in the abdomen very near a main artery. He was critically wounded and rushed to the hospital. Agca fled the scene as the crowd was in shock and attempted to dispose of the gun by throwing it under a truck, but he was grabbed by Vatican security chief Camillo Cibin, a Nun and several spectators. He was subdued and arrested. On the way to the hospital the Pope was heard repeating the words “Mary, My Mother.” He underwent 5 hours of surgery, and reportedly lost ¾ of his blood. Miraculously he survived.
Although several theories exist about the motives behind the assassination attempt the one that is most widely accepted is that the attempt had originated from Moscow. The theory was that the KGB had instructed the Bulgarian and East German secret services to carry out the mission because of the Polish Pope’s support for the rising solidarity movement in Poland, seeing it as the most significant threat to Soviet hegemony in Eastern Europe. It is believed the KGB chief, at the time, Yuri Andropov was convinced that the announcement of the Pope’s pilgrimage to largely Catholic Poland would undermine the Soviets power not only in Poland but precipitate the collapse of the entire Soviet Union. We know now, he wasn’t wrong.
During the investigation and subsequent trial, it was discovered that indeed Agca had made several trips to Sofia, Bulgaria and had been approached by the Bulgarian secret service who offered to pay him three million German Marks to assassinate the Pope. He obtained several identities and passports and crisscrossed the Mediterranean to hide his identity and point of origin in Bulgaria, finally entering Rome by train on May 10th.
The assassination attempt occurred on, of all days, May 13th which just happens to be the anniversary of the first apparition of our Lady of Fatima, May 13th, 1917. On December 27th, 1983 Pope John Paul II visited Agca in prison where his assassin asked him “Why didn’t you die? I know my aim was true and the bullet very powerful and mortal.” The Pope reportedly responded: “One hand fired the shot, another hand (the hand of the Virgin Mary) guided it.” As a sign of his gratitude, Pope John Paul II gave the bullet that nearly took his life to the Shrine of Our lady of Fatima. Amazingly the bullet fit perfectly in a spot of the crown of the statue of our Lady of Fatima (which was created decades ago) and remains there at the Shrine in Portugal to this day.
If you are intrigued by this story you will likely find our new mystery, thriller novel Stalin’s Priests captivating reading as well. It is available now at our website www.stalinspriests.com or Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
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Erik and Rita Brandin