Attacking the Pope: The Ignominious Career of Juan María Fernández y Krohn

Here’s an anniversary that will live in infamy:  On May 12, 1982, Father Juan María Fernández y Krohn, a priest of the Society of St. Pius X, attacked Pope John Paul II with a bayonet during the pope’s visit to Fatima.  There are conflicting reports as to whether the pope was injured in the incident. 

During his trial, the priest testified that he opposed the reforms of Vatican II, and that he believed Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre was too weak in his opposition to the pontiff.  He believed, in fact, that the pope was a “secret Communist agent” who was trying to corrupt the Vatican.

After the assassination attempt, he was retroactively terminated from membership in the Society—both because of his violent attack, and because of his frenetic testimony against Pope John Paul II. 

Found guilty of attempted murder, Fernández y Krohn was sentenced to six years, but served only three.  Upon his release, he was expelled from Portugal and moved to Belgium, where he became a lawyer.  His legal career, too, was fraught with controversy:

  • He was accused of slapping judge and Cassation president Erik Carre in the face.
  • He was accused of spreading anti-semitic propaganda in the councillors’ room of the Brussels Palace of Justice.
  • In 1996 he was charged with, but then acquitted of setting fire to an office of Herri Batasuna, the political branch of the Basque separatist group ETA.

In 2000, Fernández y Krohn was arrested again at the Royal Palace of Brussels, where he had climbed a security barricade to shout accusations of murder at Spanish King Juan Carlos.  He accused the Spanish king of killing his brother Alfonso in 1956 in order to win the throne.  He was found guilty and fined, but he served only a four-month probational sentence.

Since 2000, Fernández y Krohn has lived in Belgium and Spain, where he claims to be an expert in art and literature of the Spanish post-Civil War period (1939-1990).

The BBC’s video footage of the attack against Pope John Paul II is available here.

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