Forty years ago today, St. Pope John Paul II was shot by a would-be assassin in St. Peter’s Square.
The spot is marked with where the late pontiff was almost killed on May 13, 1981, by the Turkish gunman Methmet Ali Agca while he was greeting pilgrims as he rode around in the pope mobile. The memories of that day from four decades ago are still quit vivid, as this report in Crux makes clear in great detail:
“We didn’t know what happened, but pilgrims started to whisper the word ‘attentato’,” Rędzioch told Crux, remembering that the square was completely deserted by security personnel and general audience organizers.
“Only pilgrims were left present in the square. Father Kazimierz Przydatek, responsible for Polish pilgrimage groups, showed nerves of steel and started to pray a rosary,” he continued, remembering that the Polish pilgrims then put an image of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa on the chair set up for the pope in the square.
The pope’s former personal secretary, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz the anniversary by concelebrating Mass today with Cardinal Konrad Krajewski and dozens of Polish priests at the tomb of St. John Paul in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Catholic News Service reports:
Remembering how Mehmet Ali Agca shot and “almost mortally wounded” St. John Paul, “I still can feel his body slip as if paralyzed and fall into my arms,” Cardinal Dziwisz said in his homily. “I see his blood dripping onto his white pontifical cassock, staining my hands and clothes. I also hear a continual, fainter and fainter, repetition of the invocation, ‘O Mary, O my Mother!’”
“How difficult it is to forget the bang of the would-be assassin’s gunshots, which in a single moment could have put an end to this extraordinary pontificate,” the cardinal said, thanking the medical personnel who saved his life and the people all over the world who prayed for his recovery.
“Today, 40 years after that event, and 16 years” after his death, “I think with fear of what it would have been like if we had lost him in St. Peter’s Square back then,” he said. “How poor and different the world and our homeland, Poland, would have been without his witness of faith and doctrine, without his indications and his warnings in the face of the dangers and turmoil that can threaten us in today’s world.”
John Paul II credited the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima with saving his life. May 13 is her feast day. Also, as part of the so-called Third Secret of Fatima that was not released until 2000, the Portuguese shepherd children reportedly saw the image of a bishop, dressed in white, walking through the ruins of a bombed-out city and being killed with bullets arrows after climbing a hill where a cross stood. The Polish pope identified himself with the bishop in white, and believed Our Lady had spared his life.
“It was a mother’s hand that guided the bullet’s path,” said John Paul, who placed the bullet that nearly killed him in the crown of the Marian statue in the Fatima shrine.