Pope John Paul II is shot in St Peter's Square, Vatican (May 13, 1981) - History Key

Pope John Paul II is shot in St Peter’s Square, Vatican (May 13, 1981)

Between 10,000 worshipers in St. Peter’s Square from Vatican, Mehmet Ali Agca fired four shots with a semi-automatic pistol and critically wounded Pope John Paul II. The Pontiff was struck by two bullets in the abdomen, one in his right arm and one in his left index finger. Mehmet Ali Agca was arrested and the police found out he was an escaped Turkish prisoner after receiving a life sentence for murdering a journalist.

Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II ©Image Source: Wikipedia

The Pope Fell into his personal servant’s arms

Pope John Paul II was called the “athlete of God”. Even he visited 129 countries during his life, the first attempted assassination of the Pontiff was right in Vatican. In the crowded St. Peter’s Square, on May 13, 1981, the Pope was shaking hands and lifting small children in his arms when suddenly there was a burst of gunfire. With one hand on his face and with blood staining on his white garment, the Pope fell into the arms of his Polish secretary and his personal servant. He was quickly transported by ambulance to Gemeli Hospital for surgery.

A gun appears from the crowd as Pope John Paul II addresses crowds in St Peter's
A gun appears from the crowd as Pope John Paul II addresses crowds in St Peter’s ©Image Source: Wikimapia/Daily Mail
Bodyguards hold Pope John Paul II after he was shot © EPA/Image Source: dailymail.co.uk
Bodyguards hold Pope John Paul II after he was shot
Bodyguards hold Pope John Paul II after he was shot ©Image Source: actualmm.ro/Twitter

The gunman also wounded two tourists in the attack. A 60 year old American woman was struck in the chest and a 21 years old Jamaican woman was slightly wounded in an arm. Although the Pope was struck four times, he was conscious the whole time.

 John Paul II at the Policlinico Gemelli hospital in Rome
John Paul II at the Policlinico Gemelli hospital in Rome © AP/Image Source: dailymail.co.uk

Who was the Gunman?

Mehmet Ali Agca’s motives in attempting to kill the Pontiff are still a mystery. However, Agca joined in 1970 a terrorist group from Turkey called the Gray Wolves. The group is responsible for the assassination of hundreds of people, including public officials and journalists. Thus, Agca was arrested and charged for murder in 1979. While awaiting his trial in 1979, Alga escaped from the prison and he left a note:

Mehmet Ali Agca In 1979
Mehmet Ali Agca In 1979 ©Image Source: kykyryzo.ru

Western imperialists who are afraid of Turkey’s unity of political, military, and economic power with the brotherly Islamic countries are sending the Crusader Commander John Paul under the mask of a religious leader. If this ill-timed and meaningless visit is not called off, I will definitely shoot the pope. This is the only reason that I escaped from prison.

On May 13, right after the shooting, Agca was set upon in the square by bystanders who knocked the pistol out of his hands. When he was arrested a handwritten note was found in his pocket:

“I am killing the pope as a protest against the imperialism of the Soviet Union and the United States and against the genocide that is being carried out in Salvador and Afghanistan.”

One month later, the gunman pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison. The strange part is when he said on the trial that he acted alone, but one year later Agca announced that the attempt involved Bulgarian intelligence services and the KGB. The Pontiff was an active anti-communist and played an important role in the fall of communism in Europe.

The Pope Forgave the Gunman

The head of the Roman Catholic Church proved once again his kindness. In 1983 visited Agca in prison and forgave him. On the other hand, in 1985 six persons were arrested after Agca offered information about the killing plan. But it all collapsed on the next trial when Agca described himself as Jesus Christ and predicted the Apocalypse. He said that God ordered him to kill the pope.

Pope John Paul II visited Mehmet Ali Agca in his jail cell Dec. 27, 1983
Pope John Paul II visited Mehmet Ali Agca in his jail cell Dec. 27, 1983 © Reuters/Image Source: ibtimes.com
Pope John Paul II shaking hands with Ali Agca
Pope John Paul II shaking hands with Ali Agca © Image Source: Osservatore Romano Arturo Mari/AFP/Getty

What is even strange is that Pope John Paul II released the “Third Secret of Fatima” in 2000 which is a series of apocalyptic visions and prophecies. The secrets were given to three young Portuguese shepherds by a Marian apparition on May 13, 1917. The third secret contained, according to Pope John Paul II, the Agca’s assassination attempt. Agca was pardoned on June 14, 2000 by Italian President Carolo Ciampi. He was extradited to Turkey where he continued serve the years remaining on the sentence for the murder he committed.

By 2005, Pope’s health began to deteriorate and on April died at his home in Vatican. He is remembered as one of the important personalities who fought against communism and the “builder of bridges” between religions.
Right before Pope’s death, Agca had an interview in which he claimed to be working on a book about the assassination attempt. He said that “the devil is inside Vatican’s wall”. He was released on January 18, 2010 and described himself as a mercenary with no political orientation. On December 27, 2014 he showed up at the Vatican and laid roses on the St. John Paul II’s tomb.

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