John Paul II to Mark 1981 Attack with a Mass

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 11, 2001 ( John Paul II on Sunday will mark the 20th anniversary of the attempt on his life, with a Thanksgiving Mass and the ordination of 34 new priests.

It was a warm afternoon on May 13, 1981, when Turk Mehmet Ali Agca fired at and felled the white clad Pope, who was standing in an open convertible in St. Peter´s Square.

The seriously wounded Pope was rushed to Rome´s Gemelli Hospital, where much of his intestine was removed.

That fateful day was the feast of the Virgin of Fatima. The Holy Father is convinced that the Blessed Virgin saved his life: «a maternal hand guided the bullet´s path, and an agonizing Pope stood at the threshold of death,» he said on May 13, 1994.

John Paul II requested that the bullet removed from his body be placed in the Fatima shrine.

Last May 13, the Pontiff beatified the two little shepherds who witnessed Mary´s apparitions in Portugal. On that occasion, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, announced the revelation of the third secret of Fatima.

The revelations made in Fatima between May 13 and Oct. 13, 1917, spoke about the white figure of the Bishop of Rome falling before his enemies.

The Pope forgave Agca in prison and later requested clemency for him, which was granted last year by Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. Ali Agca returned to Turkey and is in prison for other crimes.

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