22 Years after Attempt on Pope's Life

«Because He Was An Annoyance» Vatican Newspaper Says

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 12, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The attempt on John Paul II’s life 22 years ago on May 13, 1981, has given this Pope’s voice greater authority, the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano says.

In its Tuesday edition in Italian, L’Osservatore Romano recalls the warm afternoon in May in St. Peter’s Square, more than two decades ago, when Turk Mehmet Ali Agca fired at the Holy Father greeting pilgrims from his popemobile.

According to an editorial signed by Mario Agnes, the newspaper’s director, «it cannot and must not be regarded as an event that happened accidentally and is now closed.»

«One cannot ignore that bloody act in order to ‘read’ this pontificate, to understand the mystery of a man whose blood bathed the Square that bears the name of Peter,» he added.

«Although the implications of what happened continue to be obscure, the fact remains,» he said. «According to some people’s thinking, John Paul II was an annoyance. There was an attempt to remove this high authority, but they did not succeed in silencing that voice.»

The attempt, the director concluded, has given this Pope’s voice greater authority, regardless «of the philosophical and religious convictions» of those who listen to him.

In the attack, the Pope was seriously wounded in the stomach, and was in danger of bleeding to death while being transported to Rome’s Gemelli Hospital, where he underwent long and delicate surgery.

John Paul II attributes his survival to the intercession of the Virgin of Fatima, whose feast is celebrated precisely on May 13, in memory of her first apparition in 1917 to three little Portuguese shepherds.

In the year 2000, on the occasion of the Great Jubilee, the Holy Father made public the third secret of Fatima, interpreting it as the prophecy of an attempt against a Pontiff.

Italy extradited Ali Agca to Turkey in 2001, after the Pope asked the president of Italy for clemency.

After 20 years in an Italian prison, Agca is now imprisoned in Turkey for the murder of a newspaper director in 1979.

On May 24, 2002, when he visited Bulgaria, the Holy Father said that he never blamed the Bulgarian people for what happened, referring to the so-called «Bulgarian connection,» which attributed the organization of the assasination attempt to that country’s Secret Services.

The «Bulgarian connection» arose in September of 1981 when Agca told Italian investigators — Italy had jurisdiction over the case — that he had been recruited by Sofia’s Secret Services, for the KGB’s account.

Italian justice arrested Bulgarians Sergei Antonov, former head of «Balkan Air» in Italy, and Teodor Ayvazoz and Jelio Vasilev, two employees of the Bulgarian embassy in Rome.

After hundreds of hearings, the trial ended with the acquittal of the accused, due primarily to Ali Agca’s constant contradictions. Agca later retracted what he said, stating that the Bulgarian connection was his invention. Years later, in 1997, he re-launched this idea.

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