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John Paul II’s Words in the Ambulance, 35 Year Ago

“The direct testimony of the victim has been missing, which we can try to reconstruct just from a few fragments of what he experienced during those tragic hours”

In the book “Stories about John Paul II. Told by his close friends and co-workers” (Ignatius Press, San Francisco), there is the testimony of the Pope’s personal physician, Dr. Renato Buzzonetti, about May 13, 1981. Here’s what Dr. Buzzonetti responds to the question of Włodzimierz Redzioch about the assassination attack:

The chronology of May 13, 1981, has already been recounted a thousand times, from every angle.  To this day, however, the direct testimony of the victim has been missing, which we can try to reconstruct just from a few fragments of what he experienced during those tragic hours.  

In the ambulance, in which I accompanied him to the Gemelli Polyclinic Hospital, he ceaselessly pronounced these words in Polish: “Jesus .\.\. my Mother .\.\.”, and nothing else.  In the text of the Angelus message, which he laboriously read from his bed in the intensive care unit the following Sunday, he added on his own initiative the word “brother” when he pardoned the assassin.  Perhaps that is the eloquent summary of those hours of struggling to survive.  

For my part, I never asked the pope anything about those truly terrible days.  He spoke of them a few times with me, half-smiling: “That man wanted to find out the third secret of Fatima by force,” he said, alluding to Ali Agca.  

I can recall, however, that, at the Gemelli, as he awoke from the anesthesia after the surgery, which lasted five hours, he commented: “Like Bachelet.”  Then I objected: “No, Your Holiness, because you are alive and are going to live, but Bachelet is not.”  

I think that he mentioned that name because the assassination of Judge Bachelet the year before had left a deep impression on him.  That was the vice president of the Superior Council of Magistrates, who was killed by the Red Brigades in 1980.  The pope knew him well because, as ex-president of Catholic Action in Italy, he was a member of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, in which Cardinal Wojtyła had participated.  And he decided to celebrate a Solemn Mass in Saint Peter’s for the repose of the soul of Vittorio Bachelet a few days after his death.  

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