Important facts about the John Paul II assassination attempt

On May 13, 1981, thirty-six years ago, Pope John Paul II was on the brink of death. I wasn’t alive, but I’ve seen news reports from the time, and it’s horrifying to think what the faithful, and the world where going through.

Like I said, I wasn’t born yet, and I’ve discovered some incredible facts about the assassination attempt in St. Peter’s Square while reading Fatima Mysteries, a new and beautiful book by Ignatius Press. Here’s some facts I’ve not read anywhere else.

1. Twenty thousand people were there. The scene that day must have been traumatic for so many people, but especially those close to the incident — 20,000 people!

2. The shooter wasn’t that clever. He had a passport in his pocket with a fake name and was quickly identified as a man sentenced to death just a year earlier in Turkey.

3. He apparently spared a child’s life. Perhaps it was a merciful act, perhaps another motive. But John Paul II reached out and cuddled an eighteen-month-old.

The shooter, Mehmet Ali Agca, waited for the child to be returned to his mother before pulling the trigger.

4. The weapon was popular among assassins. The gun was produced en masse by the Nazis when they seized a Belgian factory. The Browning Hi Power 9mm was powerful, light, reliable, well-made. Hence, a favorite for toting assassins.

5. John Paul II said “no” to a bulletproof vest. A year earlier he was quoted in Ireland saying that “danger is an occupational hazard.” That’s just plain awesome.

6. Two shots were taken. Boom, boom. One after the other. Agca was “certain he would kill the pope.”

7. A sad ending for the Swiss Guard. A young Swiss Guard member Alois Estermann threw himself on the pope. He was practically famous and became the commander of all the Guards in a future year.

In another future year, he and his wife were murdered and the murderer committed suicide. Pray for them all, now. Lord have mercy on us poor sinners. Continue reading


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