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Pope John Paul II

Film Reveals Secrets About Pope John Paul’s Stabbing

October 15, 2008 03:01 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Previously unknown details about the life of Pope John Paul II are presented in a new documentary, including the fact that he was injured in a 1982 stabbing.

New Information About the Pope’s Life

A new documentary film slated to premier this Thursday at the Vatican reveals that a priest stabbed and injured Pope John Paul II in 1982. Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, who was a close aide to the pope for about 40 years, explains the incident in the film “Testimony,” and contributes other formerly classified details about the pope’s life, Reuters reports.

The documentary is based largely on a memoir published by Dziwisz last year.

According to Dziwisz, an ultra-conservative Spanish priest named Juan Fernandez Krohn stabbed the pope on May 12, 1982, while the pope “was visiting the shrine city of Fatima in Portugal to give thanks for surviving a first assassination attempt a year earlier.” On May 13, 1981, Mehmet Ali Agca of Turkey shot the pope in St. Peter’s Square.

In the second assassination attempt, police detained the priest and the pope was taken to safety. John Paul continued his trip, and it was believed that he emerged from the attack unscathed. However, in the film Dziwisz tells the public for the first time that the knife did wound the pope and that he was bleeding. 

The Cardinal also divulges for the first time that the pope heralded his death following his tracheotomy in 2005. After the surgery he barely got out the words: “If I can’t speak any more, it’s time for me to go.” Several days later the pope passed away at the age of 84.

Background: First assassination attempt

On May 13, 1981, Pope John Paul II was shot and seriously wounded in St. Peter’s Square by Turkish assailant Mehmet Ali Agca.

At about 5:00 in the evening, the pope was cruising slowly through St. Peter’s Square in an open-roofed vehicle, blessing children held up to his reach. Time Magazine called the pope’s familiar ritual “a rite of sweet human communion.”

After one go-around of the square, gunshots were fired from the crowd. “The pope froze in shock for a second, and slumped into the seat of his jeep,” ABC News reported in a YouTube clip. Shot in the abdomen, the pope later recovered without lasting injury.

The gunman ran but was quickly chased down by Vatican plainclothes security guards and members of the crowd. Police found a note in Agca’s pocket that said, “I am killing the Pope as a protest against the imperialism of the Soviet Union and the United States."

A member of the paramilitary wing of Turkey’s far-right Nationalist Action Party, Agca had shot and killed newspaper editor Abdi Ipekci in Istanbul in 1979. He had escaped from a maximum-security prison after threatening to kill John Paul II, whom he called “the masked leader of the Crusades,” Time reported.

Pope John Paul later forgave Agca, who served 20 years in an Italian prison.

Agca later returned to prison in Turkey, where he wrote Pope Benedict XVI, warning him not to visit the country because “his life was in danger” and advising the pontiff to make “a grand gesture of honor and resign.”

Key Players: Pope John Paul II, Mehmet Ali Agca

Pope John Paul II (1920–2005)

Karol Jozef Wojtyła was born on June 20, 1920 in Wadowice, Poland, a small town outside of Krakow. He enrolled at Jagiellonian University in 1938, but had to put his studies aside a year later when Nazi forces closed the institution, according to the Official Web site of the Holy See. He decided to join the priesthood in 1942 and entered a clandestine seminary, continuing his studies after World War II. After being ordained in 1946, he graduated with his doctorate in 1948 in France. He was elected pope on Oct. 16, 1978. His 27 years as spiritual leader of the Roman Catholic Church were marked by his outreach to young people and calls for dialogue with other major religions. He died on April 2, 2005. He is already on the church’s list for beatification and canonization.

Mehmet Ali Agca (1958–)

Mehmet Ali Agca was born in Yesiltepe, part of Malatya, Turkey, in 1958. He murdered Turkish journalist Abdi Ipekci but escaped from prison in late 1979 before making an assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in 1981, the Notable Names Database writes. Italian President Carlo Ciampi pardoned him from his attempted murder charge in 2000, after which he was extradited to Turkey.

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