Pope Francis Marks 40th Anniversary of Assassination Attempt on Pope John Paul II

Bodyguards hold Pope John Paul II (C) after he was shot 13 May 1981 on Saint Peter's square by a Turkish extremist Mehmet Ali Agca. Agca was jailed for 19 years in Italy for the attack on the Pope, which left the head of the Roman Catholic church seriously wounded. …
AFP via Getty Images

ROME — Pope Francis recalled the 40th anniversary of the 1981 assassination attempt on Pope Saint John Paul II Wednesday.

Greeting a group of Polish pilgrims at his weekly General Audience, the pope underscored John Paul’s belief that he had survived two gunshots, fired at point blank range in Saint Peter’s Square by a professional assassin, thanks to the intercession of the Virgin Mary.

“He was certain that he owed his life to Our Lady of Fatima,” Francis said, noting that Thursday marks the feast of Our Lady of Fatima as well as the anniversary of the attack.

In May 1982, John Paul traveled to Fatima, Portugal, the alleged site of Marian apparitions to three shepherd children in 1917.

On the one-year anniversary of his assassination attempt, he carried the bullet in his hand and placed it in the crown on the head of a statue of Mary, where it remains to this day.

Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish man who attempted to assassinate Pope John Paul II in 1981, holds a copy of the Bible during a press conference in Istanbul on November 27, 2014. Agca has asked the Vatican for permission to meet Pope Francis when he visits Turkey, reports said. Agca, believed by many to be mentally disturbed, was released from a Turkish prison in 2010 after serving nearly three decades behind bars. (OZAN KOSE/AFP via Getty Images)

In his address Wednesday, Pope Francis said recalling John Paul’s miraculous survival of the shooting carries lessons for believers today.

“This event makes us aware that our life and the history of the world are in God’s hands,” he added. “We entrust the Church, ourselves, and the whole world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”

“We pray for peace, the end of the pandemic, the spirit of penance and our conversion,” he said. “I bless you from my heart.”

“Often have recourse to Mary, Mother of believers!” the pope told the Italian-speakers present at the event. “The various forms of Marian devotion, and especially the recitation of the Holy Rosary, will help you to live your journey of faith and Christian witness.”

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