The attack against Pope John Paul II

1. The fact related by Antonio Socci     

     We declare that the final judgement on the authenticity of the so-called ‘bilocation’ and of other phenomena that have not a natural origin, described in the following report, belongs to the Church. We intend to be submitted to this judgement and the reader is free to believe these phenomena only with human faith, according to the decrees of Pope Urban VIII and of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith.

On the13th of May 1981, at about 17,17, in St.Peter Square in Rome, a Turkish killer sent by dark and powerful forces, Mehmet Ali Agca, shot Pope John Paul II. The 23 year old ‘grey wolf’ is a professional and excellent gunman, he is there to kill, he stands behind the front line, at a very near distance (only three metres from the Holy Father). He is very calm and determined, therefore the target, defenceless and unprotected before him, has no way out.
But how and why did the murder fail then? If he had killed the Pope – and the probabilities were 99,99 per cent - his pontificate would have stopped at the very beginning. The history of the Church would have been very different, but above all the world history, because the role played by the ‘Polish Pope’ in the following bloodless fall of communism was colossal and decisive. Everything therefore would have had different and certainly much more dramatic consequences for all mankind.
Hence I will repeat the question: how and why did that murder fail? Who prevented the killer from carrying out that homicide which was already in hand at 17,17 on that day in St.Peter’s Square, the place in which St.Peter the Apostle, nineteen centuries earlier, was martyred?
Pope Wojtyla has always stated that he was saved by a supernatural intervention of the Blessed Virgin. This is witnessed by the icon of Our Lady which was painted, according to his will, in St. Peter’s Square, on the spot where the crime took place. This is also witnessed by a bullet used in that attempt on his life, which the Pope wished to take as a votive offering, to be placed in the crown of Our Lady Queen of Peace when he visited the Shrine of Fatima the following year. Actually the day of the attack was the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, the anniversary of the first apparition (which happened on the 13th of May 1917). Such a coincidence makes us suppose a supernatural protection granted to the Pope who escaped death.


     It is really inexplicable that a professional killer, who was very expert and determined, failed such an easy and unprotected target at a very near distance and fired only two shots. Even the trajectory of the bullet which hit the Holy Father in the stomach looked unnatural, especially to the surgeons. The fact that a mysterious hand diverted the bullet to save the life of the Pope is not only the subjective persuasion of Karol Wojtyla, it is an objective fact, which in a way is scientifically clarified: ‘Professor Crucitti added that he noticed something which was absolutely “anomalous and unexplainable”. The bullet, in the Pope’s stomach, ran in zigzags, avoiding the vital organs. It hit an area which was very close to the central aorta: if it had reached the aorta, the Holy father would have bled to death even before arriving at the hospital. It avoided the spine and all other main nerve centres: if it had struck them, John Paul II would have remained paralysed. It looks as if – the professor concluded – that bullet was guided in order not to cause irreparable damage’. That is why on the 13th of May 1994, while speaking to the Italian Bishops, John Paul II could reasonably state: ‘It was a maternal hand that guided the trajectory of the bullet, and although the Pope came face to face with death, did not die (…). The bullet came to a halt and the Pope is alive, he lives to serve’.
Pope Woityla was certain that the mysterious hand belonged to the Mother of God, whose apparition at Fatima was celebrated on that day. ‘I have been to Fatima to thank Our Lady’, he wrote in Memory and Identity. In fact on that day, the 13th of May 1982, the first anniversary of the attempt, he declared: ‘I saw in all the events that happened to me a special maternal protection of Our Lady. Now, here in the Shrine of Fatima, I want to repeat before all of you: Totus Tuus - all yours, o Mother!’. Then on various occasions the Pope repeated: ‘A hand shot, another hand diverted the bullet’.
No-one - obviously - has ever looked for witnesses of that supernatural intervention. No-one could imagine that a hand prevented physically Agca from firing the decisive shots, until I found one day, in July 2007, some documents which I had received in May 2005, and which I had put aside without paying attention to them.
While I was arranging some books, I opened a file that I had forgotten I had and which contained the extraordinary story of Christina Montella, the “bambina” (little child) of Padre Pio. I started to read it and I discovered an unknown world. And after a few days I started to look for the person who collected so many testimonies and extraordinary documents about her.
On a hot and bright day in August I drove southward through the Spoleto valley, that extends below Assisi. It seemed as if I was on a pilgrimage: I came very close to St.Mary of the Angels with the huge Basilica that contains the Portiuncula, then to Rivotorto (a little church built on the stable where St.Francis lived for some months with his companions), then to Spello and finally to Trevi. Then I headed towards Montefalco, in the middle of the countryside, where I found the “Madonna della Stella” Shrine.
In this Shrine Fr Franco D’Anastasio lived. He is a passionist, a refined biblist, who for several years was the rector of “San Gabriele dell’Addolorata” (St.Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows) Shrine. He wrote a number of precious works just on St.Gabriel and especially on his ‘charismatic presence’. Thanks to these works he became the major biographer and historian of St.Gabriel. One of his recent books deals with the analogies between St. Gabriel and Padre Pio.
But during these last years fr D’Anastasio carried out an important historical research, collecting a huge bulk of documents and testimonies, about the figure of Sr Rita Montella (called in the world Christina Montella), an Augustinian nun who died in the odour of sanctity on the 26th of November 1992, in the enclosed convent of Santa Croce sull’Arno, in Tuscany.


      The life of Sr Rita, or better, her vocation above all, is so full of superior gifts and charisms (starting from her bilocations), since the beginning and is mingled with that of Padre Pio, and particularly with his ‘Life of Reparation’. Her link with the holy Capuchin is special – as we will see – and is documented and proved also by Fr Teofilo dal Pozzo – a very esteemed and authoritative Franciscan – who had been the spiritual director of Sr Rita and the Superior of Foggia Capuchin Province, and then the direct Superior and friend of Padre Pio.

Fr Teofilo was a direct witness of the ‘mysterious’ shared missions of Padre Pio and Sr Rita. And he was the first, in a rigorous and deep way, who verified the charisms and holy life of Sr Rita, together with other authoritative religious. Fr D’Anastasio, collecting all such testimonies, could also get the evidence from his personal knowledge of Sr Rita, who gave him, during the years, important details.
One of these is particularly shocking: it is about the attack on John Paul II, who was the same age as Sr Rita.
Sr Rita immediately after 1981, during a conversation, revealed in confidence to Fr Franco that she was present in bilocation in St.Peter’s Square on the 13th of May 1981, but she made him promise he would keep the secret until after her death. She said something more: ‘Together with Our Lady I diverted the shot of the Pope’s attacker’. These are her very words.
That is a revelation which is obviously shocking and can be taken into consideration only on the grounds of this nun’s absolute credibility, on the grounds of her holy life and of the supernatural gifts she had and can be witnessed by totally trustworthy persons, first of all by the testimony of St.Pio of Pietrelcina, who – as we will remark - carried out some of his extraordinary actions just with Sr Rita.
(...) This bewildering secret is followed by another little sentence which Sr Rita pronounced independently on a different occasion to Mrs Gabriella Panzani, who had been friendly with her for many years. One day Sr Rita, while she was talking about the attack against the Pope, said: ‘How much I had to struggle in order to avoid that the worst may happen!’

This is a flash which indicates the dramatic ‘price’ of love that must have been paid, namely a price of prayer and of very hard penance, that the mystic nun took on her shoulders instead of others, in order to atone, in this case, for a dreadful sacrilege. We are in the dimension of ‘vicarious expiation’ which Sr Rita practised heroically and allowed Padre Pio to obtain from Heaven a lot of graces for those who suffer and for the Church. That little sentence indicates also the answer to an obvious objection: why did Heaven need a little enclosed Sister, unknown to everyone, to save the Pope? The first answer obviously is that the plans of God are inscrutable. Perhaps in this case Heaven meant that a person should witness what Our Lady performed. But part of the answer could be that Sr Rita was an earthly creature, who belonged to the militant Church, and therefore was able to offer up her own life to obtain that huge grace for the Church and for the world. Only the men and women who live here on earth are able to do that and so they have an extraordinary ‘power’. Padre Pio used to say that angels envy us infinitely only for this reason: we can suffer and we can offer. Suffering and offering is the strongest and most sincere way of saying to God: “I really love you”.
We will see, dealing with the theme of Padre Pio, what endless value there is, before God, in human suffering offered with love, we will see how powerful this human suffering is in moving his Heart and in doing “violence” to his justice (‘the Kingdom of God belongs to violent, Mt 11,12’). In this case, powerful in obtaining an immense grace: the salvation of a great Pope. What confirmation can we try to find of such a sensational revelation? I thought there could be no confirmation at all, as that was a supernatural event. I thought it was useless even to look for a confirmation. But a surprising support might have been given unconsciously – without knowing anything about this story – just by the protagonist of the event, namely the attempted assassin Mehmet Ali Agca. He described the event to the investigating judge, Ilario Martella, who questioned him during the second judicial inquiry on the attack, in the following way: ‘It was my precise intention to kill the Pope. This was the mandate given to me. But I fired only two shots because there was a nun close to me who took me by my right arm, therefore I could not go on shooting. Otherwise I would have killed the Pope’.



     When I read these words, I thought it was a sensational piece of news that passed unnoticed: a nun thwarted the murder. It was inevitable to think of Sr Rita. Actually they immediately set about that a nun hindered Agca while he was shooting. We can find a report in the newspapers published at that time. Adriano Sofri, for instance, mentions the fact in an article he wrote about nuns: ‘In the afternoon of the attack on St.Peter’s Square they said a nun threw herself into Ali Agca to divert the shot’.
But it looks as if all have always mistaken the nun mentioned by Agca - the one who grasped his arm - for the other one who stopped him a bit later when he was fleeing from the scene. Perhaps this error was due to the fact that the only nun who was found and identified by police on that place was the second one, who gave evidence in the process. In fact there was no clue of the first one, she was not identified by police, she did not remain in St. Peter’s Square after taking the attacker by his right arm, preventing him from firing further shots. She vanished. As you can understand, we are close to a supernatural mystery and surely some will turn up their noses up at it. The mystics – as Jean Guitton says – upset our physical and mathematical certainties because they disclose other dimensions before us, they let us see how short is our sight and they make the Eternal God break in the present moment.
Thus even the impossible becomes understandable: namely the news that a nun, who lives in an enclosed convent in Tuscany, prevents one day in bilocation the attacker from firing further shots at the Pope. On the other hand the testimonies about the bilocations of Sr Rita and of Padre Pio - as we will see – are numerous and unquestionable. Besides, the facts agree objectively with the ‘revelation’ concerning Sr Rita. The first is the confession of Agca, who mentions a nun who took him by his arm and prevented him from firing further shots. The second is the account given by Sr Lucia, who stopped Agca while he was flying away.
It was not easy to reach Sr Lucia (actually I got her indirectly). I knew she lives in a convent in Genoa, but she does not speak to journalists. But recently, on the 10 Jan. 2006, she spoke about the attack on the ‘L’Eco di Bergamo’ newspaper. Sr Lucia Giudici – whose true religious name is Sr Letizia - writes: ‘Yes, it was really me who caught Ali Agca while he was trying to flee away from the Square after shooting the Holy Father. On that day I waited in vain for anyone who could stop him, but all pilgrims and and tourists at that moment were astounded and shocked at seeing the Pope seriously injured, who was taken to the Agostino Gemelli hospital. All happened in a few minutes and by instinct I looked for the right moment to stop him and detain him until I could hand him over to the police’.
Sr Lucia does not state at all, here, either that she was close to the attacker or that she took him by the arm. Instead she lets us understand that she intervened after the attacker fired the shots, while he was running away. Therefore she does give an answer. But it is necessary to understand precisely how distant she was from the Turkish killer. How can we understand that? I heard that Sr Lucia came from a little town near Bergamo and, at the moment I was writing, she was there on holiday. Thanks to the valued cooperation of Ettore Ongis, director of the ‘L’Eco di Bergamo’ newspaper, I succeeded in reaching her on the 23 August 2007, at the 6 pm Mass. She informally gave a precise explanation which looked conclusive, namely Ali Agca was before Sr Lucia at a distance of about 10 metres. He took two shots then he turned and started to run away towards the Bernini colonnade, that is towards her. As no-one stopped him, she opened her arms to block the way to him. He pointed his gun at her, but moving backwards he lost his balance and she stopped him, holding him until other people and then the carabinieri arrived, who handcuffed him. Now therefore what is certain is that Sr Lucia was far from Ali Agca when the shooting happened; she was ten metres away, hence it was not her the nun who – according to the attacker’s words – ‘took me by my right arm so that I could shoot no longer. Otherwise I would have killed the Pope’. But if it was not Sr Lucia, who was that nun never identified by the police in that place, as she seemed to have vanished from St.Peter’s Square after the attack?
Fr Franco D'Anastasio can disclose today the secret received by Sr Rita because she died in 1992. As a consequence he is no more obliged to keep it.
(...) Sr Rita gave Fr D’Anastasio some more interesting elements immediately after the attack. I will summarize them: ‘The attempter will not speak. The bullets which injured the Pope were poisoned. Two more persons were with Agca and they fled. There was an international plot against the Pope and against the Church. All these details were unfailingly confirmed by the magistrates’ inquiry and the following events.

                                 From the best-seller of Antonio Socci, Il segreto di Padre Pio (The Secret of Padre Pio), edited by Rizzoli, 2007, pp. 9-20. With the author’s permission.

2. A judgement on the report made by Antonio Socci.

According to Fr Franco D’Anastasio, Passionist priest, theologian, important witness and biographer of Sr Rita, Socci in his book explains precisely and exhaustively the events concerning the intervention of Sr Rita in the attempt against John Paul II. The only inaccuracy is in the following passage (contained in the “Antefatto” of Socci’s book, pages 19-20, but not mentioned in the above-quoted text taken from the book): ‘In 2007 Cardinal Stanislaus Dziwisz, Archbishop of Cracow and former secretary of the Polish Pope, called Fr D’Anastasio and asked him to give his testimony under oath about the attack of Ali Agca and the words of Sr Rita for the Diocesan process of beatification of Karol Wojtyla which had been opened in Cracow’.


    Actually Cardinal Stanislaus Dziwisz neither ‘called’ Fr Franco D’Anastasio to Cracow nor ‘asked him to give his testimony about the words of Sr Rita’, but he received unexpectedly by mail in 2006, in a letter which followed a previous statement from a priest, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the attack against the Pope, a declaration signed by fr D’Anastasio and by a Notary, in which the exact words uttered before Fr D’Anastasio himself by Sr Rita, when she was alive, were reported. In his turn the Cardinal, on the 21 June 2006, replied and thanked the sender for the information received and he promised he would send the letter to Rome (not to Cracow), to Monsignor Slawomir Oder, Postulator for the Cause of Servant of God John Paul II. Apart from this unimportant inaccuracy (of which we have already informed the author), the account made by Antonio Socci in the ‘Antefatto’ of his book is very positive and it deserves a careful reading and great consideration. The authentic copies of the documents quoted above, namely the declaration of Fr Franco D’Anastasio and the letter of Cracow’s Cardinal, are in our hands.

3.  The declaration of Fr Franco D’Anastasio.

     The declaration was made ‘only at all effects and consequences of the canonical Church law’ on the 10 May 2006. Fr D’Anastasio affirms that ‘on the occasion of a meeting at the end of 1981, we talked about the attempt against Holy Father John Paul II, and Sr Rita said to me in confidence: ‘Our Lady and I have diverted with our hands the hand of the Pope’s attacker’. Fr D’Anastasio continues to say: ‘Sr Rita referred to a phenomenon which in my opinion may be called bilocation’.
Then, in obedience to the Authority of the Church, who is entitled to give judgements on such a delicate matter as the bilocation phenomena, Fr D’Anastasio adds: ‘About the nature of this phenomenon, I submit myself to the Church and I leave to it the final judgement’.
He ends his declaration by saying that Sr Rita ‘asked me not to mention that secret to anyone until after her death, and I have faithfully kept my promise’. On a page attached to his declaration Fr Franco states: ‘I am ready to confirm under oath whatever I have written’. This document has the signature of Fr Franco D’Anastasio and of a Notary, who is registered in the ‘Role of the District Notary in Perugia’. This Notary certifies that the signature of Fr Franco D’Anastasio is ‘true and authentic, made in my presence’. Such a declaration is trustworthy both for the honesty and sincerity of the persons who signed it, and for the ‘solemn and official way’ it was made. It would be reckless to dissent from it, unless there are grounded reasons to oppose its contents. It would be foolish to ridicule it only because one cannot admit the possibility of ‘bilocations’, forgetting that nothing is impossible to God. This declaration is very important in order to understand all the other testimonies on the attack against John Paul II.

               Press here to read the original text of Fr Franco D’Anastasio’s declaration.