On the 30th anniversary of the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II, historian Lucetta Scaraffia says that the late Pope believed the crime had a “profound meaning” in salvation history. He worked to shift attention towards this “transcendent reality” to find “the real reason for the event.”
Bl. John Paul II’s critical stance towards the devaluing of human life, materialism and hedonism in countries of Christian origin made him an “antagonistic figure” both of communist regimes and “misguided” modernizations in democratic countries, Scaraffia explained.
This made him “a dangerous adversary for many.”
“Wojtyla well knew who wanted him dead, just as he had always known he was in danger, but he was well aware that behind human decisions, there is always more than meets the eye and he wanted to shift the attention towards this transcendent reality to find the real reason for the event,” she said.
“There were multiple forces opposing his open battle to bring Christianity back to the center of attention, to re-open souls to the teaching of the Gospels, and one could not reduce the assassination attempt to a communist political plot or an anti-Christian operation of Islamic fundamentalism.”
Scaraffia, a teacher at La Sapienza University in Rome, made her comments in an editorial for the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano 30 years after the assassination attempt.
On May 13, 1981 the Turkish-born Ali Agca fired several gunshots at John Paul II as he was proceeding among the crowds for an audience in St. Peter’s Square. The attack seriously wounded the pontiff.
Afterward, the Pope said the solution to the unsolved mystery of the assassination attempt was before everyone’s eyes.
“(T)he evident intervention of a miraculous nature which caused the deflection of the shots fired by a very skilled killer just steps away from his target, and the subsequent saving of the Pope, have given this event a strong spiritual significance,” Scaraffia said.
The coincidence of the date with the first apparition of the Virgin Mary at Fatima confirmed this significance, she added, noting that Mary’s message was dedicated particularly to the rise of communism.
“The Marian intervention could not but confirm a certainty for Christians: even if the forces of evil are powerful and dangerous, they will not prevail,” Scaraffia continued.
By placing the assassination attempt in this broader light, “the battle that the Pope was combating could become even more the battle of all Christians.”
“And the call which he repeated more than once to be not afraid and to open the doors wide to Christ, thanks to his example, became something that all could follow, not just the most conscientious and courageous elite,” the historian’s editorial concluded.