May 13, 1981 – Pope John Paul II shot

May 13, 1981 – Pope John Paul II shot

Pope John Paul II is shot in Rome.

Before this assassination attempt, Pope John Paul II was known as an avid traveler who had little fear of going out in public.

While holding his weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square, the pope was shot twice by Mehmet Ali Agca, a member of a militant right-wing Turkish group. Some suspected a Soviet plot, as the pope was a fervent anti-communist who supported the Solidarity trade union in his native Poland.

Agca told the authorities that he was acting for the Bulgarian intelligence service, which acted on behalf of the KGB, but later recanted that part of his confession. Several Bulgarians and three other Turks were arrested, but all were released or acquitted for lack of evidence.

After surgery, the pontiff remained in the hospital for three weeks, and Agca was sentenced to life imprisonment.

John Paul later visited his assailant in prison and offered him forgiveness. Agca was pardoned by Italy in 2000 and extradited to Turkey, where he began 10-year prison term for murdering a liberal newspaper editor in 1979.