Updated: May 14, 2021 08:07 AM GMT
Pope John Paul II blesses followers a few seconds before being shot by far-right Turkish nationalist Mehmet Ali Agca in St. Peter's Square on May 13, 1981. (Photo: AFP)
An elderly man stood alone in St. Peter's Square using his wooden rosary beads to pray by a simple plaque marking the place where St. John Paul II was shot exactly 40 years earlier.
The man soon was joined on May 13 by members of Polska w Sercu (Polish at Heart), a group of Polish Catholics who have lived for years in Rome but have not forgotten their homeland or their beloved pope.
Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, who served for more than three decades as personal secretary to the late pope, arrived to process with the group to the plaque where someone already had placed two red roses. They added a bouquet of gerbera daisies -- red and white -- the colors of the Polish flag.
Cardinal Dziwisz had begun marking the anniversary of the May 13, 1981, assassination attempt by concelebrating Mass with Cardinal Konrad Krajewski and dozens of Polish priests at the tomb of St. John Paul in St. Peter's Basilica.
Remembering how Mehmet Ali Agca shot and "almost mortally wounded" St. John Paul, "I still can feel his body slip as if paralyzed and fall into my arms," Cardinal Dziwisz said in his homily. "I see his blood dripping onto his white pontifical cassock, staining my hands and clothes. I also hear a continual, fainter and fainter, repetition of the invocation, 'O Mary, O my Mother!'"
"How difficult it is to forget the bang of the would-be assassin's gunshots, which in a single moment could have put an end to this extraordinary pontificate," the cardinal said, thanking the medical personnel who saved his life and the people all over the world who prayed for his recovery.
How poor and different the world and our homeland, Poland, would have been without his witness of faith and doctrine
"Today, 40 years after that event, and 16 years" after his death, "I think with fear of what it would have been like if we had lost him in St. Peter's Square back then," he said.
"How poor and different the world and our homeland, Poland, would have been without his witness of faith and doctrine, without his indications and his warnings in the face of the dangers and turmoil that can threaten us in today's world."
Noting the day's feast of Our Lady of Fatima and St. John Paul's conviction that she saved his life, Cardinal Dziwisz also turned to Our Lady of Fatima with "a trusting prayer for the world fighting against the coronavirus pandemic," for a greater commitment to keeping the Ten Commandments and following the beatitudes "and, finally, for fidelity to the teachings and mission left to us by St. John Paul II the Great."
….as we enter the last months of 2021, we are asking readers like you to help us keep UCA News free.
For the last 40 years, UCA News has remained the most trusted and independent Catholic news and information service from Asia. Every week, we publish nearly 100 news reports, feature stories, commentaries, podcasts and video broadcasts that are exclusive and in-depth, and developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes.
Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to – South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.
And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters who cover 23 countries in south, southeast, and east Asia. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don’t have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.
With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.