May 14, 1981: Assassination Attempt on Pope John Paul II
The world’s eyes were on the Vatican on this day in 1981, after the head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope John Paul II, was shot during a public appearance in St. Peter’s Square. He was riding atop a slow-moving vehicle through a crowd of more than 10,000 worshippers when he was shot in the abdomen, forearm and hand.
The shooter, later identified as Mehmet Ali Agca, was a Turkish terrorist who said the attack was a protest against U.S. and Soviet imperialism, and genocide in El Salvador and Afghanistan. He had escaped from a jail in Turkey two years earlier. Also wounded in the attack were two women, one a 58-year-old widow from Buffalo, N.Y.
Another story on the page records the reactions of local third graders from St. Vincent dePaul Catholic School in Elkhart, and a photo shows the congregation of St. Thomas Catholic Church in Elkhart attending a mass dedicated to the pope.
The pope survived his wounds after five and a half hours of surgery. There was another attempt on his life almost exactly a year later on a visit to Portugal. He ultimately died of natural causes in 2005 and was canonized in April 2014 by Pope Francis.