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1981: Pope John Paul II is shot

The Story

On May 13, 1981, Pope John Paul II is shot with a 9 mm pistol at close range. The bullets hit the 60-year-old pontiff in the stomach, arm and hand. The Pope had been greeting some 18,000 worshippers from his popemobile during his weekly public appearance in St. Peter's Square. American tourist Mary Anne Marve, who saw the Pope collapse from the shootings, expresses her shock to CBC's Barbara Frum.

Medium: Radio
Program: As It Happens
Broadcast Date: May 13, 1981
Guests: Mary Ann Marvel, Father McDowell
Hosts: Barbara Frum, Russ Germain
Duration: 6:53
Photo: AP Photo/Tommy Anderson

Did You know?

• Pope John Paul II was rushed to the hospital for surgery which lasted over four hours. He eventually made a full recovery.

• Two American tourists, Ann Odre, 60, and Rose Hall, 21, were also injured in the assassination attempt. Odre was shot in the chest, Hall was hit in the arm. Both women survived.

• A 23-year-old Turkish native named Mehmet Ali Agca was arrested for the shootings.Agca claimed he was a pro-Palestinian militant who was protesting "imperialist crimes" of the Soviet Union and the United States. He had threatened to kill the Pope before during the pontiff's 1979 visit to Turkey.

• In July 1981, Agca was sentenced to life in prison for his attempted assassination of the Pope and 10 years for wounding the two American bystanders. The Pope forgave his would-be assassin and said he was praying for him. Pope John Paul II visited Agca in prison and kept in touch with his family.

• Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, Fidel Castro and Leonid Brezhnev were among the many dignitaries who sent the Pope messages of goodwill.

• In 2000, Agca was pardoned by the Italian president, with the Pope's blessing, after serving 19 years in prison. But on his return to Turkey, he was re-arrested and sentenced to life in prison for killing a Turkish journalist in 1979.

• Pope John Paul II died on April 2, 2005, aged 84.



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