By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
New information has surfaced about a Soviet-backed assassination attempt on the life of Pope John Paul II in 1987 that was foiled when the assassin’s Catholic wife told a priest who alerted police.
According to a report in London’s Daily Mail, Soviet spies sent a Bulgarian assassin to Poland to kill the pope during a planned trip to the country in 1987.
It is believed the Russians wanted the pope dead because of his fiercely anti-communist stance which was hastening the collapse of their rule in Eastern Europe. Several Cold War historians have credited John Paul II with mobilising spiritual resistance to communism beginning with his trip to Poland in 1979.
When the Pope planned another trip to Poland in 1987, Soviet Military Intelligence sent a Bulgarian assassin into the country with secret details of the Pope’s itinerary, along with train tickets to where he was due to speak.
However, the plot was foiled when the assassin’s wife confessed the plot to her priest, Zdzislaw Krol, who was able to alert police in time. The assassin was later arrested.
“A woman told me that she had information of a possible assassination attempt,” Fr. Krol said. “A husband or life partner of this woman, of Bulgarian origin, was in the possession of plans of the Pope’s route through Poland’s most holy city Czestochowa as well as some train tickets. I called the security officials after which the would-be assassin was arrested.”
Father Krol, who is now chancellor of the Warsaw Metropolitan Curia, often accompanied the Pope on his tours to Poland in the 1980’s.
He also disclosed that during the Pope’s second pilgrimage to Poland in 1983, he received information of another assassination attempt, this time to take place at a mass at Warsaw’s 10th Anniversary Stadium. A source at the Austrian embassy claimed three fugitives from a German prison who were linked to the left-wing Red Brigade had managed to get into Poland where they were planning to kill the Pope.
In 1981, John Paul II was shot and critically wounded in St Peter’s Square by an expert Turkish gunman named Mehmet Ali Agca. Three years ago, an Italian parliamentary commission determined that the Soviet Union was behind Agca’s attempt on the Pope’s life in retaliation for his support of the pro-democratic group Solidarity.
Apparently, the Soviets used Bulgarian security departments to carry out the attempted assassinations in order to prevent their involvement from being discovered.
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