John Paul II: 25 years after assassination attempt

A statue of the Virgin Mary, to which Pope Wojtyla always used to attribute his salvation, is in Rome. A procession will be led by Cardinal Dias. A plaque in St Peter's Square will mark the spot where the tragic event took place.

Vatican City (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A marble slab bearing the inscription of the coat of arms of John Paul II, and the date, in Roman figures, of the assassination attempt against him – XIII-V-MCMLXXXI – was placed yesterday in St Peter's square, on the spot where Pope Wojtyla was felled by a bullet fired by Alì Agca 25 years ago. Many events are marked on this day, on which the Church recalls not only the assassination attempt against John Paul II but also the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, whose "maternal hand", according to the then pontiff, diverted the deadly path of the bullet.

Yesterday, for the third time, the statue of Our Lady of Fatima arrived in Rome; today it will the focus of a procession organized to mark the anniversary of that tragic event. Tonight, it was placed in the private chapel of Benedict XVI.

Around 20,000 pilgrims are expected to turn up for the prayer event. The cortege from Castel Sant'Angelo will be led to the Basilica of St Peter by Cardinal Ivan Dias of Mumbai, India. A pause to recite two prayers – one composed by John Paul II and the other by his then secretary, today a cardinal, Stanislaw Dziwisz – will take place at the place where the assassination attempt took place.

In the afternoon, Cardinal Camillo Ruini will celebrate Mass in the Basilica. At the end, in the square, below the windows of the pope, a fireworks display will be held.