Pope John Paul II was elected to the papacy following the death of the popular “Smiling Pope”, Pope John Paul, after just 33 days in office.
Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Poland took the name of Pope John Paul II in deference to his predecessor.
At just 58 years old, the new Pope became the youngest pope to be elected in the twentieth century.
A major theme of John Paul II’s papacy was his fight for freedom of religion in the Communist bloc and during his term as Pope, he was significant for his contribution to the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe.
On 13 May 1981, the Pope was shot and seriously wounded while passing through St Peter’s Square in Rome in an open car.
The Pope was rushed by ambulance to Rome’s Gemelli Hospital, where he underwent surgery as the bullet had entered his abdomen, narrowly missing vital organs.
The would-be assassin was 23-year-old escaped Turkish murderer Mehmet Ali Agca. Bystanders quickly overcame Agca and detained him until police arrived.
Four days later, the Pope offered forgiveness from his hospital bed. Agca was sentenced to life imprisonment.
On 27 December 1983, Pope John Paul II personally visited his would-be assassin in a meeting that lasted 20 minutes. The Pope never revealed the nature of their discussion. He merely stated, What we talked about will have to remain a secret between him and me. I spoke to him as a brother whom I have pardoned and who has my complete trust.”