40 years ago today on May 13th, 1981 – the feast of Our Lady of Fatima – Saint Pope John Paul II was shot and nearly fatally wounded as he passed through Saint Peter’s Square in an open popemobile during his General Audience.
After surviving his assassination attempt, JPII said Our Lady of Fatima protected him from death.
Today, the bullet that nearly killed him is encased in the crown on a statue of Our Lady in Portugal. The blood-stained shirt he was wearing when he was shot is also preserved in Rome, housed in a shelter run by the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul in Rome for single mothers, migrants, and the poor seeking assistance. His cassock is preserved in Poland.
“You can still see the Pope’s blood stains on the relic, and you can make out three distinct holes. They are the holes caused by bullets. Not because there were three bullets, but since the shirt was folded over itself because of how he was standing. In the operating room they cut his shirt into two pieces and threw it on the floor because they had to operate on the Pope. When they finished, [a nurse] realized that the shirt was still there and would probably end up in the garbage. So she decided to pick it up.” – Sister Maria Rosario
The shelter in Rome became a pilgrimage site after the nurse donated it to the Daughters of Charity. Many pilgrims have since come to pray for JPII’s intercession and ask for his help.
“A woman told me that she wanted to have a child but she couldn’t have one. And she came here to pray almost every day. Finally she became pregnant, but the doctors told her that she and her child were in great danger. She and her husband asked John Paul II for a miracle. In the end the child was born and is in good health. So is she. They named him John Paul.”
At his own General Audience yesterday, the first with pilgrims present in over 7 months as coronavirus restrictions eased in Rome, Pope Francis remembered the 40th anniversary of the assassination attempt on JPII.
“He was certain that he owed his life to Our Lady of Fatima, this makes us aware that our lives and the history of the world are in God’s hands. Let’s entrust the Church, ourselves and the whole world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Let’s pray for peace, for the end of the pandemic, for a spirit of penitence and for our conversion. Let us place ourselves with trust under [Our Lady’s] maternal protection, especially when we find ourselves in difficulty during our prayer life.”