In the late afternoon of February 16, 1987, the Pope and his Secretary, Stanisław Dziwisz, along with Father Tadeusz Styczeń left the Vatican in a private unmarked car and went to Ovindoli. There, in the suburbs of a town located in Apulli Province, the Holy Father spent the night at a certain religious institution. The next day, he wanted to fulfill his wish for day skiing on the slopes of the nearby Campo Magnolia Mountain. The ski lift management was notified in advance of the planned presence of such a wonderful guest so they could do everything in their power to allow the Pope and the people accompanying him to spend a quiet day in this charming place. We hoped that this would allow John Paul II to peacefully ski on the slopes of the mountain. At that time, my most trusted co-workers were with me, a few of whom were great skiers. (…) Everything seemed to be fastened to the last button, as it has always been so far. And yet, this time I made the mistake of being too naïve and straight-hearted. My old friend, Prefect Vivcenzo Parisi, was the police chief for just a few days. In my naivety, I found it right to inform him about the time and place of the Holy Father’s scheduled stay. Although Prefect Parisi was a very discreet person, he probably considered it right to inform about the Pope’s arrival the Prefect of Akwila region. This, unfortunately, was the cause of the total fiasco of the trip. Already during the night, my co-workers on duty who were watching near the John Paul II apartment noticed some strange shadows on the bell tower of one of the churches that was in this town. They informed me about it in the very early morning, and concerned I went immediately to this place to check it out. I did not notice anything suspicious there. Around 9:00 a.m., John Paul went to the slope. Precisely, he went to a ski slope called Valturvema. The inspectorate’s agents were always in discreet distance behind the Pope, but never too far away. We didn’t want to be in a way and to give the impression that our protection in any way limits his movements. They were great skiers and experts of the secrets and dangers waiting for an inexperienced skier in the mountains. (…) How surprised we were this morning when we noticed that just behind the Holy Father were skiing three police officers (dei Carabinieri) recognizable in their uniforms. My concerns about the entire situation increased. Unfortunately, it turned out that this was just the beginning of problems. After a few minutes, another skier in the uniform approached agent Zambelle and asked him about the important guest whom he was supposed to protect during skiing. Clever Zambelle completely denied that there was a need to protect anybody, and in order to dismiss any suspicions he said that he was a ski instructor from Cortina d’Ampezzo and he came to Ovindoli with several friends to try out the slopes here and give their opinion on their possible usefulness to have ski competitions. The agent did not believe to the Zambelle’s story and attempted to get closer to the Holy Father, which was prevented by my other agents.
Enrico Marinelli * “Pope and his General”
‘Rafael’ Publishing House 2007