The bullet that pierced the body of John Paul II, as well as the papal belt through which the bullet went and cassock and even the T-shirt are the thanksgiving votive offerings for saving the Holy Father’s life and today they are also precious relics.
In the first days after the assassination of May 13, 1981, Pope John Paul II associated the saving of his life with the intercession of the Mother of God, Who on May 13, 1917 appeared to three shepherds in Fatima. On the first anniversary of the tragic events on St. Peter’s Square, the Holy Father went on a thanksgiving pilgrimage to the Shrine in Fatima, where he left the bullet by which he was seriously injured.
The bullet was placed in the crown of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima. The crown itself dates back to 1942 (it was a votive offering of Portuguese women for Portugal’s neutrality during World War II) and is crowned with a cross placed on a blue ball symbolizing Earth. Interestingly, for years it was characterized by a round empty space. On May 13, 1982, in a crack located under a miniature globe, John Paul II inserted the bullet that fit in diameter.
A few minutes after the shots on St. Peter’s Square, John Paul II was taken to the Gemelli Polyclinic. The Pope was placed on the operating table. Bloody clothes were removed from him. Today, they are valuable relics, to which people in Częstochowa, Rome, and Krakow pay homage.
On June 19, 1983, during the pilgrimage to Poland, John Paul II gave the belt through which the bullet went to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Częstochowa. During the Jasna Góra Appeal he said: “On May 13, it has been two years since this afternoon when You saved my life. It was on St. Peter’s Square. There, during the general audience, a shot that was supposed to kill me was made. Last year, on May 13th, I was in Fatima to thank and entrust. Today, I want to leave here, in Jasna Góra, a visible sign of this event, a shot cassock belt. “
For over twenty years, the belt was kept in a safe and was not allowed to be seen even by local monks. It wasn’t until June 4, 2004 that it was placed in a silver, glass casket at the Jasna Góra altar next to the Miraculous Image of the Mother of God.
Anna Strenghellini, the head of nurses in the operating room of the Gemelli Polyclinic, was on duty on May 13, 1981. Already after the operation, organizing the surgical instruments, she saw Pope’s bloody undershirt on the floor. She knew that she couldn’t just throw it away with other medical waste. She wrapped it in gauze and kept in a closet. It wasn’t until 2000 that she pulled out this precious item and offered it to the provincial house of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent a Paulo, with whom she has been associated for years.
Today, this precious relic is exhibited in the Chapel of the Dauhters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul Home at Via Francesco Albergotti 75 in Rome. There are three bullet holes visible on the bloody underwear (apparently the T-shirt had to be bent so that the bullet left so many marks) and the initials “JP” embroidered right next to the label with a red thread by nuns who were serving the Pope
The last publicly displayed relic related to the assassination attempt of John Paul II was the papal cassock which the Holy Father was wearing on May 13, 1981 during the audience at St. Peter’s Square. Polish nuns of the Sacred Heart who were serving the Pope took it from Gemelli Polyclinic.
For the first time, the producers of the documentary film “The Apartment” asked for it. The sight of the bloody cassock again made a great impression on Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, former papal Secretary. At the time, the Archbishop of Krakow, after the canonization of the Holy Father, decided to transfer it to the Sanctuary of St. John Paul II in Krakow, where already for several years it has been exhibited in the upper church.