John Paul II Foundation
📷 AP/ EAST NEWS

That day… – a desperate race against time

That day?…Each time I go back to that event, I always have the same feeling; always.  I live through it from the very beginning, a moment after moment; the way as I still could not believe that it truly happened.  That there was an attempt to kill the Pope, this Pope, John Paul II, in the exact heart of Christianity.

The Jeep was just ending the second lap around the St. Peter’s Square, approaching the right Colonnade, which is crowned by the Bronze Gate.  The Holy Father leaned out of the car in the direction of the girl with blond hair, who was above the crowd in the attempt to give her to the Holy Father.  Her name was Sara; she was barely two years old; she was holding a colorful balloon in her hand.  The Pope took her and picked up, as if he wanted to present her to everybody, then he kissed her and smiling he handed her down to parents.  It was 5:19 p.m.  This was restored later.  In fine weather, general audiences were held on the square in the afternoon.  That was also on that day, May 13, 1981.  I was amused by the view of the mother’s hands and the father who were reaching their chubby treasure.  I even did not hear too well the first shot.  I just noticed hundreds of pigeons that unexpectedly, scared, started to fly away.  Immediately after this there was the second shot.  At the moment, when I heard it, the Holy Father limply started to slide to the side, directly into my arms.  Instinctively, I looked into the direction from which the shots came, though really I was able to see it later on in photos and in television shots.   In the midst of disruption a young man with dark features was struggling.  After some time, I learned that it was the assassin, Turk Mahmet Ali Agca.  Going back to that moment, I believe that I looked at this entire struggle not to see, not to acknowledge, the terrible situation, which just happened; and, which I “felt” in my arms.  I was trying to support the Pope, although he made such an impression as he gave up; gently; marked with pain, but calm. I asked: “Where?”  He replied: “in the stomach.”  “Does it hurt?” He said” “Hurts.”  The first bullet, piercing the colon and small intestine in several places, destroyed his belly, then – passing through his body – felt inside the Jeep.  The second bullet, once it wiped out the right elbow and broke the index finger of the left hand, injured two American tourists.  Someone shouted to take him to the ambulance.  But, the ambulance was on the other side of the Square.  The Jeep went quickly through the Gate of Silver Bells, then along the Foundation Street, went around the Basilica’s apse, headed down the tunnel, it made it to the courtyard of the Belvedere and finally reached the Vatican’s Health Services where there was already alerted doctor Renato Buzzonetti, personal doctor of the Holy Father.  They took the Holy Father from my arms and placed him on the floor in the hallway of the building.  Only then, we saw the huge amount of blood that flowed from the gunshot wound.  Buzzonetti bended his knees asking if he could move his legs.  He moved them.  The doctor ordered to immediately take him to the Gemelli Polyclinic.  It was not a random choice, but previously well-thought-out decision in case of the need to put the Holy Father in the hospital.  The ambulance, which meantime, arrived at the infirmary, pulled away with the maximum speed.  This way, the desperate race against time through the Viale delle Medaglie D’Oro Street started.  The sirens were not working, there were a lot of people on the street, so the driver continuously pressed the horn.

Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz – “Testimony” 

 TBA Publisher, Warszawa 2007