Soviets 'ordered Pope shooting'

Mar. 02, 2006

An Italian parliamentary commission has concluded that the former Soviet Union was behind the 1981 assassination attempt on the late Pope John Paul II.

The head of the commission, Paolo Guzzanti, said it was sure beyond "reasonable doubt" that Soviet leaders ordered the shooting.

Turkish national Mehmet Ali Agca, now 48, shot the Pope in St Peter's Square on 13 May 1981, hitting him four times.

Agca never gave a motive, and mystery has continued to surround the shooting.

A link between Agca and Bulgarian agents, and through them to the Soviet Union's KGB, has been the subject of speculation over the years.

Solidarity links

The commission released the final draft of its report to journalists on Thursday.

"This commission believes, beyond all reasonable doubt, that the leaders of the USSR took the initiative to eliminate Pope Karol Wojtyla," the report said.

Soviet leaders "communicated this decision to the military secret service in order that it carry out the necessary operations", it continued.

The commission said the Soviet Union felt the Pope was a danger because of his support for the democracy-linked Solidarity labour movement in Poland, his native country.

It also said that it had photographic evidence showing a Bulgarian man, one of six men acquitted in 1986 of orchestrating the assassination attempt, was in St Peter's Square at the time of the shooting.

The findings came from a commission set up to investigate Cold War secrets revealed by Vasili Mitrokhin, a KGB archivist who defected to the UK in 1992.

Agca served nearly 20 years in an Italian jail for the crime. He is currently in prison in Turkey for the murder of a journalist.

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