Friday 13 May 2016

Record of the Week: The Pope Recovers

On this day in 1981, the Church and the world were shocked and saddened when Pope Saint John Paul II was shot while riding in an open vehicle through a crowded St. Peter's Square. It was just one in a spate of shootings at the time; John Lennon, Ronald Regan and Anwar Sadat were all victims within the same year.

In Toronto, Catholics and people from other faiths came together to pray for the Pope's recovery. His importance as a leader and advocate for peace was widely recognized.

Cardinal Carter considered Pope Saint John Paul a friend. In a letter dated June 8th, 1981, he wrote,

"You burst upon the scene of history like a meteor. Your charisma appears to be exactly what a tired world required. And we observed with admiration, and even awe, the impact which you were making on all parts of the world and in all realms of thought even among people who are far from sharing in our religious convictions. The concept of your being eliminated by this thoughtless act appeared to me to be intolerable. But I must confess that in all humility I offered myself in your place. I immediately decreed a public Mass in my Cathedral in thanksgiving for your salvation and in petition for your prompt and perfect reestablishment. I preached myself and one of the things which I said and which seems to have been very much appreciated by the gathering, which included the Greek and Anglican hierarchy, was that you were such a man that there could be no doubt that when you took the See of Peter you also offered your life in all its dimensions. And I said, "This is a very dangerous thing to say to the Lord because sometimes He takes us at our word. therefore the Pope was ready and is ready to die for the Church." This is a form of martyrdom and it is not underneath your capacity. The willingness after all is the real baptism of blood."

In reply, the Pope sent the letter below:

Signed letter from Pope Saint John Paul II.

September 18, 1981
Cardinal Carter Fonds

The Pope recovered fully, and went on to lead an exceptional Papacy for 24 more years. After this incident however, his security was taken more seriously (he was previously one of the most accessible Popes in history), and his 'Popemobile' was fitted with bulletproof glass.

Pope Saint John Paul II set an amazing example for us in 1983 when he visited his shooter in prison and personally forgave him. Although the shooter was sentenced to life in prison, he was pardoned by the Italian president at the Pope's request in 2000.

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