>Blast from the Past File: Italian commission confirms KGB’s role in pope shooting

>Several revelations have emerged in the last three years confirming assertions made shortly after the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II, namely, that the death plot was masterminded by the KGB, contrary to the howls of protest that rose from leftist journalists at the time.

Regarding JP2’s anti-communist credentials I have mixed feelings. While I have not unearthed any hard information that would implicate Karol Wojtyla as a communist agent, the pope’s support for the communist-controlled Solidarity labor union actually facilitated the perestroika deception in Poland, in which communists abandoned the public monopoly of power in that country.

Intriguingly, KGB defector Anatoliy Golitsyn in New Lies for Old (1984) questions the contention that the KGB orchestrated the assassination attempt on JP2 (pages 351-254). He affirms that the KGB would not have contracted the death plot to the Bulgarian secret service but, rather, undertaken the task with its own reliable agents or Polish ones. On the first point, I diverge from Golitsyn who, in response to new revelations, might reverse his position. On the second point, I might be inclined to agree.

In his second book, The Perestroika Deception (1995, 1998), Golitsyn urges readers to consider the possibility that the KGB was behind the assassination of John Paul II’s predecessor, John Paul I, who occupied that office for barely a month in 1978. “In the present phase,” he writes, “secret agents in the Catholic and other churches are being used to implement Communist strategy. When they achieve their Communist world victory, they will use mass withdrawal of their agents to disrupt and destroy the churches” (pages 116-117).

Following this line of thinking, one could develop a thesis in which the KGB rubbed out JP1 in order to install their candidate, a controlled dissident, a figure that is the subject of much analysis in both New Lies for Old and The Perestroika Deception. This thesis would also entail fixing the electoral process of the College of Cardinals that selects the pope. The subsequent assassination attempt on JP2 in 1981, then, could be viewed as a failed attempt to murder the controlled dissident who, for various reasons, is no longer fulfilling Kremlin objectives.

One can only speculate at this time. Some traditionalist Roman Catholics, it should be noted, affirm that the Vatican was infiltrated by communists decades ago.

While John Paul II publicly expressed in 2002 his disbelief in the “Bulgarian connection,” in his last book the pope acknowledged that the gunman Mehmet Ali Agca, now released from his Turkish prison, was a pawn and intimated that some other entity masterminded the death plot. (See earlier blogs on this subject.)

Soviet Union ordered Pope shooting: Italy commission
Thu Mar 2, 2006 8:50 AM ET
By Philip Pullella
ROME (Reuters)

Leaders of the former Soviet Union were behind the assassination attempt against Pope John Paul II in 1981, an Italian parliamentary investigative commission said in a report.

A final draft of the report, which is due to be presented to parliament later this month, was made available to Reuters on Thursday by the commission president, Senator Paolo Guzzanti.

“This commission believes, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the leadership of the Soviet Union took the initiative to eliminate Pope John Paul,” the report said.

“They relayed this decision to the military secret services for them to take on all necessary operations to commit a crime of unique gravity, without parallel in modern times,” it said.

The report also says “some elements” of the Bulgarian secret services were involved but that this was an attempt to divert attention away from the Soviet Union’s alleged key role.

A 36-page chapter on the assassination attempt was included in a wider report by parliament’s Mitrokhin Commission, which probed the revelations of Vasili Mitrokhin, a senior Soviet archivist during the Cold War who defected to Britain in 1992.

The Pope was shot in St Peter’s Square on May 13, 1981 by Turkish gunman Mehmet Ali Agca, who was arrested minutes later and convicted of attempted murder.

At the time of the shooting, events in the Pope’s Polish homeland were starting a domino effect which was eventually to lead to the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe in 1989.

The Pope was a staunch supporter of Poland’s Solidarity union and most historians agree he played a vital role in events that led to the formation of the East Bloc’s first freely elected government and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

LACK OF EVIDENCE

At a trial in 1986, Italian prosecutors failed to prove charges that Bulgarian secret services had hired Agca to kill the Pope on behalf of the Soviet Union.

The report said “Bulgarian authorities at the time lied as did the witnesses they sent” and added that “responsibility of some elements” of Bulgarian secret services “certainly exists”.

In Sofia, the government rejected the report’s assertions.

For Bulgaria, this case closed with the court decision in Rome in March 1986,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Dimitar Tsanchev said. He also referred to comments made by the late Pope who said during a visit to Bulgaria in May 2002 that he never believed in the Bulgarian connection.

Guzzanti, a senator in Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party, said the commission decided to re-open the report’s chapter on the assassination attempt in 2005 after the Pope wrote about it in his last book before dying.

In that book, the Pope said he was convinced the shooting was not Agca’s initiative and that “someone else masterminded it and someone else commissioned it”.

Guzzanti said his commission heard from investigators in Italy and elsewhere who had probed both the assassination attempt as well as other Cold War-era crimes.

He said the commission had photographic evidence that Sergei Antonov, a Bulgarian cleared of conspiracy at the 1986 trial, was in St Peter’s Square with Agca when the Pope was shot.

“We gave the pictures to two independent experts who analyzed them with computers and both concluded that the man was Antonov who had claimed to be in his office at the time,” he said.

The photos first emerged in the 1980s but lawyers for Antonov, who worked in the Rome office of Bulgaria’s state airline, said the man was a tourist who resembled him.

(Additional reporting by Michael Winfrey in Sofia)

Link: Reuters

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