On May 13, 1981, an assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II was made by Mehmet Ali Ağca in St. Peter's Square, Vatican City. The Pope was rushed to the Agostino Gemelli University Polyclinic to undergo emergency surgery and survived. Pope John Paul II was elected Pope following the death of Pope John Paul I, who died only 33 days into his papacy. While the official record states that John Paul I likely died of a heart attack, some believe Pope John Paul I was assassinated.
Mehmet Ali Ağca was restrained by bystanders until the police arrived, and he was eventually sentenced to life in prison. In 1983, Pope John Paul II visited Ağca in prison. The two spoke privately for about twenty minutes and after the visit, Pope John Paul II stated that he pardoned Ağca, but unfortunately, their details conversation would stay forever private.
Because the conversation was kept secret, the true motivations of the would-be assassin remain unknown. Some believe that the Soviet Union was behind the attempt.
A second assassination attempt was made Pope John Paul II's life on May 12, 1982, just a day before the anniversary of the first attempt. When Pope John Paul II was in Fátima, Portugal, a man tried to stab him with a bayonet. This time, the would-be assassin was a Spanish Catholic priest named Juan María Fernández y Krohn. He was opposed to the sweeping changes made throughout the church by the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, believing that the pope was an agent for the Communists.