Friday, March 03, 2006

Did the Soviet Union Try to Kill the Pope?

On Thursday, an Italian parliamentary investigation reached the conclusion that the Soviet Union was behind the assassination attempt on pope Paul John II, 13 May 1981, according to RFE/RL Newsline.

The investigation "believes, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the leadership of the Soviet Union took the initiative to eliminate Pope John Paul. 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."

In a reply to the charges, Boris Labusov, spokesman of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), characterises the Italian allegations as "absurd". The Italian opposition also claims that the investigation forms part of an attempt by Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi to discredit the leftist parties in the run up to Italian general elections next month. Thus, the investigation report, due to be delivered to parliament only later this month, was leaked in advance to Reuters, the Guardian reports.

Allegations that the Soviet Union was behind the assassination attempt are not new. Already in 1986, Italian prosecutors failed to prove these charges due to lack of evidence. The Italian investigation, however, brings new attention to this line of inquiry, which adds to speculations on how hot the Cold War became in relations between soviet secret services and the Vatican. That soviet leaders saw pope John Paul II as a threat to stability in and soviet reign over Central and Eastern Europe is clear. The question remains if they would have risked even comtemplating a move as reckless and risky as killing the pope. Until proven elsewise, such speculations must therefore be considered a peculiar conspiracy theory.

Earlier this year, the would be assassin, Turkish citizen Mehmet Ali Agca, was temporarily released from jail, having served a 20-year sentence. This provoked widespread international protests, and Agca was again brought into police custody. Agca, a Turkish nationalist, was long considered insane and his attempt on the pope as an act of a madman. In his last book before he passed away last year, pope John Paul II, however, claimed that the attempt on his life was no madman's act and that "someone else masterminded it and someone else commissioned it". It thus looks as if the "pope murder conspiracy" will be a recurrent story also in the future.


Alcuin Bramerton said...

Perhaps the Pope tried to kill the Soviet Union.

jane said...

Have you read Tower of Secrets by Victor Sheymov? (link)It's the memoir of a KGB defector, and I found it fascinating. I remember that he mentions this, although I don't remember if he said that they *did* attempt the assassination, or if they simply discussed it as an option.

Vilhelm Konnander said...

Dear Jane,

Thank you for your comment. It is always illuminating to get additional knowledge. Thus, I have not read Victor Sheymov's memoirs. I must admit, I have always had diffculties with the secret services, while one never knows what is true or false. Today, of course, this is perhaps a mistake in view of who rules Russia, but old habits - keeping the "spy world at arm's length - die hard. The question is if this alters my conclusion that it is unlikely that the Soviet Union was behind the assasination attempt at the pope. Plans may well have existed, but there must reasonably have been a political go ahead before they could get implemented. From a political point of view, killing the pope seems sheer madness to me, but one never knows. If I had been a soviet politician at that time, I would though have considered the proposition of killing the pope as lunacy. Well, perhaps I am dead wrong, but this is waht I think till it has been proven differently.



Lyndon said...

Vilhelm, your blog looks like a quality addition to the Russia-related blogosphere - thanks! This post, I must confess, made me think only of Vysotsky's satirical song, "A Lecture on the International Situation, Delivered by Someone Imprisoned for 15 Days for Minor Hooliganism to his Cellmates" (yes, the title is really that long). Recommended reading for anyone who knows Russian -