Thursday, October 16, 2008


Yesterday I blogged on the subject of “how Catholic is Spain?” with the results of a survey carried out for the Vatican.

Today I bring you the up till now secret news that a Catholic priest tried to assassinate Pope John Paul II. Again the source is the Vatican and comes from the memoires of Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, who was a close advisor of the pontiff for almost 40 years including his 27 years as pope.

In May 12 1982 Pope John Paul II visited the Catholic shrine of Fatima in Portugal to give thanks for surviving an assassination attempt on May 13 of the previous year. That is when the Turk Mehmet Ali Agca shot the pontiff in Saint Peter’s square.

An ultra-conservative priest, Juan Fernández Krohn, took the opportunity to stab the pope. The priest was overwhelmed by those around the pontiff and subsequently arrested. The pope was rushed to safety but the stab wound had drawn blood. However his attempt to kill Pope John Paul II has remained a secret until now with the publication of Dziwisz’s memoires, ‘Testimony’.

Yesterday I touched on the role that the Catholic Church in Spain played as an integral part of the Franco regime. Although Pope John Paul II is perhaps perceived as “conservative” in the wider world he started his papacy very much as a “liberal” hence, no doubt, this ultra-right priest’s attempt at a deadly intervention.

Although the Catholic Church is seen as the ‘Church of Rome’ Spain has played a major influence in its affairs. The Jesuits, with their church within the church, are of Spanish origin. The infamous Borgia dynasty came from Valencia supplying two popes, Calixtus III and Alexander VI, as well as a saint, but is best known for its corrupt rule of the papacy in renaissance times. “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition”, that was for Monty Python fans, and of course today, we have the ultra-conservative and secretive Catholic organization, Opus Dei, that was brought to the public’s attention in the Da Vinci Code. It was founded in Spain in 1928 by the Roman Catholic priest José María Escrivá who ironically was made a saint by - John Paul II.

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