March 4, 2006 — “Italy at last confirmed this week one of the worst-kept “secrets” of the 20th century: Mehmet Ali Agca – who shot and almost killed Pope John Paul II on May 13, 1981 – was indirectly hired for the hit by Soviet military intelligence.

Nearly a year ago, Italian media reported that newly discovered Cold War-era documents revealed that the Soviets ordered the assassination attempt, contracting the mission out to Bulgarian agents, who hired the Turkish Agca.

This week, for the first time, that long-suspected sequence was confirmed by an official government source. Agca shot John Paul II twice as the pontiff rode through a packed St. Peter’s Square; the attack was nearly fatal. Yet the pope did recover and – befitting a man of his character and grace – later forgave and prayed with his attacker.

It was the strength of that character that Moscow feared. That, and the utter certainty that the first Polish pope would strongly oppose any effort to crush Solidarity – the grassroots movement then rising in dramatic opposition to Soviet control of Poland.

Indeed, that the Kremlin masters would go to such lengths to take out the former Karol Wojtyla is testament to how much of a threat his clear voice of moral authority was to their domination of all of Eastern Europe. The man who in his youth stood up to the Nazis had no fear of the failed ideology preached from Moscow. John Paul was the modern, walking repudiation to the mocking jibe of the bloody-handed totalitarian-communism founder, Josef Stalin: “How many divisions does the pope have?”

None. But John Paul didn’t need any. In trying to kill him, the Soviets knew that. John Paul II had a weapon more powerful than the Red Army: moral example. This was a pope unique among 20th-century leaders. By taking his message of tolerance and basic human rights – most notably freedom to worship – around the globe, he provided an inspiration to millions.

He succeeded in outliving the twin failed ideologies of the 20th century: Nazism and communism. He has gone to his well-deserved rest. The Soviet Union – Ronald Reagan’s “evil empire” – lies in the dustbin of history. Today, however, Islamofascism is, in its own way, as dangerous to this century as the two false ideologies were to the last.

Like them, it believes that killing one’s opponents – by bullets, bombing or beheading – is the ideal path to supremacy. Whether – like Nazism and communism – Islamofascism becomes a failed ideology depends on the will of the West. The late Pope John Paul II showed the way.”

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