May 13, 1981. Turkish gunman Mehmet Ali Ağca shoots Pope John Paul II in the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Square. Ağca fired several times before being overpowered by a bodyguard and other bystanders. The Pope was hit by two bullets in the intestine, one in his hand and one in his arm. Despite heavy blood loss, he survived. Ağca’s motives still remain unclear as he has changed his story many times over the years. Many believe he was hired by Soviet and Bulgarian secret services because of John Paul II’s support for the Polish ‘Solidarity’ movement. Others claim Western secret services were behind the plot and wanted it blamed on eastern bloc communist governments. The Pope forgave Ağca, visited him in jail and secured his early release from prison in 2000. Ağca then served time in prison in Turkey for prior offences including murder before being released in 2010.
Also on May 13: Brazil abolishes slavery (1888); The start of cycling’s first Giro d’Italia (1909); the first ever Formula One world championship race at Silverstone (1950).
Born on May 13: Daphne du Maurier (1907), Joe Louis (1913), Harvey Keitel (1939), Stevie Wonder (1950).