Soviet spies sent an assassin to Poland to kill the Pope during the Cold War to try and prevent the collapse of the Iron Curtain, it has been claimed.
Soviets feared that the Catholic church in Poland had become the focus for the resistance to their dwindling rule and planned to kill Pope John Paul II when he visited his home country in 1987.
Soviet Military Intelligence set up a Bulgarian assassin with secret details of the Pope’s itinerary and train tickets to where he was due to speak, but he was betrayed by his Catholic wife.
The woman confessed to her priest Zdzislaw Krol who alerted the police.
Officers later arrested the assassin.
Last night Father Krol said: ‘A woman told me that she had information of a possible assassination attempt.
‘A husband or life partner of this woman, of Bulgarian origin, was in the possession of plans of the Pope’s route through Poland’s most holy city Czestochowa as well some train tickets. I called the security officials after which the would-be assassin was arrested.’
It is believed the Russians wanted the dead because of his fiercely anti-communist stance which was hastening the collapse of their rule in Eastern Europe.
Several Cold War historians have credited John Paul with mobilising spiritual resistance to communism with his return to Poland in 1979.
Jan Zaryn, historian at the Polish Institute of the National Remembrance – set up to investigate war crimes committed by the Nazis and Soviets – confirmed the assassination attempt in 1987 from their files.
He said: ‘The assassination plans could have been a provocation and set up by the communist secret services, in their quest to control the church in Poland, which during the 1980s had become the focus for much of the opposition movement.’
Father Krol is now chancellor of the Warsaw Metropolitan Curia – a leading Polish Catholic body and accompanied the Pope on his groundbreaking tours to Poland in the 1980’s.
He also disclosed that during the Pope’s second pilgrimage to Poland in 1983, he received information of another assassination attempt, this time to take place at a mass at Warsaw’s 10th Anniversary Stadium.
He said the source was a person at the Austrian embassy who claimed that three fugitives from a German prison linked to the left-wing Red Brigade had managed to get into Poland and were planning to kill the Pope.
In 1981, John Paul II was shot and critically wounded in St Peter’s Square by Turk Mehmet Ali Agca, an expert gunman.
On 2 March, 2006, an Italian parliamentary commission, set up by Silvio Berlusconi, concluded that the Soviet Union was behind the 1981 attempt on John Paul II’s life in retaliation for the pope’s support of Solidarity, the Catholic, pro-democratic Polish workers’ movement, a theory supported by the CIA.
The Italian report stated security departments in communist-controlled Bulgaria were used to prevent the Soviet Union’s role from being uncovered, and said Soviet Military Intelligence was responsible.
Mehmet Ali Ağca later admitted he had two Bulgarian accomplices in Rome at the time, including Zilo Vassilev, the Bulgarian military attaché in Italy.