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KGB ordered Pope's assassination, new documents show March 30, 2005

The files of the old East German secret service contain documents confirming that the Soviet Union ordered the May 13, 1981 attempt on the life of Pope John Paul II, Italian newspapers are reporting.

Two newspapers, Corriere della Sera and il Giornale , are reporting that files from the Stasi, the East German spy agency, confirm the suspicions long held by Vatican officials. Documents in newly opened files show that the KGB, the Soviet spy agency, ordered the assassination attempt, which was carried out by the Bulgarian secret service.

Dimitar Tzonev, a spokesman for the Bulgarian government, said that officials in Sofia are ready to hand over their secret-service archives to the Italian commission charged with investigating the assassination attempt, which was carried out by Mehmet Ali Agca. An Italian parliamentary commission is also carrying out an investigation of KGB recruitment in Italy.

Corriere della Sera reports that the Soviet service gave the order to assassinate John Paul II, and Bulgarian agents recruited Agca for the effort. That report confirms a theory that was advanced by the Pope himself, in his book, Memory and Identity; the Pope wrote that he was convinced Agca was not acting on his own initiative, "but someone else planned and commanded it." Almost immediately after the attack-- in which Pope John Paul was shot and seriously wounded after his weekly public audience in St. Peter's Square-- Vatican officials quietly advanced the theory that the Soviet Union had authorized the assassination attempt. Italian investigators soon found evidence of ties between Agca and Bulgarian spy officers. But to date there has been no conclusive proof of Soviet involvement.

Mehmet Ali Agca, who served 19 years of a life sentence in Italian prisons, was handed over to prison officials in his native Turkey in June 2000. He is now serving a prison term there for a murder committed before the attack on John Paul II.

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