by Viviane Hewitt in Rome
POPE John Paul II would prefer that the whole truth behind the attempt on his life 10 years ago remain under wraps to avoid creating difficulties for Soviet supremo Mikhail Gorbachev. The Vatican hierarchy is convinced that the KGB organised the St Peter's Square shooting on May 13 1981 and that Bulgaria, and probably Czechoslovakia, were mere "pawns" in the assassination bid.
But the Pope's intention "is to cast no light on the murder attempt," said veteran Vatican diplomat in eastern Europe, Cardinal Silvio Oddi.
His remarks contain the latest revelations about the so-called Bulgarian connection with the shootings in Italy, where the third inquiry into the assassination bid is under way, and in the United States.
Cardinal Oddi, now retired, said he had received a letter from would-be papal assassin Mehrnet Ali Agca three weeks after the shooting. The former right wing Turkish terrorist, now aged 36 and serving a life sentence in Italy, told the cardinal that his act "had no anti-Catholic, communist or personal ends." Agca said that he was a killer who followed orders on the payment of a considerable amount of money.
"I continue to believe that the Kremlin commissioned the attempt and I maintain that the Bulgarian or perhaps the Czechoslovakian secret services were involved, but only as pawns. The KGB was certainly at the peak of the pyramid," said Cardinal Oddi, a former apostolic nuncio in eastern Europe and, at the time of the papal shooting, Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy.
The cardinal's claims, however, come as a senate select committee in the United States was questioning the nomination of Robert Gates as director of the Central Intelligence Agency