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VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Recent popes have had a special affection for Our Lady of Fatima, but no pope's connection can match that of St. John Paul II.
"We cannot forget that he was saved by Our Lady of Fatima from the assassination attempt here in St. Peter's. This is fundamental and central. It is never forgotten," Portuguese Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, former prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, told Catholic News Service March 29.
Mehmet Ali Agca, a Turk, shot Pope John Paul at close range as the pope was greeting a crowd in St. Peter's Square on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, May 13, 1981.
Two bullets pierced the pope's abdomen, but no major organs were struck; a bullet had missed his heart and aorta by a few inches.
St. John Paul would later say, "It was a mother's hand that guided the bullet's path."
That miracle, the cardinal said, is key in "understanding well Pope John Paul's devotion to Our Lady of Fatima."
Given the date of the assassination attempt, the pope specifically credited Our Lady of Fatima with his miraculous survival and recovery. Several months later, he visited the site of the apparitions, the first of three visits he would make as pope to Fatima.
For St. John Paul, Cardinal Saraiva Martins said, "Our Lady of Fatima was everything," and his three visits to the Portuguese town were those of a grateful son to the mother who saved his life.