The gun used in an assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II is to be displayed in the late pontiff’s childhood home in Poland, ahead of his expected canonization next month.
Italy’s Justice Ministry has loaned the weapon, a Browning 9mm, to the John Paul II Museum in his hometown, Wadowice, for three years.
“It is a dark, dark object,” the museum’s director, Reverend Darius Ras, told CNN. “But it is important for the historical memory of events in the life of John Paul II.”
Would-be assassin Mehmet Ali Agca used the firearm to shoot the then-Pope in the abdomen, arm and hand, as he was driven through St Peter’s Square, Rome on May 13, 1981.
Pope John Paul II suffered life-threatening injuries in the attack, but recovered after undergoing major surgery; he later forgave Agca after meeting him in prison.
Agca, who has never fully explained the reasons behind his attempt to kill John Paul II, was jailed for life; he was pardoned in 2000 after almost 20 years behind bars, and deported back to Turkey.
The gun, which is being taken to Poland by Ras, will be one of the key exhibits in the museum’s new displays about John Paul’s life when it reopens on April 9, 2014.
The museum will also show the furniture used in the Pope’s room at Rome’s Gemelli Hospital, during his final stay there, shortly before his death in 2005.
His hospital bed, a chair and side table, along with a sketch of his face, which had been on the wall near his bed, have been kept in storage at the hospital for the past nine years.
Pope John Paul II is to be canonized on April 27, 2014, alongside Pope John XXIII.