Thirty-five years after Saint John Paul II was shot in St. Peter’s Square, a witness from the front rows of the security barricades says that the now-canonized Pope offers an example – and a challenge – of forgiveness for children who witness violence.
For witnesses and victims of violence, many experience the temptation of hopelessness, despair and even hatred, David DePerro told CNA in an interview.
“Then you think of John Paul visiting Mehmet Ali Agca,” DePerro said, pointing to the Pope’s visit to the man who attempted to assassinate him on May 13, 1981. “In that respect, it’s extremely annoying,” DePerro said with a laugh, “because you have to forgive. You just have to.”
May 13, 1981
In 1981, David DePerro was nine years old, living with his siblings and parents in Würzburg, West Germany, where his father was stationed as a member of the U.S. Army. In May of that year, his family took their second trip to Rome along with a tour group from the Army base. As one of three children, David was paired as seat mates with a young priest, Fr. Rachly, for the entirety of the bus ride from West Germany to Italy.
On May 13, the group went to the Pope’s weekly Wednesday audience, and “all the kids crowded up to the front” in order to shake hands with the Pope and wave as he drove by in the Popemobile. David and his siblings were up against the security barricade along the open-air vehicle’s route in St. Peter’s square, and the Pope drove by as they reached out. Several minutes later, the Popemobile circled back so Pope John Paul II could greet the children and faithful gathered on the other side of the aisle cleared out for the vehicle’s route.
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