Gun used against Pope John Paul II to be exhibited

By the Associated Press | March 19, 2014 | 12:05 PM EDT

CORRECTS CREDIT TO ALITALIA - This photo provided by Alitalia shows the Browning HP 9mm handgun used to shoot Pope John Paul II in the abdomen in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, on May 13, 1981. Alitalia Flight 488 landed in Krakow, Poland on Tuesday, March 18, 2014 with some very special cargo on board: The gun used to shoot Pope John Paul II. Monsignor Dariusz Ras, the Polish priest who runs the John Paul II museum in the late pope's childhood home in Wadowice, transported the pistol from Rome to Poland for the museum's upcoming exhibit in honor of John Paul's April 27 canonization, Alitalia said. Mehmet Ali Agca used the Browning HP 9mm handgun to shoot John Paul in the abdomen in St. Peter's Square on May 13, 1981. The pope spent nearly three weeks in the hospital recovering. (AP Photo/Alitalia)

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The gun used by a would-be assassin to shoot Pope John Paul II will be on display at a museum dedicated to the pontiff as a sign of God's protection of him, according to priests in charge of the museum.

John Paul II, who died in 2005, is to be proclaimed as a saint April 27 at the Vatican and the museum is preparing a new exhibition for the occasion.

Monsignor Jacek Pietruszka said Wednesday that many people wonder why trained assassin Mehmet Ali Agca, firing a Browning HP 9mm handgun from close range, injured but did not kill the pope in St. Peter's Square on May 13, 1981.

"We believe that the pope was saved to continue his mission," museum's deputy director Pietruszka told The Associated Press.

"The gun is a sign of God's Providence," he said.

The Polish-born pope spent nearly three weeks at a Rome hospital recovering from injuries to his abdomen and from massive loss of blood.

The gun — on three-year lease from Rome's penal authorities — and a replica of the bullet will be among "witnesses" to the happy and sad moments in the late pope's life that will be documented at the multi-media museum in John Paul's childhood home in Wadowice, in southern Poland.

The hospital where he recovered also offered exhibits, Pietruszka said, but refused to specify.

The current, small exhibition at the house where the pope was born in 1920 as Karol Wojtyla, will close this week to give room for the expanded museum that will reopen on April 9.

John Paul pardoned Agca, who was released from prison in 2010.