“There is no evidence that the attack on Pope John Paul II on 13 May 1981 was backed by Ayatollah Khomeini,” said Vatican press spokesman Reverend Federici Lombardi, in an interview with Polish Radio.
The Vatican was compelled to speak out after the Pope's would-be Turkish assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca, published a book in Italy on Friday about the crime.
In I Was Promised Paradise: My Life and the Truth Behind the Attack Against the Pope, Agca claimed that he was indoctrinated in Iran after escaping from a Turkish prison where he had been serving time for assassinating a journalist.
Agca wrote in the book that Ayatollah Khomeini himself called on him to kill the Polish pontiff.
“You have to kill the pope in the name of Allah. You have to kill the devil's mouthpiece on earth," Ali Agca quoted the former Iranian leader.
Four bullets from Agca's gun struck the pope as the pontiff moved through crowds outside St. Peter's on 13 May, 1981.
Miraculously, he survived, and Mehmet Ali Agca initially claimed that the Bulgarian secret police were behind the plot.
After he had recovered, Pope John Paul II visited his would-be killer in prison, and forgave him.
Agca claims in the book that he told the pope there and then that Iran was behind the plot.
However, the pope's then secretary, current Archbishop of Krakow Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, has refuted this.
“He [Dziwisz] absolutely denies that the two men spoke about people who ordered the attack or the Ayatollah Khomeini,” Lombardi told Agence France Press.
Agca was finally released from prison in January 2010, after serving 19 years in Italy and a further ten in Turkey.
No theory has been conclusively proved on who was behind the assassination attempt. (nh)