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Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Pope Paul VI almost died at Manila airport when he was attacked by a Bolivian artist dressed as a priest.

In the morning of November 27, 1970 at the Manila International Airport , a certain Benjamin Mendoza of Bolivia dressed as a priest lunged at Pope Paul VI with a dagger shortly after the Pope disembarked from his chartered DC-8 jet at the airport in Manila.However, the Pope was only lightly stabbed and Mendoza was subdued and arrested.

Much have been written about who really saved Pope Paul VI   during this attempt on his life on that day. Here are several accounts:
Ferdinand Marcos (here with wife Imelda) was president of the Philippines from 1965 to 1986

Ferdinand Marcos’ version (excerpts) as written in his diary on the evening of Nov. 27, 1970:

“....I probably saved the life of Pope Paul VI this morning five to ten minutes after his arrival at 9.30 a.m. at MIA via Alitalia. A certain Benjamin Mendoza of Bolivia..... tried to stab the Pope with a foot-long Arab-looking kris-dagger with an eight-inch-long blade which was blackened deliberately....

"I was slightly behind and to the left of the Pope....Suddenly this Mendoza pushed his way to within one meter to the right front of the Pope. He was dressed as a priest and was holding on the palm of his right hand a box with a crucifix on top of it....I ran or took two steps to the right rear of the Pope, parried the hand of Mendoza which had lunged towards the Pope, with my left hand, and hit the arm with a karate right hand chop and at the same time pushing the Pope backwards and out of the way of the dagger thrust with my left hand. There was a bishop to my front who blocked my way and must have received the right foot kick that I threw at Mendoza afterwards (towards his scrotum). I did manage to kick Mendoza in the shin of the left leg and he lost his balance......"

“My karate chop had dislodged the dagger from his hand and the Pope whom I pushed a second time lost his balance backward into the arms of Imelda, who was right behind, who held him up, otherwise he would have fallen to the ground."

Artist Benjamin Mendoza Photo copyright by Ron Laytner and Edit International.
Benjamin Mendoza during a short press conference ; NBI headquarters on November 28, 1970: 

Mendoza said, "I feel disappointed for failing to kill the pope and would do it again if given another chance." Immediately, the NBI added the charge of grave threat to his list of offenses. But Mendoza scored some points for leniency by establishing once and for all who actually gave the disputed karate chop:

"Although I thought then it was President Marcos who parried my hands, I was not very sure about it. But when I saw the pictures you [NBI Director Bugarin] showed me, I am convinced it was really he [ FM] who prevented my killing the pope. Sorry, sorry about the disappointment."

....made no mention of the Marcos karate chop and suggested that a Korean Cardinal parried the blow, everyone was confused. Marcos was visibly irritated when asked to comment. He described the report as "ridiculous" and snapped, "Why don't they ask the persons who know? Why don't they ask the man [Mendoza] himself?"
Pasquale Macchi, Pope Paul VI personal secretary Bangor Daily News - Sep 24, 1979:

Monsignor Macchi......broke nine years of total papal silence on the attack with a 13-inch dagger......After I pushed backed the attacker, who had wounded Paul on the chest, fortunately not lethally....."

Below is a video footage of the actual incident in an article "Video: Footage of the Assassination Attempt on Pope Paul VI’s Life" which mentioned that "The man was subdued by the pope's personal secretary, Pasquale Macchi." 

Manila Chronicle reporter Alex Allan (right) carrying Bolivian Benjamin Mendoza (center), who tried to kill Pope Paul VI. The photo appeared on the front page of The Manila Chronicle on November 28, 1970. Photo courtesy of the Lopez Museum

 Alex Allan, reporter for "The Manila Chronicle,":

Alex Allan, a young reporter for "The Manila Chronicle" during the incident, wore a local police officer's uniform "illegally" as he wanted to cover the arrival of the pope but failed to get a media pass. Ironically, the head of Task Force Holy Father himself, Metrocom Chief, General Mariano Ordonez, gave Allan the uniform since he ran out of Media passes to give.

Within minutes of the pope’s arrival, Allan found himself two feet away from the pontiff and his would-be assassin—and yes, President Ferdinand Marcos and First Lady Imelda Marcos. He saw the Bolivian artist attack the pope with a 9-inch kris (a dagger with a wavy blade). Mendoza was pushed to the ground by the pope’s secretary, Monsignor Pascale Macci. The 38-year-old Bolivian artist later received a karate blow by Stephen Cardinal Kim of Korea.

From there, Allan, a certain Sergeant Balacqua and Ordonez would take over. After Mendoza was subdued, he was brought  to the van and then to a safe house. As Allan was about to write his story that day, he was instructed by  Ordonez to write that "It was Marcos who blocked him and karate chopped him. And it was Imelda who picked up the knife.’” Allan said he didn't have the stomach for a tall tale. “I know what happened. He knows what happened. I couldn't say that Marcos did it, because he didn't do it.”

Anthony Dennis Galvin, Bishop of Sarawak, on December 1, 1970,:

Galvin, who was literally an arm's length away from the pope when the incident occurred, said he could "not remember seeing President Marcos give the Bolivian painter a karate chop and kick." He issued a statement in Singapore that said in part:

It was one of the two papal security guards who played the vital role of saving the Pope, for he stuck out his hand to parry the attacker's lunge and pushed him away -- right into my arms...I stretched out my arms, folded them around the man and pulled him further backwards, while presidential security men grabbed the man's hand and tugged him away.

What really happened? You be the judge....

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