During an interview, Angelo Gugel also narrates when he witnessed an exorcism that the Polish pope performed in St. Peter’s Square
In an interview with Stefano Lorenzetto in the Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera, Gugel tells how he held John Paul II in his arms during Ali Agca’s assassination attempt in St. Peter’s Square, on May 13, 1981, in addition to being the only person in the world to appear in the Pontifical Yearbook in the list of the “Papal Family.”
Gugel, now nearly 83 years old, who directly served the pope in the Papal apartments for 28 years, narrates how after the assassination attempt in St. Peter’s Square a white stone was embedded into the pavement near Bernini’s colonnade as a memorial of the event. He adds a little-known fact: there is another identical stone, with the pontifical coat of arms, in the atrium of the health care services of the Vatican, where on that fateful day Gugel saw the pope lying on the ground before being taken by ambulance to the Gemelli Polyclinic hospital. The internal bleeding was so serious that the pope needed nearly a gallon of blood. The butler didn’t leave the hospital until the pope came out of surgery.
The former butler tells how the Vicar of Christ, who credits the Virgin of Fatima with saving him from that attack, worked a miracle for Maria Luisa Dall’Arche, Gugel’s wife since 1964. The couple’s first child was stillborn, so “we made a vow to give the middle name Mary to all the children the Virgin might grant us.” They had three children without further problems: Raffaella, Flaviana, and Guido. “The fourth is named Carla Luciana Maria in honor of Karol and of Pope Luciani [John Paul I],” Gugel explains. “She was born in 1980 through the intercession of Wojtyla.”
“Serious problems arose in the uterus. The gynecologists at the Gemelli Polyclinic said it would be impossible for the pregnancy to continue. One day, John Paul II said to me, ‘Today, I celebrated Mass for your wife.'” To attempt to save the child, the doctors ordered a caesarian section, which took place on April 9, 1980.
After the operation, the doctor told the woman’s worried husband, “Someone must have prayed a lot.” According to the baby’s birth certificate, she was born at 7:15 AM, which would be at the same time as the Sanctus (“Holy, holy, holy”) of John Paul II’s morning Mass.
During breakfast that day, the superior of the nuns who served the pope at the Apostolic Palace, Sister Tobiana Sobotka, told the pope about Carla Luciana Maria’s birth. “Deo gratias” (Thanks be to God), Wojtyla exclaimed. He wanted to baptize her himself; he did so the following April 27 in his private chapel.
At another moment of the interview, the reporter mentions that Arturo Mari, a photographer for the official Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, said that he had witnessed Wojtyla perform an exorcism after a Wednesday general audience in St. Peter’s Square. Gugel confirmed that he also remembered that episode, which he and Mari had witnessed together.
“I was there too. A young woman was blaspheming and foaming at the mouth. The voice was cavernous. One bishop fled in fear. The Holy Father prayed in Latin, unperturbed. At the end, he touched her head, and immediately the possessed woman’s face relaxed in an expression of peace. I saw him perform an analogous rite in a meeting room at [Paul VI Hall], also after an audience.”
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