379. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (McFarlane) to President Reagan 1

SUBJECT

  • [less than 1 line not declassified] Information on the Soviet and Bulgarian Involvement in the 1981 Attempt to Murder Pope John Paul II

[less than 3 lines not declassified] compelling evidence of Soviet sponsorship and Bulgarian operational control of the failed plot to kill Pope John Paul II in 1981.

[less than 1 line not declassified] the Soviet military intelligence (GRU) tasked Bulgarian military intelligence to kill Pope John Paul II after the Soviets apparently considered, and then rejected, a plan to do the assassination themselves. The Bulgarians employed one of their long time agents, Bekir Celenk, because he had a public identification as a “right wing fanatic.” Celenk in turn employed one of his agents, Mehmet Ali Agca, to carry out the actual assassination. Agca has testified to Italian authorities on Celenk’s role as well as the direct involvement of two Bulgarian military intelligence officers who met with Agca in Rome. [less than 1 line not declassified] the Bulgarians now plan to kill Celenk, who remains under guard in Sofia, as well as the Bulgarian airline official Sergey Antonov, who is being held by Italian authorities for trial in fall of 1985. The Bulgarian government, [less than 1 line not declassified] is concerned that Antonov might confirm that Bulgarian connection publicly during the trial. The Bulgarians, however, do not believe that the US has specific evidence of the Bulgarian involvement.

Bulgarian intelligence plans to administer a toxic substance to Antonov over a series of months to cause a slow, apparently “natural” death. We have discreetly alerted Italian Prime Minister Bettino Craxi to the Bulgarian plot. [less than 2 lines not declassified]

[1 paragraph (8 lines) not declassified]

  1. Source: Reagan Library, System IV Intelligence Files, 1985, 400165. Top Secret; Sensitive. Sent for information. Drafted by deGraffenreid and Cannistraro. A copy was sent to Bush. Reagan initialed the right-hand corner of the memorandum; an unknown hand wrote “2/27/85” beneath Reagan’s initials.