"Today business is slow," said Vito Sonnino, a souvenir salesman in St. Peter's Square whose attempts this morning to interest tourists in his rosaries, color slides, Vatican stamps and postcards met with little success.

Although other vendors later said pictures of Pope John Paul II were the only items selling, most visitors to the Vatican today appeared to have little on their minds but the assassination attempt on the pontiff.

Tonight at St. Peter's Square, 25,000 people gathered to say the rosary at a nighttime vigil called by the cardinal of Rome, Ugo Poletti; as a demonstration of love for the fallen pope.

Elsewhere in Rome, however, people appeared less concerned and went about their business as usual, almost as if the recurrent terrorist attacks of the last decade had inured them to violence.

"I feel sorry about it because Wojtyla [the pope's Polish family name] is a good man who's never hurt anyone," said Valdemaro Giacomi, 40. But he added that personally he had found the 1978 kidnapping of former Italian premier Aldo Moro and the massacre of the latter's five-man police escort far more shocking."Perhaps we get used to these things," he said, sadly, in reference to terrorist violence here during the last 10 years.

Some Vatican visitors today, such as Elena Midollo and her daughter Linda, had come out of curiosity to see the place where the pope was wounded yesterday by a would-be assassin.

Others were there moved by piety and love. They sat and rested in wooden seats in front of the makeshift podium where the 60-year-old pontiff had been scheduled to speak. Or they crossed themselves and sprayed gazing at the empty armchair where he would have been seated.

"It was shocking, simply shocking," said a bearded tourist who said he was a converted Roman Catholic from Copenhagen. "First Reagan, now the pope. Why is there such intolerance? And why try to harm a man who is the symbol of brotherhood and love?"

The mass was also attended by a group of 600 Polish pilgrims who were at yesterday's general audience when the pope was shot. Today they left on the altar the icon of the Black Virgin of Czestochowa that they had brought him as a gift.

Shocked by the first public assassination attempt here on a pope in modern times, Italian newspapers across the political spectrum spoke out emotionally today about yesterday's "sacrilege," asa headline of the conservative Rome daily, II Tempo screamed. The Giornale Nuovo of Milan spoke of "the fruits of hatred," the Communist Party newspaper L'Unita sharply condemned the "infamous" attack on the pope, while La Stampa of Turin spoke of "a new chapter to add to the book of violence in today's world."

Perhaps the emotional feeling of many Italians was summed up best by the prosocialist II Giorno of Milan, whose headline, paraphrasing an Italian hymn, read "Stay With Us, Wojtyla."

Many Italians appeared relieved that the attempt on the pope's life had apparently been made by a foreigner. One immediate reaction to yesterday's shooting, in fact, was that it might have been caused by tension deriving from an ongoing church-state conflict over an abortion referendum scheduled for Sunday.

"It was horrible," said a Jesuit as he told of his reactions to the shooting. He was in his office near St. Peter's and had just turned on Vatican Radio. "They said there's been shooting near the Holy Father and then, almost immediately, I heard police sirens wailing outside."

"But I have to admit," he added, "that in a way I kind of expected it. This pope is so exposed and there are so many kooks around to take advantage of it."

One day after the attack, in fact, many people are asking themselves how the problem of the pope's security ought to be handled.

According to Vatican sources, the question of protecting the pope came up shortly after the pontiff's election in October 1978. By then it had already become clear not only that he planned to do a lot of traveling but that he was a man who planned to seek contact with the masses and had decided against adopting tough precautionary measures.

"A pope can't be afraid," said commentator Gianfranco Piazzese. "The only escort a man of faith can have is providence."

"If he stayed indoors all the time he wouldn't be the pope," electrician Sergio Panatti said.

Asked today if, once recovered, the pope would change his outgoing, man-of-the-people style, Vatican Secretary of State Agostino Casaroli replied, "Yesterday's incident will not distance the pope from his flock."