Mehmet Ali Ağca was released from prison in January 2010 after 29 years in jail. (Photo: Today’s Zaman)
The Turkish gunman who shot and wounded Pope John Paul II in 1981 has told the state-run Anadolu news agency that he wants to meet Pope Francis during his upcoming visit to Turkey.
“I’ve unofficially asked the Vatican to meet with Pope Francis, but I have not received any response yet,” the Turkish gunman was quoted as saying by the agency in a report published in its English website. “I had met with a pope before. It would be quite normal to meet with him [Pope Francis] as well,” he continued.
Pope Francis will be visiting Turkey on Nov. 28 and 29. It will be his first visit to the predominantly Muslim country.
Mehmet Ali Ağca shot Pope John Paul II on May 13, 1981, as the pontiff rode in an open vehicle in St. Peter’s Square. The pope was hit in the abdomen, left hand and right arm, but the bullets missed his vital organs.
When Ağca was arrested minutes after the attack, he declared he had acted alone. Later, he claimed Bulgaria and the Soviet Union’s KGB were behind the attack, but then retracted these claims. His contradictory statements have frustrated prosecutors over the decades.
Pope John Paul II met with Ağca in Italy’s Rebibbia prison in 1983 and forgave him for the shooting. The motive for the attack remains unclear.
In July 1981, an Italian court found Ağca guilty of trying to assassinate the pope and sentenced him to life in prison. In June 2000, Italy pardoned Ağca for the pope’s shooting and extradited him to his native Turkey to serve the remainder of a term for the murder of Turkish journalist Abdi İpekçi.
On Jan. 12, 2006, Ağca was briefly released from prison in Turkey, but a court ordered him to be jailed again. Then, on Jan. 13, 2010, Ağca said in comments that he wanted to meet Pope Benedict and visit the tomb of Pope John Paul II.
He was released from prison on Jan. 19, 2010, after more than 29 years behind bars.