Startling news out of the Vatican. Mehmet Ali Agca, the man who tried to kill Pope John Paul II in 1981, visited the tomb of the saint. where he laid a bouquet of white roses.
The Turkish man who tried to assassinate Pope John Paul II has laid flowers at the late pontiff’s tomb in the Vatican.
Mehmet Ali Agca arrived back in Rome unexpectedly and presented himself to police to declare his intention to lay the flowers.
“I felt the need to make this gesture,” he told police, according to Italian media who had been tipped off in advance about his visit.
Agca’s visit came exactly 31 years after John Paul visited him in prison in Rome to forgive him for the 1981 shooting that nearly killed the leader of the world’s Catholics.
Then aged 23, Agca shot the Pope twice at close range in St Peter’s Square, with one bullet passing through John Paul’s abdomen and another narrowly missing his heart.
Granted authorisation to pay his respects under a discreet police escort, Agca was filmed by the ADNKronos news agency murmuring a prayer at the side of the tomb after he placed his bouquet of white roses.
“A thousand thanks holiness,” he said in Italian.
“This is a miracle that goes on. The mystery of Fatima goes on. Long live Jesus Christ!”
The former extremist requested a meeting with Pope Francis when the current pontiff visited Turkey last month.
That was declined as was a fresh request for an audience this weekend in Rome.
“He has put flowers on the tomb of John Paul II. I think that is enough,” Francis’s spokesman, Federico Lombardi, told La Republica.
A remarkable turn of events, although it should be said that Agca is not counted among the most balanced people on the planet. His continual and conflicting claims that he did not act alone in the assassination attempt — that Russians and Bulgarians assisted him — may make perfect sense but have never been proved in any way.
Still, the former pontiff must have touched his heart in some way. Agca’s gesture, no matter how staged, still proves the healing power of forgiveness.