39 years ago, a Turkish terrorist shot Polish Pope John Paul II in assassination attempt

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In his papal audience transmitted from Rome, Pope Francis commemorated the attack on Pope John Paul II on May 13, 1981, in which Turkish terrorist Mehmet Ali Agca shot and wounded the pontiff.

“In today’s liturgy, we commemorate the memory of Our Lady of Fatima. We return to her revelations and missive given to the world, as well as the attempt on the life of Saint John Paul II, who saw the motherly intervention of the Holy Virgin in his salvation,” Pope Francis said during his broadcast.

The Catholic News Agency also reminded Catholics of the anniversary on social media:

“Today is the 39th anniversary of the attack on John Paul II, which took place on May 13, 1981. The assault took place at exactly the same time as the epiphany of Our Lady of Fatima at 17:19 [and in the anniversary of May 13, 1917, one of Fatima’s epiphanies].”

Ali Agca is a free man today

Today, Mehmet Ali Agca, who was an assassin for the ultra-nationalist Turkish Gray Wolves, is now 62. The British Daily Mirror reported just few weeks ago went to see how he is living in Istanbul 39 years after his attempt on John Paul II’s life.

Agca revealed that he is currently taking care of stray cats and dogs, and believes that the rights and lives of animals are just as important as those of humans.

“I’m a good person now. I try to live properly. I was young then, and ignorant,” he said referring to the attack.

Pope John Paul II was shot four times by Agca during the attack, with two bullets lodging in his lower intestine and the other two hitting his right arm and left hand. Agca was unable to murder John Paul II after security chief Camillo Cibin prevented him from firing more shots and escaping the scene. Two bystanders were also hit with bullets.

Agca never revealed who ordered him to kill the pope. He changed his story several times during the last 30 years.

In one of his interrogations before the trial, Agca stated that the Soviet Union’s KGB ordered the assassination because of John Paul II’s support for the Solidarity movement in Poland.

Agca, who had also been charged with murdering left-wing newspaper editor Abdi Ipekci in Istanbul in 1979, was sentenced to life in jail for shooting John Paul II.

But the pope forgave him and after his recovery and even visited him in prison in 1983.

In 2000, Agca was pardoned at the Pope’s request and extradited to Turkey where he spent another 10 years in prison after he was convicted of murdering a journalist and raiding two banks.

Agca emphasized that “the Pope was like a brother to me. When he died [in 2005], I felt as if my brother or best friend had died.”

He also admitted to the Daily Mirror journalist that he would like to tell his story on the silver screen and make a film or documentary about the attack.

On 2 May 2008, Ağca even asked for Polish citizenship, saying he wanted to spend his final years in Pope John Paul II’s country of birth.

His request was denied.

Celebrating John Paul II’s birth

Pope Francis also reminded listeners of the special mass on occasion of the centenary of John Paul II’s birth, which will be held in the chapel next to his tomb in St. Peter’s Basilica on Monday, May 18.

Pope John Paul II was born as Karol Wojtyła in Wadowice, Poland on May 18, 1920.

The Vatican journal L’Osservatore Romano has noted in an archival edition of its paper from May 14, 1981, which was released just hours after the attack on the pope by the Turkish terrorist. The heading was: “Hours of hope and prayer for the health of the Holy Father”.

Pope Francis also offered a prayer during his May 13 broadcast for peace on Earth, stopping the coronavirus pandemic, atonement, and humanity’s repentance.

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