The man who tried to kill Pope John Paul 11 is due to be set free from a Turkish prison today, after 25 years behind bars. The authorities in Italy hope that 48-year-old Mehmet Ali Agca will see the occasion as an opportunity to finally reveal the reasons for the 1981 shooting.
Conflicting theories have been put forward to explain the attempt on the Pope’s life, including claims of a conspiracy by Bulgaria’s communist-era secret services and the Soviet KGB. The Pope was shot four times as he blessed the crowds in St Peter’s Square in Rome in May 1981. At the trial, Ali Agca claimed to be a reincarnation of Jesus. He also said the shooting was the fulfilment of a prophecy told by the Virgin Mary at Fatima in Portugal in 1917. Two years after the attack, John Paul visited Ali Agca in his prison cell. The two men spoke intimitely and the Pope publicly forgave his attacker for what he had done. Ali Agca was pardoned at the Pope’s request in 2000. He was sent back to Turkey to serve a seperate sentence for murder and robbery.