Sitting down with the would-be assassin of St. John Paul II

The Italian newspaper La Repubblica reports that Mehmet Ali Agca was arrested after he returned to the scene of his May 1981 crime -- the attempted assassination of St. John Paul II. On Dec. 27, Agca attempted to place flowers on the grave of the late pope, and shortly thereafter was taken into custody by Italian immigration authorities for having entered the country illegally.

This interview does a fine job in reporting on an individual who might be crazy. It presses and pushes Agca to explain his contradictions and places his claims in context -- testing them against provable facts -- yet it does not belittle or minimize his importance. The reader is allowed to judge the merits of Agca’s claim that he was God’s agent. 

There is no “snark” here. No cleverness, no sarcasm and no ignorance. La Repubblica has done a first-rate job.

Agca’s visit to the Vatican was covered by Italian television, who were tipped off (by Agca?) of his plans. In 1981, he shot and nearly killed John Paul -- a crime for which he served 20 years in an Italian prison, before being deported to Turkey, where he served a further 10 years imprisonment for a 1979 murder. Agca has claimed at various times that his attempted murder of the pontiff was ordered by Ayatollah Rhollah Khomeini of Iran and the Soviet-era Bulgarian Secret Police.

The former “Grey Wolf” -- a member of an ultra-nationalist Turkish terror group -- is also said to have had a religious conversion. Of what sort it is not clear, however.

While waiting a deportation hearing at Rome’s Fiumicino airport, Agca gave an interview to La Repubblica, stating he had come to St. Peter Square to pay his respects to the late pope. He further said his shooting of John Paul II and the pope’s recovery was a “miracle of Our Lady of Fatima.” He bore no guilt or shame over the attack as he believed he was an instrument of God’s providence. He added that he had attempted to meet Pope Francis during the pontiff’s visit to Turkey last month, and had been rebuffed in his attempts to secure an audience while he was in Rome. He stated his stop in Rome was part of a larger pilgrimage that would conclude with a visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal.

"Ho compiuto questo evento, per me storico, perché sono venuto fino in Piazza San Pietro per dire che questo è il miracolo della Madonna di Fatima. Così farò anche in Portogallo".

Or via Google translate:

"I have done this event, for me historical, because they came up in St. Peter's Square to say that this is the miracle of Our Lady of Fatima. So I will also in Portugal."

I found the interview fascinating on several levels, and La Repubblica did an excellent job with the material it had in hand. The subject of the story is fascinating, as was the technique used to tell the story.

Continue reading "Sitting down with the would-be assassin of St. John Paul II" by George Conger.

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