Gunman who tried to kill pope released from prison
After nearly 30 years behind bars, the Turkish man who tried to assassinate Pope John Paul II walked out of prison a free man Monday and promptly predicted the end of the world.
Los Angeles Times
LONDON — After nearly 30 years behind bars, the Turkish man who tried to assassinate Pope John Paul II walked out of prison a free man Monday and promptly predicted the end of the world.
Now a gray-haired 51-year-old, Mehmet Ali Agca declared himself the "Christ eternal" and said in a statement that humanity would be wiped out this century.
Later, the hollow-cheeked Agca, who has spent more of his life in prison than out, was declared mentally disturbed by doctors who exempted him from mandatory military service, The Associated Press reported.
Agca shot John Paul several times May 13, 1981, as the pontiff waved at followers while riding in his open-backed "Popemobile" through St. Peter's Square. Bystanders screamed in horror as the pope was whisked away with serious but not life-threatening wounds to his hand, arm and abdomen.
Agca was caught at the scene and sent to an Italian prison. But his motives for the shooting have remained opaque, clouded by his own contradictory statements, and it is still unclear whether he acted on his own behalf or whether the attack was plotted by others.
Allegations persist that Agca was commissioned by Soviet intelligence, acting through Bulgarian agents, out of a desire to remove John Paul because of his support for the anti-Communist Solidarity movement in the pontiff's native Poland.
An Italian parliamentary panel concluded in 2006 that the Soviet Union, which collapsed in 1991, was responsible. Russia still denies any involvement.
Agca has said that he would speak about the attack after leaving prison and that he would entertain book and movie offers. Upon his release, he also vowed to write a new and perfect Gospel, saying the ones in the Bible were flawed, and proclaimed "all the world will be destroyed (and) every human being will die" by century's end.
Agca was imprisoned in Italy for 19 years. In 1983, John Paul visited his would-be killer and pronounced his forgiveness.
In 2000, the Italian president issued an official pardon for Agca. That cleared the way for him to be extradited to his homeland to serve out a previous sentence for the murder of a left-wing journalist, Abdi Ipekci, in 1979, which Agca committed as an alleged sympathizer of a far-right movement called the Gray Wolves. He had escaped from a Turkish prison less than six months into his sentence for Ipekci's killing.
Agca has expressed a desire to travel to Rome to pay tribute to John Paul, who died in 2005.
"If Ali Agca wants to come and pray at John Paul II's tomb, I fully agree," Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, told Italian television Monday, according to the Ansa news agency.
"Let's not forget that ... the first to forgive him was John Paul II," Turkson said. But, he added, Agca "would have to be accompanied to the Vatican by a large number of security officers — that has to be clear."
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.
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