In New Book, Pope Recalls '81 Attempt on His Life

Believes That Ali Agca Didn’t Act by Chance

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 23, 2005 ( In the epilogue of his latest book, “Memory and Identity,” John Paul II recounts for the first time details of the 1981 attack on his life in St. Peter’s Square.

“The Pope has the conviction that Ali Agca did not act by chance,” said Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro Valls when presenting the volume in Rome on Tuesday.

Explaining what occurred in that attack, the Holy Father opens his heart to “discover another form of evil,” revealed the Vatican spokesman.

The director of the Vatican press office said that in the book’s epilogue “one sees how Ali Agca, already since his conversation with the Pope in prison, was totally obsessed with the mystery of Fatima: He could not understand how something that he should have controlled technically, the attack on the Pope, did not happen as planned.”

“Ali Agca is concerned only with technical questions, not moral ones,” said the Vatican spokesman. He pointed out that the would-be assassin “did not ask the Pope for forgiveness.”

Asked by journalists during the book’s presentation in Rome’s Colonna Palace, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger revealed that he has received letters from Mehmet Ali Agca.

“He has also written to me saying: ‘Tell me what is this mystery of Fatima,'” said the cardinal. “Ali Agca was convinced that in it he would find a technical answer to an incomprehensible mystery: the reason why the attack on the Pope did not work.”

On Feb. 15, after the death of Sister Lucia, the Fatima visionary, Ali Agca sent a newspaper a text entitled “Open Letter to the Vatican.”

In the text he expresses his sympathy for the religious’ death, and insists that the secret of Fatima is linked to the end of the world, and asks the Vatican to reveal the identity of the Antichrist.

“They are deliriums, an obsession that Ali Agca has had for years,” Navarro Valls told television reporters, outside the book’s presentation.

In the epilogue of his book, the Pope comments on the moment of the attack: “All this has been a testimony of divine grace: Agca knew how to shoot, and he certainly [shot to kill]. It seems as though someone deflected the bullet.”

The book includes a conversation between the Pope and his personal secretary, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, on that dramatic event. Archbishop Dziwisz is direct: “Agca shot to kill. That shot should have been mortal.”

The Holy Father writes in the epilogue that “I had the sensation that I would survive: I was in pain, I had reason to be afraid, but I had this strange feeling of confidence.”

“I told Don Stanislaw that I forgave the author of the attack,” recalls the Pope.

The epilogue also refers to the testimony of John Paul II’s visit to Ali Agca in prison, at Christmas in 1983. “Ali Agca, as everyone says, is a professional killer. This means that the attack was not his initiative, someone else planned it, someone else ordered it.”

“During the whole meeting it was clear that Ali Agca continued to wonder how it was possible that the attack did not work,” recalls John Paul II.

The Pope believes that “probably Ali Agca intuited that, beyond his power, beyond the power of shooting and killing, there was a higher power. And then he began to seek it. My hope is that he found it.”

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