Man Who Shot John Paul II Is Freed From Prison

Question Remains: Who Ordered the 1981 Attack?

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 12, 2006 ( Mehmet Ali Agca, the man who tried to assassinate Pope John Paul II in 1981, was released from prison in Turkey without having asked publicly for pardon.

Ali Agca spent 19 of his 48 years in an Italian prison until he received a presidential pardon in 2000. He was then extradited to Turkey and jailed in Istanbul for a variety of crimes, including the 1979 murder of Turkish journalist Abdi Ipekci.

Ali Agca was released today for good behavior after serving five years of a 10-year sentence for the murder of the journalist. Ali Agca might be called up immediately by the Turkish army to do his military service.

John Paul II forgave his attacker publicly and even went to visit him in prison on Dec. 23, 1983.

Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, Poland, who at the time was John Paul II’s personal secretary — who held the Pope in his arms when he was felled by bullets — has accepted the decision of the Turkish courts.

«John Paul II forgave Ali Agca a long time ago,» Archbishop Dziwisz said Monday through his spokesman, Father Robert Necek. «Now he prays for him from heaven, and so do I.»

«Without going into the matter, I remember a phrase of the Pope: ‘How will we be able to appear before the Lord if we do not forgive one another?'» the archbishop said.

No prior notice

Also on Monday, in statements to the newspaper La Repubblica, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano said that the Holy See found out about the imminent release of Ali Agca through the news media.

«No one advised us beforehand,» said the cardinal. «We do not wish to enter into details for the moment. We refer to the competent courts.»

A former Vatican secretary for relations with states, Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, told the newspaper Il Messaggero that «the figure of Ali Agca is contradictory.»

«He began to talk about the Bulgarian connection, but later denied everything,» the cardinal said.

According to this version, the secret services of Communist Bulgaria were in charge of the organization of the attempt on the spot.

At the same time, Cardinal Silvestrini said that Ali Agca did not ask for «pardon publicly. We don’t know if he did so in his private conversation with John Paul II in the Rebibbia prison. He certainly did not express remorse in subsequent statements.»

Cardinal Silvestrini confirmed the Holy See’s suspicions of a connection between the assassination attempt and Communist Europe of that time.

«It was thought that the origin was in Eastern Europe. Ali Agca put Bulgaria on the map,» he said. «They made use of a Turk, who was an assassin, as was done in the Middle Ages with hired assassins. It is clear that they did not want to suggest it to a Christian.»

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