Italy kicks out repentant gunman who shot the Pope

SHAFAQNA – The Turkish gunman who shot and wounded Pope John Paul II 33 years ago was yesterday due to be expelled from Italy after returning to lay flowers on the late Pontiff’s tomb.

Mehmet Ali Agca was detained on Saturday for entering Italy illegally when he was recognised by a policeman outside St Peter’s Basilica.

The former member of the Grey Wolves, a Turkish rightwing organisation, had just laid a bunch of white roses on the late Pope’s tomb.

In a video recorded in the basilica he is seen to murmur “A thousand thanks, saint,” and “Long live Jesus Christ”.

The convicted terrorist had earlier recorded a message in St Peter’s Square in which he said he was returning to the site of a “miracle” -his shooting of the Polish Pope on May 13 1981.

Mr Agca said the attack and the Pope’s miraculous survival was the fulfilment of the third secret of Fatima, one of a series of prophecies purportedly revealed by the Virgin Mary to shepherd children in Portugal in 1917.

Mr Agca served 19 years in an Italian jail for the attack and another 10 years in a Turkish prison for the 1979 killing of a Turkish newspaper editor.

Last month he was rebuffed by the Vatican when he sought a meeting with Pope Francis during the Pope’s visit to Turkey, responding angrily that the new Pope’s life was not worth the cost of a bullet.

Father Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, dismissed his latest request for a papal meeting, saying: “He has put flowers on the tomb of John Paul. I think that is enough.”

Mr Agca, who received John Paul’s personal forgiveness during a meeting in prison 31 years ago, has provided a variety of contradictory and extravagant explanations for his assassination attempt.

Over the years he has accused Bulgaria and the KGB, the CIA and the West, and most recently Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran.

His visit to the Pope’s tomb was “an act of the heart,” Mr Agca told La Repubblica newspaper. “I wasn’t able to attend his funeral and I wanted to pay homage to a spiritual brother.”

Mr Agca said the Grey Wolves had been “a simple instrument of Nato, of the Atlantic Alliance, for the international Cold War”.

The organisation no longer existed as a significant force, he said. “Now they concern themselves with mediocre conservative politics,” he told the paper.

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