Man who shot former Pope wants to meet Pope Francis in Turkey

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Published 19.11.2014 14:58
Updated 19.11.2014 15:28
Man who shot former Pope wants to meet Pope Francis in Turkey

A Turkish man awaits Pope Francis' visit to Turkey on November 28-30, perhaps more eagerly than others.

The man who tried to assassinate his predecessor Pope John Paul II in 1981, Mehmet Ali Ağca, has released a written statement to Anadolu Agency saying that he wants to meet with Pope Francis while he is in Turkey.

"I've asked the Vatican unofficially to meet with Pope Francis but I have not received any response yet," the Turkish gunman said in his statement, "I had met with a pope before. It is quite normal to meet with him (Pope Francis) as well."

He refers to John Paul II, who visited him in an Italian prison in 1983 after the attack.

Mehmet Ali Ağca fired four bullets into John Paul II on May 13th 1981, as the Polish pope was riding in an open car through St Peter's Square in the Vatican. The pontiff was wounded in the abdomen, in his left hand and in the right arm but his condition was not critical as the bullets missed the vital organs.

Ağca - who served 19 years in an Italian prison for the assassination attempt - was pardoned by John Paul II in 2000. He was later extradited to his home country to serve a 10-year sentence for other crimes, including the murder of a prominent Turkish journalist Abdi İpekçi.

"While the world has been experiencing a big economic, political and humanitarian crisis, we welcome Pope Francis - who is exerting efforts to build peace and brotherhood - to Turkey," Ağca said in his statement.

The Argentine pope will be the fourth pontiff to visit Turkey after Pope Benedict XVI in 2006, Pope John Paul II in 1979 and Pope Paul VI in 1967. During his three-day visit, the spiritual leader of the world's one billion Catholics will meet President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Mehmet Görmez, the head of religious affairs directorate, known as Diyanet.

The pontiff will also hold a Holy Mass at the Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Istanbul and privately meet Istanbul-based Fener Greek Patriarch Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox churches.

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