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Pope gunman 'could pray at tomb'

Ali Agca 'would be welcome,' Vatican justice pointman says

18 January, 18:31
Pope gunman 'could pray at tomb'
Pope gunman 'could pray at tomb'
Pope gunman 'could pray at tomb'

(ANSA) - Rome, January 18 - The Turkish gunman released from jail Monday after serving his term for trying to kill Pope John Paul II would be welcome to pray at the late pope's tomb, the Vatican's justice pointman said Monday.

Mehmet Ali Agca, 52, served 19 years in an Italian jail for shooting John Paul in 1981 and another ten in Turkey for the earlier murder of a newspaper editor.

He was taken to a Turkish military hospital Monday to be assessed for compulsory military service after stating on his release that he was "the Christ eternal" and saying he had written "a new gospel".

The gunman told Italian celebrity magazine Diva e Donna last April that on his release he planned to ''come to Rome and pay tribute to his beloved brother (John Paul)''.

"If Ali Agca wants to come and pray at John Paul II's tomb I fully agree," Cardinal Peter Kdowo Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said Monday.

"Let's not forget that if the Turkish government has pardoned him, the first to forgive him was John Paul II, and so I am favourable," Turkson told Italian TV.

John Paul met his would-be assassin in an Italian prison in 1983 and announced he had forgiven Agca.

"Of course, he would have to be accompanied to the Vatican by a large number of security officers, that has to be clear," Cardinal Turkson added with a smile.

"We only have to await the content of this new gospel he is talking about".

In other statements after his release, Agca said. "I proclaim the end of the world. All the world will be destroyed this century". In April's report on Agca, Diva e Donna said his conversion took place on May 13, 2007, exactly 26 years after his failed assassination attempt against the late Polish pontiff.

The motives for Agca's attempt on the pope's life have never been definitively cleared up. After initially claiming to have acted alone, he then changed tack and said he had been hired by secret services in Communist Eastern Europe.

Later he retracted those claims too, but some investigators remain convinced that he did not act alone.

Agca had been a member of an ultranationalist Turkish group who fled Turkey after killing the newspaper editor.

He opened fire on John Paul as the pope was riding an open vehicle in St Peter's Square, seriously wounding the pontiff.

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