Attempt on JPII life happened 38 years ago

On May 13, 1981, Turkish assassin Mehmet Ali Ağca tried to kill pope John Paul II during the general audience at St. Peter’s Square in Vatican.

John Paul II passed away 14 years ago

The Polish-born Pope John Paul II died on April 2, 2005, after a long struggle with illness, at the age of 84.

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Around quarter past 5pm local time, the killer took four shots at the pope with his 9mm Browning semi-automatic pistol. The bullets hit John Paul II in arm and lower intestine. Mr Ağca testified that he was aiming at pope’s head, but did not have a clear shot.

John Paul II survived the attempt on his life, but was badly injured and never fully recovered. He believed that he lived not only because of luck. “One hand took the shot, another directed the bullet,” he said.

Moreover, the attempt took place during the 64th anniversary of the first apparition of the Virgin Mary to the three children of Fatima in Portugal, something the Pope has always regarded as significant, attributing his survival on that day to her protection.

The assassin was apprehended by the Italian Carabinieri. His associate, another Turk Oral Çelik, fled from the scene.

Mr Ağca was sentenced for the lifetime imprisonment by Italian Court. He spent nearly 20 years behind bars. In 2000, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, the then President of Italy, pardoned him on the request of John Paul II.

John Paul II meeting Mehmet Ali Ağca. Photo: PAP arch./EPA/ANSA

Five years ago John Paul II was declared Saint

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After that, he was deported to Turkey, where he spent the next ten years in prison, for the murder of journalist Abdi İpekçi in 1979 and two bank robberies in the 1970s. He was released from prison in 2010. In 2008 he asked for Polish citizenship but did not receive it.

The assassin was a member of a Turkish far-right organisation “Grey Wolves,” responsible for many political murders in Turkey in the 1970s.

The late pope met with the assassin in 1983, in prison where Mr Ağca was held. Earlier he announced that he had forgiven him. “I pray for the brother, who struck blows at me and I sincerely forgive him,” John Paul II said.

It was not confirmed who assigned the attempt on John Paul II’s life. The testimonies of Mr Ağca were not clear, he changed them several times. The major hypothesis points out to the Bulgarian secret services, working on the assignment of the Soviet Union.