Turkish man who shot Pope John Paul II visits his tomb, detained in Rome
The Turkish gunman who attempted to assassinate Pope John Paul II in 1981 has been detained in Italy after he paid a surprise visit to the late pope's tomb in St. Peter's Basilica.
A Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, said Dec. 27 the visit by Mehmet Ali Ağca, believed to be his first time in the Vatican since the assassination attempt, lasted a few minutes. As with other flowers left by visitors to the tomb, the blossoms were later removed by basilica workers.
Benedettini said there are no legal matters pending against Ağca in the Vatican and he was free to visit, but the Italian police detained him for an unexplained reason, as he was expected to be deported back to Turkey, according to Italian news agency Adnkronos.
"I returned to this miraculous place," Ağca was quoted by the agency as saying.
John Paul II nearly died in the assassination attempt in 1981 when Ağca shot him at close range in St Peter’s Square. One bullet went through his abdomen and another narrowly missed his heart.
The motive for the attack, which landed Ağca in an Italian prison, remains a mystery.
Ağca, believed by many to be mentally disturbed, was released from a Turkish prison in 2010 after serving nearly three decades behind bars.
He was a 23-year-old militant of the notorious far-right Grey Wolves movement, on the run from Turkish justice, when he shot Pope John Paul II.
Extradited to Turkey in 2000 after Italy pardoned him, Ağca was convicted of the murder of prominent journalist Abdi Ipekci, two armed robberies and escaping from prison, crimes all dating back to the 1970s.
Ağca had publicly requested a meeting with Pope Francis during his recent visit to Turkey, but the Vatican did not respond.