The Turkish man who shot and wounded Pope John Paul II in 1981 made a surprise visit to his tomb on Saturday.  According to Vatican officials, Mehmet Ali Agca laid white flowers on the Pope’s tomb in St. Peter’s Basilica.  The visit lasted only a few minutes according to the Rev. Ciro Benedettini.

Benedettini went on to say that there were no legal matters pending against Agca in the Vatican leaving him free to visit if he wished.  As with other flowers left by visitors, the blossoms were later removed by workers at St. Peter’s Basilica.

The trip came on the 31st anniversary of his meeting with the pope.  John Paul later forgave his attacker and even visited Agca in his prison in Rome on December 27, 1983.  Later, John Paul worked to gain Agca’s release in 2000 for the crime.  He was then extradited to Turkey for the 1979 killing of a Turkish journalist and he completed a 10-year sentence there in 2010.

After the shooting, Agca was apprehended and originally claimed to be acting alone.  Later, however, he suggested that Bulgaria and Soviet secret services were behind the attack on the Polish born pontiff, whose championing of the Polish Solidarity labor movement alarmed Moscow.  Twice Italian juries acquitted three Bulgarians and three Turks of alleged roles in the shooting.

Agca has often given contradictory accounts about his role in the shooting and the parties behind the shooting and has even claimed in the past to be a Messiah.  A video ran on Italian TV featuring the visit to the pope’s tomb that was apparently filmed by an Italian journalist accompanying Agca in St. Peter’s Basilica.

In the video, the man who the pope is heard to mumble, “A thousand thanks, saint,” and “Long live Jesus Christ.” He also said: “Today I have come because on Dec. 27, 1983, I met the pope.”

[Image Source: Wikipedia]