By: Scott RossPublished: December 27, 2022

Pop John Paul II

On May 13, 1981, Pope John Paul II was riding in his pope-mobile through a throng of admirers in Saint Peter's Square, on his way to give an address. Sitting on the square that day were Mehmet Ali Ağca and Oral Çelik, a pair of Turkish nationals who were writing postcards while they waited to assassinate the pope.

Ağca and Çelik were members of the ultra-nationalist group the Grey Wolves and it was in that capacity that they had previously murdered left-wing journalist Abdi İpekçi in February 1979. Ağca had already publicly threatened the Pope's life, calling him "the masked leader of the crusades" and saying that he would kill him if he went ahead with his visit to Turkey. Well, the pope went to Turkey, so...

As the pope drove past the two men, Ağca pulled out a gun and started firing, hitting his target four times, but Çelik failed to set of the bomb he was carrying and fled the scene. Ağca was wrestled to the ground, arrested and ultimately sentenced to life in prison.

Two and a half years after nearly being assassinated, Pope John Paul II went to visit Ağca on December 27, 1983, afterward asking his flock to “pray for my brother…whom I have sincerely forgiven."

Twenty years after his moment of infamy, Ağca dropped a bomb by way of an open letter to CathNews, in which he said “I am looking for an Italian woman, who wants to correspond with me. Obviously (I hope) she is Catholic because from May 13, 2007, I decided to renounce the Muslim faith and becoming a member of the Roman Catholic Church.


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