Pope John Paul II would-be assassin lays flowers at his tomb

The man who tried to assassinate Pope John Paul II visited the recently canonized former pontiff's tomb where he laid a bouquet of white roses.

Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish national who fired several shots at the Pope in St. Peter's square in 1981 was granted permission by Vatican authorities to visit the tomb. It is the 30th anniversary of the Pope's visit to Agca's jail cell where he forgave the assassin for trying to kill him.


Agca called the Italian daily la Repubblica on Saturday to announce he had arrived in the Vatican, his first visit since the assassination attempt and exactly 31 years after John Paul met him in prison.

The visit was confirmed to Reuters by Father Ciro Benedettini, the Vatican's deputy spokesman, who said Agca stood for a few moments in silent meditation over the tomb in St. Peter's Basilica before leaving two bunches of white roses.

Agca, 56, was pardoned by Italy in 2000 and extradited to Turkey where he was imprisoned for the 1979 murder of a journalist and other crimes. He was released from jail in 2010.

The attack against John Paul, who died in 2005, has remained clouded by unanswered questions over who may have been behind it. An Italian investigative parliamentary commission said in 2006 it was "beyond reasonable doubt" that it was masterminded by leaders of the former Soviet Union.

The Vatican on Saturday gave a cool response to Agca's request to meet with Pope Francis. "He has put his flowers on John Paul's tomb; I think that is enough," Vatican spokesman father Federico Lombardi told la Repubblica.

Over the years, Agca's claims of KGB involvement have often been contradictory. His mental state has been questioned as well as his motives for trying to blame others. A few years ago, he accused Cardinal Agostino Casaroli as the mastermind behind the assassination attempt.. Casaroli was the Vatican's Secretary of State at the time and was one of the least likely of masterminds given his anti-Communist views.

No matter his motives for visiting the tomb of Saint John Paul II, it is proof positive of the healing power of forgiveness.

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