"Forgiveness happens inside the person doing the forgiving. It heals our pain and resentment before it does anything for the person we forgive; they might never know about it."(Lewis Smedes, author of The Art of Forgiving, Morrings, 1996)On May 13, 1981, Mehmet Ali Agca shot Pope John Paul II, as the pope rode in an open car across St. Peter's Square.
1981: The Pope was shot four times - twice in the stomach, once in the right arm, once in the left hand. Emergency surgery saves him.
Agca served nearly 20 years in Rebibbia, an Italian prison, for his crime.
Pope John Paul II visited Agca in Rebibbia Prison and forgave him.
In 2000, Italy granted clemency to Turkish gunman Mehmet Ali Agca, who was jailed for 19 years for the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II. The pardon was accompanied by signing of an extradition decree .
Italian authorities handed Agca over to Turkish police authorities in 2000. In Turkey he had to serve the remaining nine years of a 10-year sentence he received for killing a newspaper editor, Abdi Ipekci, in 1978. Agca will be released in December 2005.
MUST READ !! Excerpts from Lance Morrow's article "The Papacy" in Time.com
In his book Memory and Identity, Pope John Paul II said of his visit at Christmas 1983 to Rebibbia to see Mehmet Ali Agca:
A pardon from the Pontiff, a lesson in forgiveness for a troubled world
The memory keeps one picture in particular: St. Peter's Square on 13 May 1981.
Pope John Paul II (C) lies bleeding in his open car moments after he was shot by Turkish gunman Mehmet Ali Agca in St. Peter's Square, on May 13, 1981
It shows Pope John Paul II in white robes, capsized backward on his seat, stricken, in a posture vaguely reminiscent of the Pietá. There is an adrenal burst of motion in the scene as the security men spring alive and the Pontiff¹s white Popemobile lurches off through the crowd.
In an extraordinary moment of grace, the violence in St. Peter's Square was transformed.
In a bare, white-walled cell in Rome's Rebibbia prism, John Paul tenderly held the hand that had held the gun that was meant to kill him.
Pope John Paul II talks to Turkish Mehmet Ali Agca, who attempted to kill him, in Agca's cell in Rome's Rebibbia prison on December 27, 1983.
For 21 minutes, the Pope sat with his would-be assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca. The two talked softly. Once or twice, Agca laughed.
The Pope forgave him for the shooting.
At the end of the meeting, Agca either kissed the Pope's ring or pressed the Pope's hand to his forehead in a Muslim gesture of respect. It was a startling drama of forgiveness and reconciliation. On one level, it was an intensely intimate transaction between two men.
But if the Pope spoke in whispers, he also meant to proclaim a message to the world.
The only other people in the cell with Agca and John Paul were the Pope's personal secretary, two security agents--and a Vatican photographer and television crew.
The Pope brought the photographer and the cameramen because he wanted the image in that cell to be shown around a world filled with nuclear arsenals and unforgiving hatreds, with hostile superpowers and smaller, implacable fanaticisms.
It is difficult to imagine a more perfect economy of drama.
The Pope's deed spoke, not his words, and it spoke with the full authority of his mortal life and the danger to which Agca had subjected it.
The meaning of John Paul's forgiveness was profoundly Christian. He embraced his enemy and pardoned him.
John Paul meant, among other things, to demonstrate how the private and public dimensions of human activity may fuse in moral action.
What he intended to show was a fundamental relationship between peace and the hearts of men and women, the crucial relevance of the turnings of the will and spirit.
Seeing the largest possible meanings in the most intimate places of the soul, John Paul wanted to proclaim that great issues are determined, or at least informed, by the elemental impulses of the human breast--hatred or love.
Wrote the Milan-based Catholic daily Avvenire:
"In the midst of so many voices raised to ask for negotiations between the superpowers on the basis of pure equilibrium of strength, in the choir of pacifism which proclaim that only peace counts, all else is relative . . . a Pope has the courage to utter the ancient word--the responsibility for each evil rests in man as a sinner.
There will be no escape from wars, from hunger, from misery, from racial discrimination, from denial of human rights, and not even from missiles, if our hearts are not changed."
Said Italian Writer Carlo Bo: "The Pope intends to say, 'If we really want peace, we must make the first step, we must forget offenses and offer the bread of love and charity."'
When the Pope arrived in his cell, Agca was dressed in a blue crewneck sweater, jeans and blue-and-white running shoes from which the laces had been removed. He was unshaved. Agca kissed John Paul's hand.
"Do you speak Italian?" the Pope asked. Agca nodded.
The two men seated themselves, close together, on molded-plastic chairs in a corner of the cell, out of earshot.
At times it looked almost as if the Pope were hearing the confession of Agca, a Turkish Muslim.
At those moments, John Paul leaned forward from the waist in a priestly posture, his head bowed and forehead tightly clasped in his hand as the younger man spoke.
Agca laughed briefly a few times, but the smile would then quickly fade from his face. In the first months after the assassination attempt, there had been in Agca¹s eyes, a zealot's burning glare. But now his face wore a confused, uncertain expression, never hostile.
The Pope clasped Agca's hands in his own from time to time, At other times he grasped the man's arm, as if in a gesture of support.
John Paul's words were intended for Agca alone. "What we talked about will have to remain a secret between him and me, the Pope said as he emerged from the cell. I spoke to him as brother whom I have pardoned, and who has my complete trust."
As John Paul rose to leave, the two men shook hands. The Pope gave Agca a small gift in a white box, a rosary in silver and mother-of-pearl. The Pope walked out.
1981: The Pope forgives gunman Mehmet Ali Agca from his hospital bed, and later meets with him.
Agca was left standing alone, and the camera recorded a sudden look of uncertainty on his face. Perhaps he was thinking about the prospect of spending the rest of his life in jail for attempting to kill a man he did not know, a man who now came to him as a friend.
The scene in Rebibbia had a symbolic splendor.
It shone in lovely contrast to what the world has witnessed lately in the news.
The symbolism of the pictures from Rebibbia is precisely the Christian message, that people can be redeemed, that they are ascendant toward the light.
In a less exalted sense, the scene may be important because it suggests that human beings can respond to inhuman acts by being sane and civilized and forbearing, more decent, perhaps, than the killers deserve.
The first complexity of forgiveness involves the question of justice. Personal or even divine magnanimity is not public justice, and it should not be permitted to override justice. The Pope forgave Agca, but Agca remains in jail, and should.
It is difficult to imagine a world willing to follow John Paul's example, ending that stuttering repetition any time in the near future. Too many societies are spiritually incapable of it.
Forgiveness is not an impulse that is in much favor. It is a mysterious and sublime idea in many ways. The prevalent style in the world runs more to the high-plains drifter, to the hard cold eye of the avenger, to a numb remorselessness. Forgiveness does not look much like a tool for survival in a bad world. But that is what it is. "
"We talked for a long time. Ali Agca is, as everyone says, a professional assassin. Which means that the assassination was not his initiative, that someone else thought of it, someone else gave the order.In 2000, Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, in agreement with Pope John Paul II, pardoned Mr. Agca.
I had a feeling that I would survive. I was in pain, I had reason to be afraid, but I had this strange feeling of confidence...Oh, my Lord! This was a difficult experience."
On hearing the amnesty, Chief Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said John Paul was satisfied with Ciampi's action. He said:
"As you know, John Paul II immediately pardoned his attacker and for some time now the pope had told Italian authorities that he was in favor of an act of clemency if Italian law permitted it. He has been insisting on this for some time. We are not surprised. We are very happy."In February of 2005, when Pope John Paul II was hospitalized at Gemelli Polyclinic with the flu, Mehmet Ali Agca sent a handwritten letter in Italian to Pope John Paul II wishing the pope "a speedy recovery."
1990s: A busy schedule of appearances, decrees and trips took its toll on the Pope's health.