When Pope John Paul II Forgave the Shooter Who Nearly Killed Him

Mehmet Ali Aqca used bullets to make a statement; Pope John Paul II, in turn, used forgiveness.

The following article, written by Jerry Finzi, appears on Grand Voyage Italy.

Riding in his Popemobile across Piazza san Pietro on May 13, 1981, Pope John Paul II was shot by Mehmet Ali Aqca, who had escaped from a Turkish prison after receiving a life sentence for murdering a journalist.

Aqca fired four shots with his pistol with two shots striking the Pope in his lower abdomen, and two more in his arm and finger. There were also two other people who were shot and survived.

Aqca had an accomplice who was supposed to set off a bomb, but instead fled the scene. Both Aqca and Oral Celik were captured and arrested.

The Pope survived his severe injuries, and then asked Catholics to pray for Aqca, whom he had forgiven.

An Italian court sentenced Aqca to life in prison. In 1983, John Paul II visited him in his stark prison cell and spent time praying and talking. The Pope stayed in touch with Aqca’s family during the years, and in 2000, requested his pardon.

The request was granted.

Aqca was released and deported to Turkey, where he was imprisoned for the life sentence he had fled decades prior.

He converted to Christianity while incarcerated, and was finally released in 2010.

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