At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Pope's would-be killer pardoned

Turkish gunman 'freed' but immediately detained


Pope John Paul II's historic meeting in prison with Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish gunman who attempted to kill him
Pope John Paul II's historic meeting in prison with Mehmet
Ali Agca, the Turkish gunman who attempted to kill him
Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, Italy’s president, signed the order granting an official pardon to Pope John Paul II’s would-be assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca, on this day in 2000.

The Turkish gunman had spent 19 years in jail after wounding the pontiff in St Peter’s Square in Rome in May 1981 but John Paul II, who had forgiven Agca from his hospital bed and visited him in prison in 1983, had been pressing the Italian government to show clemency and allow him to return to Turkey.

However, at the same time as granting him his freedom under the Italian judicial system, Ciampi also signed Agca’s extradition papers at the request of the Turkish authorities, who required him to serve the outstanding nine years of a 10-year jail sentence after being convicted in his absence of the murder of a Turkish journalist in 1978.

He was handed over to Turkish police, who escorted him onto a military flight to Istanbul airport on Tuesday night.

The pontiff pressed the Italian authorities to show clemency towards Agca
The pontiff pressed the Italian authorities
to show clemency towards Agca
At the time, a Vatican statement described the Pope as "very happy" about the pardon and said that John Paul II’s satisfaction was all the greater for the pardon being carried out during the Roman Catholic Church's Holy Year, the theme of which was pardon and forgiveness.

The attempt on the Pope's life had come on May 13, 1981 as he drove across St Peter's Square in an open car to hold a general audience with a crowd of 20,000 people.

He was hit by four bullets, wounding him in the stomach, his left hand and his right arm.  Two of his aides were also injured in the attack, as were two bystanders.  John Paul II suffered considerable loss of blood but attributed his survival to the Virgin of Fatima, whose feast day falls on May 13.

Agca was arrested by Italian police as he tried to flee the scene. He was sentenced to life imprisonment two months later, although it was always likely he would be released. It is rare for criminals in Italy to remain incarcerated much beyond 20 years, even for very serious offences.

The gunman, who spent the last part of the sentence in Montacuto prison near Ancona, had kissed John Paul II’s ring when he was visited in his cell in 1983 at the Rebibbia prison in Rome and later described the pontiff as his friend and thanked him for the help he had given to his family in Turkey while he remained imprisoned.

The open vehicle in which Pope John Paul II was travelling when the assassination attempt took place
The open vehicle in which Pope John Paul II was
travelling when the assassination attempt took place
Despite three investigations and two trials, mystery has long surrounded the assassination attempt. It was at first believed to be linked to Bulgarian and Soviet secret services as part of a communist plot to kill John Paul II because of his influence in his native Poland, where he had helped to loosen the grip of the communist authorities.

Agca had allegedly told the pontiff when they met in 1983 that he had been instructed to kill him by the Bulgarian secret services on behalf of the Russian KGB but, at a second trial in 1986, prosecutors failed to prove that Bulgarian secret services had hired him on the orders of the Soviet Union.

Meanwhile, a court in Istanbul had sentenced him in absentia to death for his part in the murder of newspaper editor Abdi İpekçi, carried out by a far-right Turkish paramilitary group, the Grey Wolves. The sentence was later commuted to a 10-year jail term.

Bernini's awe-inspiring sweep of colonnades makes St Peter's Square instantly recognisable
Bernini's awe-inspiring sweep of colonnades makes
St Peter's Square instantly recognisable
Travel tip:

St Peter’s Square – Piazza San Pietro – took shape under the supervision of the sculptor and architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini between 1656 and 1667, under the direction of Pope Alexander VII, who wanted an appropriate space in front of the basilica "so that the greatest number of people could see the Pope give his blessing, either from the middle of the façade of the church or from a window in the Vatican Palace". Bernini, who had been working on the interior of St Peter's for many years, chose to enclose the square within colonnades, using simple Doric columns so as not to detract from the majesty of Carlo Maderno’s basilica façade but created a sense of awe with the sheer size of the sweep of colonnades on each side. The Egyptian obelisk, erected in 1586, was retained as the centrepiece. One of the two fountains was built by Maderno in 1613 and matched by the addition of a second by Bernini in 1675.

Travel tip:

The coastal town of Ancona, about 7km (4 miles) from Montacuto, is a bustling port that at first glance can appear to lack obvious charm but which possesses much history, bearing witness to its Greek and Roman past. The 18m-high Arch of Trajan, built in honour of the emperor who built the city’s harbour, is regarded as one of the finest Roman monuments in the Marche region. The Duomo – also known as the Basilica Cattedrale Metropolitana di San Ciriaco – is equally impressive, as is the Lazzaretto, the pentagonal building constructed on an artificial island in the 18th century as a quarantine station designed to protect Ancona from diseases carried by infected travellers.


No comments:

Post a Comment