LES COMBES, Italy (CNS): One month after the extradition to Turkey of Pope John Paul II’s would-be assassin, the Vatican confirmed that the Pope personally intervened in the gunman’s release from his Italian prison.
Speaking to reporters at the Pope’s vacation home in the Italian Alps on July 16, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the pontiff had written a letter in May to Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.
President Ciampi signed a clemency order for Mehmet Ali Agca on June 13, immediately after which Italian justice ministry officials issued the extradition decree. Agca flew to Turkey that evening and entered a prison there in the early hours of June 14.
Agca is currently serving a 10-year sentence in his home country for the murder of a Turkish newspaper editor and also faces separate robbery charges.
Since the May 13, 1981 attack, the Pope had several times said he had forgiven Agca, and the Vatican repeatedly said it had no objection to Agca’s extradition to Turkey. But Mr Navarro-Valls’ comments marked the first public confirmation of a papal letter to Italian authorities.