Pope John Paul II: Would-Be Assassin Lays White Roses On Pontiff’s Grave

The assassin who attempted to kill Pope John Paul II has traveled to the Vatican to lay flowers on the grave of the man whom he shot in 1981.

Mehmet Ali Agca made the gesture 31 years to the day after he was forgiven by John Paul II, who famously visited his would-be killer in prison to offer absolution, the Daily Mail reports. Agca stood for several moments in meditation over the Pope’s tomb, before laying two bundles of white roses on the grave.

The 59-year-old, who spent 19 years in prison for the attempt on John Paul II’s life, also asked officials for a face-to-face meeting with Pope Francis. The Vatican, however, denied Agca’s request for a second time.

“He has put flowers on the tomb of John Paul II. I think that is enough,” Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi noted.

John Paul II was left critically injured in the assault, which took place in St. Peter’s Square on May 13, 1981. Agca fired several shots, one of which passed through the Pope’s abdomen, while another narrowly missed his heart. Following the assassination attempt, a note was found in Agca’s pocket, in which he claimed to have attacked the Pope as a protest against imperialism.

Agca was once a member of a Turkish far-right group, the Grey Wolves, and served a prison sentence for the murder of journalist Abdi Ipekci prior to his attack on the Pope.

After Agca was sentenced to life imprisonment, John Paul II visited him in 1983, offering his forgiveness for the attempt on his life. The Pope helped to pressure Italian authorities for Agca’s release in 2000, after which he was deported to Turkey, where he served 10 years for the murder of Ipekci, amid other crimes. Agca was released from prison in 2010, as the Chicago Tribune notes.

The attempted assassination of John Paul II has long been clouded by unanswered questions regarding who may have orchestrated the attack. An Italian investigative parliamentary commission alleged in 2006 that leaders of the former Soviet Union were behind the plot, while others have suggested that radical Islamic groups sponsored the act.

Earlier this year, a vial of the Pope’s blood was stolen from a small church in central Italy. As the Inquisitr previously reported, only three samples of Pope John Paul II’s blood are known to remain.

[Image: AFP/ Getty Images via the Daily Mail]