Vatican no comment on release of would be papal assassin
The Vatican is accepting the decision of a Turkish court to free Mehmet Ali Agca, the would-be assassin of Pope John Paul II.
Questioned yesterday about the news that Agca could be freed this week, the director of the Vatican press office Joaquin Navarro-Valls said that his only news on the issue came from wire-service reports.
Catholic World News reports that Navarro-Valls added simply: "The Holy See, faced with such a juridical question, confides in the decisions of the courts involved in this matter."
Cardinal Angelo Sodano confirmed to the Italian daily La Repubblica that the Holy See would not be involved in questions about Agca's future.
"That is for the courts to decide," said the Vatican Secretary of State.
Agca shot and severely wounded Pope John Paul on 13 May 1981. He was convicted on the shooting by an Italian court in July of the same year, and sentenced to life imprisonment. However, in June 2000 he received a pardon from Italy's President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, who was acting with the tacit support of Pope John Paul after the Pontiff had encouraged gestures of pardon for prisoners as part of the celebration of the Jubilee Year 2000.
Agca's pardon was granted on the understanding that he would be extradited to his native Turkey, where he had been convicted in 1979 of killing the journalist Abdi Ipekci. Agca had served less than six months of a 10-year sentence for that murder before he escaped in 1979. He faced separate prison terms in Turkey for robberies committed in 1979.
Since his return to Turkey in 2000, Agca has seen several judicial decisions reducing the length of his required stay in prison. On Sunday, a Turkish tribunal announced that Agca had completed his required prison sentence.
From Krakow, Archbishop Stanislas Dziwisz, the longtime secretary to Pope John Paul, told the Italian press agency Apcom that the Turkish court decision was a secondary consideraton.
"John Paul II has already pardoned Ali Agca, a long time ago," the Polish prelate said. "Now, in heaven, he is praying for him."
No comment from Vatican on release of Ali Agca (Catholic World News 9/1/06)
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10 Jan 2006