Mehmet Alì Ağca, the Turkish gunman who tried to assassinate St. John Paul II in 1981, and who has demonstrated a pattern of erratic statements and behaviors ever since, is now saying he’s ready to become a Catholic priest if Pope Francis will welcome him in the Vatican.
Alì Ağca, who’s 58, served 19 years in an Italian prison for shooting John Paul until he was pardoned in the jubilee year of 2000 at the pontiff’s request. He was then deported to Turkey, where he spent an additional decade behind bars until being released in 2010.
“Here in Turkey, I live as a pensioner wasting my time,” Alì Ağca told the Italian television network Canale 5, in an interview set for broadcast July 12.
“That’s why I want to make an appeal to Pope Francis: Welcome me in the Vatican, and I will become a priest,” he said.
“After John Paul II visited me in prison, I thought about it, and I studied the Gospel at length,” Alì Ağca said. “I know the sacred books better than many others. If the pope welcomes me, I’ll be a priest and I will celebrate Mass, if he wants me!”
Alì Ağca added that he would like to go to Fatima in Portugal in May 2017, for celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of the famed Marian apparitions. Pope Francis is expected to be on hand.
“I’ll pray there, maybe even together with the pope, to the Madonna, my spiritual mother,” he said.
The assassination attempt against John Paul took place on May 13, 1981, the feast day of Our Lady of Fatima, and reportedly Alì Ağca became fascinated with the devotion and the revelations associated with Fatima.
A former member of the Turkish nationalist group the “Grey Wolves”, Alì Ağca has given shifting accounts over the years of what impelled him to shoot John Paul – he’s hinted at connections with the KGB, with Islamic radicalism, and various other shadowy forces.
In his new interview with Canale 5, he acknowledges he spent more than two months in Iran the year before the assassination attempt, but appears to deny a role by the Iranians that he himself had claimed in his 2013 memoirs.
“It’s true, I went to Iran in January 1980 for around 70 days,” he said. “I was there because I had to escape the Turkish government, but I didn’t do anything and I never met Ayatollah Khomeini.”
As to whether he was in Iran as part of KGB cover story, Alì Ağca was more cryptic: “I don’t want to get into that subject because there’s a probe of the Italian parliament, and I don’t want to talk about it.”
Alì Ağca’s history likely means his latest statements will be taken with a grain of salt.
In 2005, as John Paul II struggled with his illness, Alì Ağca wrote the pontiff a letter to tell him the world would end soon. In 2008, he announced he wanted to visit John Paul’s tomb and partner with Dan Brown, author of “The Da Vinci Code,” on a book about his life.
In 2010, after his release from prison, Alì Ağca was evaluated to determine if he was still fit for compulsory military service in Tukey. He was rejected on the basis that he suffers from “antisocial personality disorder.”
In 2010, Alì Ağca released a statement that appeared to suggest he regards himself as divine.
“I will meet you in the next three days. In the name of God Almighty, I proclaim the end of the world in this century,” it said. “All the world will be destroyed, every human being will die. I am not God, I am not son of God, I am Christ eternal.”