Man who shot Pope claims he is a messenger of God

THE Turk who shot Pope John Paul II in 1981 was released from prison yesterday after more than 29 years behind bars and proclaimed he was a messenger of God and the world will end this century.

Mehmet Ali Agca, 52, waved as he left the prison. Turkish authorities plan to monitor him closely because of long-standing questions about his mental health.

Agca shot John Paul on May 13, 1981, as the pope rode in an open car in St Peter’s Square. The pontiff was hit in the abdomen, left hand and right arm, but the bullets missed vital organs. John Paul met with Agca in Italy’s Rebibbia prison in 1983 and forgave him for the shooting.

Following his release, Agca sat calmly between two plainclothes policemen in the backseat of a car that took him to a military hospital. There, doctors concluded he was unfit for compulsory military service because of “severe antisocial personality disorder,” said his lawyer, Yilmaz Abosoglu.

In the statement distributed by Abosoglu outside the prison in Sincan on the outskirts of Ankara, the Turkish capital, Agca declared: “I proclaim the end of the world. All the world will be destroyed in this century.”

He ended the long, rambling text by signing off as “the Christ eternal,” in keeping with past outbursts and claims he was the Messiah.

Upon his arrival at his hotel, he addressed reporters in English.

“I will meet you in the next three days,” Agca said. “In the name of God, almighty, I proclaim the end of the world. 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.” He also said the Gospel was full of mistakes and he would write the perfect one.

Agca, who has said he wants to travel to the Vatican, does not have a passport.

Vatican spokesman Reverend Federico Lombardi said there were no plans to comment on the release.

The motive for the attack on the pontiff remains unclear but has not been linked to Islamic issues.

When Agca was arrested minutes after the attack, he declared he had acted alone. Later, he suggested Bulgaria and the Soviet Union’s KGB were behind the attack.

Agca was released after completing his sentence for killing journalist Abdi Ipekci in 1979. He had received a life sentence, which amounts to 36 years under Turkish law, for murdering Ipekci, but he escaped from a Turkish prison less than six months into the sentence and went on to shoot the pope in Rome two years later.

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