The release of the Turkish gunman who shot Pope John Paul II passed with little notice at the Vatican today, with the Vatican newspaper ignoring the news and Pope Benedict XVI making no public mention of it during a busy day of audiences and speeches.
Vatican Radio arried a brief interview with a spokesman for Turkish bishops, Monsignor Georges Marovich, who urged the public not to make a big deal about the release of Mehmet Ali Agca.
“The less it’s talked about, the better,” he told the broadcaster.
He noted that John Paul II had forgiven Agca, and concurred with suggestions by some Italian investigators that Agca’s life may be in danger.
But his main message was that Agca needed prayers.
“Once again, we pray for him that the Lord illuminates him and that he makes a new life,” he said.
Agca shot the pope in St Peter’s Square on May 13, 1981, and was captured immediately.
He served 20 years in prison in Italy before being pardoned and extradited to Turkey in 2000, where he was immediately jailed for killing a Turkish journalist.
The Vatican’s official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, made no mention of the release in this afternoon’s editions, and similarly didn’t report on the news when it was first announced earlier this week.
Pope Benedict hasn’t commented publicly on the release, and made no mention of it in two speeches he delivered today during audiences with Italian officials and members of a Catholic community.
The Vatican spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, has said the Vatican defers to the jurisdiction of the Turkish courts in the matter.