Friday, January 13, 2006

Mehmet Ali Agca

The release this week by a Turkish province of the man who attempted to assassinate of Pope John Paul II leads us all back many years to one of the most powerful images of the otherwise horrendous 20th century: the image of the pope visiting the Italian prison cell where Ali Agca was serving his sentence. Even within a week of the shooting, John Paul spoke from his hospital bed, extending forgiveness to this man. Some have said that his visit to the prison was an effort to make his forgiveness more tangible in person and to ask the Turk why he had shot him. Italian authorities at the time insisted, but could not prove, that Ali Agca was acting at the behest of the Bulgarians who where acting on the nod of the Soviets. Perhaps we will never know for certain exactly what was behind it. Perhaps a newly freed Al Agca will tell us. Whatever the case, the enduring and most enthralling image of that whole era, and perhaps of that century, is the one of John Paul sitting in the prison cell, his chair pulled up close to his assassin and and the forgiving hand of John Paul that rested on hands of his would-be killer.