The ‘Priest’ Who Shot The Pope.

The ‘Priest’ Who Shot The Pope.

Mehmet Ali Agca greets St. Pope John Paul II, after the Holy father paid him a visit in prison.

The Priest Who Shot the Pope.

Have you heard the news?

Mehmet Ali Agca expressed his wish to become a Catholic priest. If you don’t know who Ali Agca is, or if you have forgotten; I will tell you. Agca is a fifty eight year old Turkish national, who was neither involved in the recent attack on the airport in Istanbul, nor the attempted coup. But on Wednesday 13 May 1981, the feast of Our Lady of Fatima and the anniversary of the first apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima, Agca it was, who showed up at St. Peter’s Square with a determination to change the course of history; he had come to kill the Pope who later became a Saint.

Ali Agca shot St. Karol Jozef Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) four times before he was overpowered and arrested. A brave nun rather than scamper off at the sound of gunshots and the sight of a badly wounded Pope, actually participated in the physical takedown of Agca. For his efforts, and on account of murders he had previously committed, he served time until 2010. 

During that time, Pope John Paul II visited him in prison, forgave him, met his mother, and his brother, and pleaded Agca’s cause for leniency. On his part, Agca wrote to a very ill Pope John Paul II shortly before the Pontiff’s death in 2005 and has visited the tomb of the late Pope. Let us say that the story of Pope John Paul II and Ali Agca is the story of violence, of repentance and of forgiveness.

Now, Ali Agca wants to be an Apostle Paul. At fifty eight, he wants to become a priest. He has told the world via an interview on Italian Television “Canale 5” that he would, if Pope Francis permits, pray with the Pope and become a priest.

“After John Paul II visited me in prison, I thought about it, and I studied the Gospel at length, 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.”

Becoming a priest is not the only desire of Ali Agca along the path of his spiritual journey. There, he hopes to pray with Pope Francis. “I’ll pray there, maybe even together with the pope, to the Madonna, my spiritual mother”. 

The picture of Ali Agca in Portugal, standing next to Pope Francis in the midst of Cardinals, praying to Our Lady will be beamed via satellite to a startled world -the wonders of God’s ways on display. 

A kiss of peace and a warm embrace with the world standing still to salute its latest wonder. In this age of new media, the picture will be tweeted and re-tweeted, posted on YouTube and Facebook, on Instagram and on whatsapp.

It is to the matter of his priestly vocation that I return. If Pope Francis accedes to his request, Ali Agca will presently enrol in a seminary and following requisite formation be ordained a Deacon, and then a priest. Depending on whether he is a missionary priest, or one incardinated in a Diocese, his superior or his Bishop will post him to a pastoral assignment. 

His homily will be laced with personal examples and stories of a lifetime of ironies. “Fr. Ali Agca” will hear confessions and officiate as a minister of the Eucharist. When he shall have proved himself as worthy of the Bishop’s trust, he may be assigned to administer the sacrament of confirmation on behalf of the Bishop. His parish, or station if he is in an outstation, will host not just worshippers; many will come just to see the priest who shot the Pope.

I can hear many saying God Forbid that he becomes a Priest, but it does not depend on us. Ali Agca is awaiting words from the Pope, and although it is most unlikely that he will receive the much awaited Papal nod, his life is only a reflection of the vagaries of our own human existence. If my catechism teacher is to be believed, then many of us have shot the Pope in our thoughts and in our words; in deeds and misdeeds not directly related, but equally injurious to faith and morals.

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