RELIGION
12/29/2014 04:29 pm ET Updated Dec 29, 2014

St. John Paul II's Would-Be Assassin Expelled From Italy After Visiting Former Pope's Tomb

ADEM ALTAN via Getty Images

(RNS) Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish man who tried to assassinate St. John Paul II in 1981, was expelled from Italy on Monday (Dec. 29) after paying a visit to the tomb of the Polish pontiff.

An Italian judge on Monday approved the expulsion of the former terrorist; he was scheduled to be sent back to Istanbul on a Turkish Airlines flight from Rome Monday night, police sources told the Italian news agency, ANSA.

Agca’s expulsion came two days after he placed flowers on the late pope’s tomb in St. Peter’s Basilica on Saturday.

Agca, 56, served 19 years for his crime in Italy, where John Paul famously visited him in prison. He was then deported to his native Turkey, where he served further time for the murder of left-wing journalist Abdi Ipekci, who was killed in 1979.

“I would like to go to the tomb of John Paul II, who visited me in prison,” Agca told ANSA earlier this month. “I couldn’t go to his funeral so I would like to pay my respects to a spiritual brother.”

John Paul was left seriously injured by the attack as he toured the crowds in St. Peter’s Square when one bullet passed through his abdomen and another narrowly missed his heart. Vatican officials have rejected requests from Agca for a face-to-face meeting with Pope Francis.

Italian media on Monday questioned how Agca was allowed to land in Austria and enter Italy since he is banned from visiting either country until 2016.

Agca also claimed that Emanuela Orlandi, an Italian teenager who went missing in mysterious circumstances in 1983, was still alive.

“She is absolutely alive, probably in some convent,” he said. “The Vatican knows everything and denies everything … it would be difficult for Emanuela to re-emerge on her own and for the Vatican to restore her to her family.”

Agca’s expulsion comes after lawyers for Orlandi’s family filed an unsuccessful motion to keep him in Italy so he could be formally interrogated about her disappearance. The public prosecutor’s office said Agca is “not credible” and not worth questioning.

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