Beliefnet
The Deacon's Bench

It happened this morning in Turkey:

Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish man who shot and wounded Pope John Paul II in 1981, was released from a Turkish prison on Monday proclaiming that he was “the Christ eternal” after serving jail terms totaling 29 years.

Under heavy guard and with his car flanked by a huge convoy of reporters and television crews, Mr. Agca, 52, was driven to a Turkish military hospital to be assessed for military service, which is compulsory in Turkey.

Wearing a blue sweater, Mr. Agca looked tense in images taken by photographers through the darkened windows of his car.

Mr. Agca shot the pope on May 13, 1981, in St. Peter’s Square, wounding him in the stomach, left hand and right arm. Two years later, the pope visited Mr. Agca in a an Italian prison and offered forgiveness.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Monday he had no comment on the freeing of Mr. Agca.

With his release from prison — he served 10 years in Turkey after 19 years imprisonment in Italy — Mr. Agca is reported to be considering an array of multi-million dollar offers to tell his story. But there have long been questions about his mental condition.

Gokayi Gultekin, Mr. Agca’s lawyer, said in a telephone interview before his release that Mr. Agca had already been found unfit for military service because of his “severe anti-social character.”

In a statement made public outside the prison at Sincan on the outskirts of Ankara on Monday, Mr. Agca declared: “I proclaim the end of the world. All the world will be destroyed in this century. Every human being will die in this century.”

“I am the Christ eternal,” the statement said. “The gospel is full of mistakes, I will write the perfect gospel.”

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