On this day in 1983 Pope John Paul II met Mehmet Ali Ağca, the man who had shot him two years previously in an attempt to kill him. The attack happened as the Pope was shaking hands and lifting small children in his arms while being driven around St Peter’s square. Suddenly, there was a burst of gunfire – four shots were fired and the Pope faltered and fell into the arms of his Polish secretary, who was in the car with him. Following the shooting, the Pope asked people to pray for Ağca “whom I have sincerely forgiven.”
He and Ağca met and spoke privately at the prison where Ağca was being held and a friendship is said to have developed. In early February 2005, during the Pope’s illness, he sent a letter to the Pope wishing him well. The Pope was also in touch with Ağca’s family over the years, meeting his mother and, later, his brother. Ağca gave several reasons for the shooting, but it seems possible that it was instigated by the Soviet Union because of the Solidarity uprisings in Poland. The Pope was considered fortunate not to have been killed. Today’s poem is really a hymn about forgiveness by John Donne, A Hymn to God the Father:
Wilt thou forgive that sin where I begun,
Which was my sin, though it were done before?
Wilt thou forgive that sin, through which I run,
And do run still, though still I do deplore?
When thou hast done, thou hast not done,
For I have more.
I have a sin of fear, that when I have spun
My last thread, I shall perish on the shore;
But swear by thyself, that at my death thy Son
Shall shine as he shines now, and heretofore;
And, having done that, thou hast done;
For I fear no more.
Today I ask that I be not too proud or angry to recognise when I have done wrong and to ask for forgiveness.