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Turkish gunman wants to be baptised at the Vatican

Mehmet Ali Agca is due to be released in 2010 from the Yenikent prison, located in the Turkish capital Ankara where he is serving a separate sentence for robbery and murder. Ankara, 13 May (AKI) - The Turkish gunman, who tried to kill the late Pope John Paul II in 1981, has told an Italian newspaper he wants to convert to Catholicism. In an interview with the Italian daily, La Repubblica, Mehmet Ali Agca said he wants to be baptised in St. Peter's square, where he shot and wounded the Polish pope. Mehmet Ali Agca wounded John Paul II on 13 May 1981. He was a member of the radical rightwing Turkish group, the Grey Wolves and was captured immediately after shooting the pontiff. The pope later, from his hospital bed, forgave his assailant. "Once freed, I would like to be baptised. I would like to do it in front of media from all over the world, in the Vatican, exactly in front of St. Peter's Square, the place where I struck Pope Wojtyla (John Paul II)," said Ali Agca in an interview published on Tuesday. Regarding John Paul II, Ali Agca says he remembers him as a kind human being. "I remember the pope as the most respectable and kind-hearted human being of the 21st century. I would like to pay him a tribute in front of his tomb," he said. When asked about how he feels in Turkey, Agca said he missed Italy, but would like to receive Portuguese citizenship. "I am okay. Although I thought I would feel better in Turkey once I was extradited. They treat me well here, but I miss Italy and I miss freedom. "I would like to travel, have a simple life and work...we are trying to talk to the Portuguese government. I would like to obtain citizenship there. "In Portugal, at Fatima, there is a statue of the Virgin of Fatima which was dear to Wojtyla," he said. "Pope Ratzinger explained that the assassination attempt constituted the famous Third Secret, that is why I chose Portugal."

The Third Secret of Fatima is a prophecy believed to have been given to three Portuguese children during a series of apparitions by the Virgin Mary in 1917 on 13 May, the same day John Paul II was shot. The text, written down more than 50 years ago by one of the children, refers to a bishop dressed in white being killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him. However, there have been many reports about a so-called conversion by Ali Agca. Recently in a letter to Italian weekly, Diva e Donna, Ali Agca said he would like to marry an Italian and that he had already converted to Catholicism on 13 May 2007, 26 years after the attempt on John Paul II's life. After serving almost 20 years of a life sentence in prison in Italy, he received an official pardon from former Italian president Carlo Azeglio Ciampi in 2000 and was deported to Turkey. He was then jailed at the Yenikent jail in the capital Ankara where he is serving a separate sentence for robbery and murder. Ali Agca first claimed he was commissioned to kill the pontiff by Bulgaria on the orders of the Soviet KGB or intelligence services. Agca later recanted, but suspicions continued about a Bulgarian connection, involving secret services of the then Communist bloc who feared the Polish Pope's influence on the global stage.