By Alessandro Speciale
Religion News Service
VATICAN CITY — The Vatican on Friday (Feb. 1) dismissed a claim by the man who tried to kill Pope John Paul II that the assassination attempt had been ordered by Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Mehmet Ali Agca makes the claim in his latest autobiography, “Mi avevano promesso il Paradiso,” (”They Promised Me Paradise”) released in Italy on Thursday.
Turkish-born Agca shot and wounded John Paul in St. Peter’s Square on May 13, 1981. He was released from prison in 2010.
In the book, Agca claims that he revealed Khomeini, who died in 1989, as the instigator of the assassination plot during a private meeting with the pope in Rome’s Rebibbia prison in 1983.
In his autobiography, Agca tells of a night meeting with Khomeini on May 13, 1980, exactly one year before the assassination attempt.
“You have to kill the pope in the name of Allah. You have to kill the devil’s mouthpiece on earth,” the Iranian ayatollah allegedly ordered Agca.
But Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi dismissed Agca’s accusations as the latest “lies” among the “over 100 versions of the events” Agca has offered since the assassination attempt.
In a note published on Vatican Radio, Lombardi said that he had spoken with John Paul’s personal secretary, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, who was present at the prison meeting. Dziwisz denied that Agca told the pope about any Iranian connection. He also dismissed the man’s allegation that John Paul urged Agca to convert to Catholicism.
Agca also claims that, while in jail, he had a mail exchange with then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who allegedly also invited him to convert.
According to Lombardi, Ratzinger — who later became Pope Benedict XVI — never replied to Agca’s numerous letters.
In the past, the 55-year-old Agca, who has been diagnosed with mental problems, said that the assassination attempt had been instigated by the Secret Service of Communist Bulgaria, who had been instructed to kill the pope by the Soviet KGB.
Agca often contradicts himself, and his assassination attempt has never been fully explained.