ISTANBUL (AFP) - Turkish extremist Mehmet Ali Agca, who attempted to assassinate Pope John Paul II more than three decades ago, has asked the Vatican for permission to meet Pope Francis when he visits Turkey next week, reports said Wednesday.
The Pope is due to visit Turkey for the first time from Nov 28-30, during which time he will meet President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
"Pope Francis, who seeks to boost peace and brotherhood at a time the world is going through a a political, economic and humanitarian crisis, is welcome to Turkey," Agca said in a press statement published by Turkish media.
"I am Mehmet Ali Agca and I would like to meet the Pope during this visit," the statement said, accompanied by a photo of Pope John Paul II visiting Agca in a Rome prison in 1983 to forgive his attacker.
John Paul II nearly died in the assassination attempt in 1981 when Agca shot him at close range in St Peter's Square. One bullet went through his abdomen and another narrowly missed his heart.
The motive for the attack, which landed Agca in an Italian prison, remains a mystery.
Agca, believed by many to be mentally disturbed, was released from a Turkish prison in 2010 after serving nearly three decades behind bars.
He was a 23-year-old militant of the notorious far-right Grey Wolves movement, on the run from Turkish justice, when he shot Pope John Paul II.
Extradited to Turkey in 2000 after Italy pardoned him, Agca was convicted of the murder of prominent journalist Abdi Ipekci, two armed robberies and escaping from prison, crimes all dating back to the 1970s.