The director of the Vatican press office has rejected claims by Ali Agca, the man responsible for the assassination attempt on Blessed John Paul II, that the plot was ordered by an Iranian Islamic leader.
“Must we believe Agca this time? I think not,” said Fr. Federico Lombardi in a written statement.
On Feb. 1, Fr. Lombardi told reporters that Agca’s new book details a false conversation with the late Holy Father, in which he told the Pope that he had been working for Ayatollah Khomeini, who died in 1989.
The Turkish gunman’s new book hit Italian bookstores on Jan. 31. Fr. Lombardi argued that the book was an attempt to gain money while distracting investigators who linked Agca to crimes committed in Eastern Europe.
Agca’s new claim is that “the Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran and Nazi-Fascist Islam are the real explanation behind the motive to kill the Pope as a crucial point in the final war against the hatred Christian west,” he said.
According the Vatican spokesman, Agca said he had kept the assignment “completely secret” and revealed it only to Pope John Paul II when the Pontiff visited him in prison in December 1983 to offer him forgiveness.
“After exchanging words regarding the third secret of Fatima, the Pope supposedly asked him a crucial question: Who ordered you to kill me?” Fr. Lombardi said, adding that the Turkish gunman supposedly responded that Khomeini and the Iranian government had ordered the Pope’s assassination.
Fr. Lombardi also denied that the Pope invited Agca to convert to Christianity repeatedly, including once in a hand-written letter.
The spokesman said that he consulted with numerous people mentioned in the new book, including former Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls and Pope John Paul II’s personal secretary, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, who was present when the Holy Father met with Agca in the prison cell.
In his book, Agca references a supposed “Islamic clue” that would shed light on the disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi, who disappeared at the Vatican in 1983.
He claims in the book that Navarro-Valls once said, “It could have been Islamic fundamentalists who were hoping to free Agca.” He also quotes Navarro-Valls as saying, “The Vatican seems to understand. Islamic fundamentalism was behind the kidnapping of Emaneula, and therefore, behind the assassination attempt on John Paul II.”
However, Fr. Lombardi noted, Navarro-Valls did not become the Vatican spokesman until Dec. 4, 1984, and has said that he never took charge of the disappearance of Emanuela.
For his part, Cardinal Dziwisz said the Vatican has never put any credence in a supposed “Islamic clue.”