Istanbul: Ali Agca, the Turkish assassin who tried to kill Pope John Paul II, says he would like to meet Pope Francis during his visit to Egypt this week.
“If Pope Francis so wishes, I will go to Egypt to meet him,” Agca told AKI in a phone interview.
Agca said he hoped the visit to Cairo by Francis on Friday would help “peaceful coexistence between Muslims and Christians”.
“I hope the Pope’s visit to Egypt can help peaceful coexistence between Muslims and Christians who endure shared suffering due to capitalism and unregulated liberalism,” he said.
Agca attacked economic disparity in a world where “the 60 richest possess the wealth of three billion human beings”.
“This grotesque divide has killed the spirit of all the world’s regions,” he said.
Francis knows that “no war of religion exists in the world but rather ... an attempt to kill poor Muslims and Christians to ensure the survival of uncontrolled capitalism”, Agca claimed.
Francis has asked to travel in a non-armoured car during his two-day trip to Egypt, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said on Monday.
The visit is aimed mainly at reaching out to Egypt’s minority Catholics and boosting dialogue between Christians and Muslims and among the country’s various Christian sects, Burke said.
It comes after 47 people died in blasts at St George’s Coptic church in the northern city of Tanta and St Mark’s Coptic cathedral in Alexandria on April 9, attacks claimed by the Daesh terrorist group.
Soon after John Paul II’s canonisation, on December 27, 2014, Agca went to the Vatican to lay white roses on his tomb in St Peter’s Square and said he wanted to meet Pope Francis — a request that was denied.
John Paul II met Agca while he was in prison in Italy, forgave him for the May 13, 1981 assassination attempt and later met Agca’s mother and brother.
Agca was pardoned by then Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi at the John Paul’s request and was deported to Turkey in June 2000.