FaithWorld

Mehmet Ali Agca, the man who tried to kill Pope John Paul

pope agca prison

Pope John Paul meets Mehmet Ali Agca in Rome's Rebibbia prison on 27 Dec 1983/Vatican photo

Mehmet Ali Agca, the man who tried to kill Pope John Paul in 1981, is due to be released from prison in Turkey on January 18.  In a rambling statement issued by his lawyers on Wednesday, he called for a “new American Empire” championing peace and democracy.

Here are some facts about Agca and the enigmatic path that took him from life as a small-time gangster in Turkey to the would-be assassin on St. Peter’s Square.

* Early Days

– Mehmet Ali Agca was born on Jan. 9, 1958 to a poor Turkish family. As a boy, he was involved in petty crime and smuggling between Turkey and Bulgaria. He becomes a  member of the militant far-right Grey Wolves group as a teenager. In 1979, he murders Abdi Ipekci, a left-wing journalist. He is sentenced to life in prison but escapes with the help of right-wing comragdes after six months and flees to Bulgaria.

– He roams around several Mediterranean and Balkan countries and arrives in Italy in 1981.

Ukraine dispute blocks Vatican, Russian Orthodox meeting – Hilarion

By Aidar Buribayev kirill dome

Patriarch Kirill in Pochayiv Monastery in Ukraine, 5 Aug 2009/Vitaliy Hrabar

Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, would be willing to meet Pope Benedict after disputes with Catholics in Ukraine are resolved, Archbishop Hilarion, the Church’s external relations head, has said.  A meeting with the pope would begin to heal the 1,000 year-old-rift between the Western and Eastern branches of Christianity, which split in 1054 amid disputes over doctrine and papal authority that remain unresolved.

“This is not an issue of when the meeting will take place, but what will be discussed,” Hilarion told journalists on Tuesay.  He said the patriarch of the 165-million-strong Russian Orthodox Church, whose believers include the majority of Russia’s population as well as millions in neighbouring ex-Soviet countries Ukraine and Belarus, wanted a conflict in western Ukraine over church property to be resolved first.

“The situation in western Ukraine is the primary reason for the blocking of the meeting,” he said.

Pope says gay marriage threat to creation

gay marriage

Argentinans exchange rings in Ushuaia, 28 Dec 2009

Pope Benedict on Tuesday linked the Roman Catholic Church’s opposition to gay marriage to concern about the environment, suggesting that laws undermining the differences between the sexes were threats to creation.

Creatures differ from one another and can be protected, or endangered, in different ways, as we know from daily experience. One such attack comes from laws or proposals which, in the name of fighting discrimination, strike at the biological basis of the difference between the sexes,” he said at his annual meeting at the Vatican with ambassadors to the Holy See. 

  Pope Benedict addresses foreign ambassadors at the Vatican, 11 Jan 2010/Maurizio Brambatti

Pope Benedict addresses foreign ambassadors at the Vatican, 11 Jan 2010/Maurizio Brambatti

Vienna cardinal’s Medjugorje visit stirs emotions, speculation about Mary visions

Medjugorje, 25 June 2006/Danilo Krstanovic

Medjugorje, 25 June 2006/Danilo Krstanovic

A highly-publicised visit by Vienna’s Cardinal Christoph Schönborn to the disputed Roman Catholic shrine of Medjugorje seems to have deepened the divide between Catholics who fervently believe the Virgin Mary appears to visionaries there and those who suspect the Bosnian pilgrimage site may be a hoax.

The visit over the New Year’s holiday provoked a surprisingly undiplomatic public complaint from the bishop of Mostar, the Bosnian region that includes Medjugorje, and that has set the Catholic blogosphere buzzing (for example herehereherehereherehereherehere…). It also prompted a little-noticed theological comment from Schönborn that might point to where the debate over Medjugorje may be going. More on that later…

We reported here in October that Bosnian Church officials expected the Vatican to rule soon on the apparitions at the village supporters see as a “new Lourdes.” There has still not been any such ruling, so the issue has remained unresolved. This also heightened the interest in a visit by a leading “prince of the Church,” a cardinal who is also a close adviser of Pope Benedict and editor of the official Catechism catechism.

Pope John Paul remains touchstone for Poland’s Catholic Church

JP2 commemoration (Photo: Candles in Warsaw on fourth anniversary of Pope John Paul’s II, 2 April 2009/Peter Andrews)

Four and a half years after his death, Pope John Paul II remains a dominant presence in Poland’s Roman Catholic Church. Pictures of him are still ubiquitous in his homeland, and not only in churches. His former private secretary, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, regularly invoked the name of the Polish-born pontiff during an interview in Krakow with Reuters, either lauding his role in the victory of democracy over communism in eastern Europe two decades ago or speaking of the need for the church today to follow his example in reaching out to other faiths in a spirit of ecumenical dialogue.

Perhaps the issue playing most on the cardinal’s mind was the expected beatification of John Paul by his successor, Pope Benedict XVI. Beatification is the last step before sainthood. Benedict put his predecessor on ae fast track shortly after taking over at the Vatican in 2005. Dziwisz said the process was now well advanced but the timing of a final decision depended on Benedict.

“(The beatification) is important not only for the Catholic Church,” he said. “This Pope is still alive, the memory of him is still vivid and he is still the reference point for many people. This love is still present.”

Child abuse crisis to spark Irish Catholic Church shake-up

irishvatican Archbishop Diarmuid Martin (L) and Cardinal Sean Brady (C) after meeting Pope Benedict, 11 Dec 2009/Tony Gentile

Pope Benedict has expressed “outrage, betrayal and shame” at the sexual abuse of children by priests in Ireland, which Church leaders said would lead to a shake-up of the Irish Roman Catholic Church.  Church sources expected some bishops to resign in the wake of a government report that said Church leaders in overwhelmingly Catholic Ireland had covered up widespread abuse of children by priests for 30 years.

“I think that we are looking at a very significant reorganization of the Church in Ireland,” Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said after he and other Irish Church leaders held an emergency meeting with the Pope on Friday.

Q+A – Vietnam and Vatican talk about diplomatic relations

vietnam cathedral

Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet will meet Pope Benedict this week during a trip to Italy to talk about improving ties. The Vatican and the Communist-run Southeast Asian country do not have diplomatic relations. Click here for some questions and answers about the Vietnam-Vatican relationship. (Photo: Catholics at Phat Diem Cathedral south of Hanoi, 8 Sept 2009/Nguyen Huy Kham)

Pope and Irish Catholic Church to hold summit on child abuse by clergy

abuse (Photo: Irish Justice Minister Dermot Ahern while discussing abuse report with journalists, 26 Nov 2009/Cathal McNaughton)

Ireland’s top Roman Catholic leaders will hold talks with Pope Benedict this week to formulate the Vatican’s response to an Irish government report on a 30-year cover-up of sexual abuse of children by priests.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the pope and top officials would meet Cardinal Sean Brady, head of the Irish Bishops Conference, and Diarmuid Martin, the archbishop of Dublin, on Friday.

The meeting was called to discuss and evaluate “the painful situation of the Church in Ireland” following the publication last month of the Murphy Commission Report.  The rank of the participants — who will also include the Vatican ambassador to Dublin and top Vatican doctrinal officials — effectively makes it a rare summit about the problem of sexual abuse of children in the Irish Church.

Vatican rebukes prelate denying heaven to gays and transsexuals

barraganA Roman Catholic Cardinal has told homosexuals and transsexuals  they would never get into heaven, prompting a rebuke from the Vatican itself.

“Transsexuals and homosexuals will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven, it’s not me who says it but St. Paul,” said Mexican Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, a former Vatican official who recently retired, referring to one of St. Paul’s epistles. Asked if people were born homosexual Barragan, whose comments were posted on a conservative Catholic website called www.pontifex.roma on Wednesday, was quoted as saying:

“One is not born homosexual but they become that way. This is for various reasons: education, for not having developed their identity during their adolescence, maybe they are not guilty but by going against the dignity of the body they certainly will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Hope for new Vatican coins without the tourist markup

euro1euro4
Coin collectors eager to get some Vatican euros without the tourist markup may soon be able to thank Brussels for nudging the Holy See to issue some of its money as real money. Nearly all of the euro coins minted every year with the image of Pope Benedict are sold to collectors. They go at the Vatican souvenir shop for 30 euros a set, which is already a tidy markup from their 3.88 euro face value. What’s worse, they can be hard to find, which means many end up on a secondary market where the sets go for multiples of their original sale price. Here’s one on sale on the Internet for 89 euros, another for 99 euros. Prices are probably higher in coin shops.

The European Commission took up this issue last July when it asked the European Central Bank (ECB) for advice on renegotiating the monetary agreement the EU has with the Vatican City State allowing it to use the European currency.  Before the euro was introduced, the world’s smallest state issued its own lira similar to the Italian lira. The Vatican has the right to issue 1,074, 000 euros in coins per year. But, as the Commission noted, it “issues virtually all its circulation coins in collectors’ sets (in the euro area less than 1% of the coins are sold above face value in coin sets).”

eurojp2Ëuro circulation coins are primarily a payment instrument: they should circulate freely in the market and be used for payments. Circulation coins absorbed by coin collectors do not serve their original purpose but are exclusively used as collectors’ items,” it noted.