Papal assassin warns Pope Benedict his 'life is in danger' if he visits Turkey | News | This is London
Pope Benedict faces a growing chorus of demands to make an unequivocal apology for remarks seen as portraying Islam as a violent faith, despite attempts by Western leaders and churchmen to defuse the crisis.
The calls came as it emerged papal hitman Mehmet Ali Agca, who is serving a life sentence for the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II in May 1981, has written to Pope Benedict XVI from jail, warning him not to go to Turkey as planned in November in the light of his remarks.
Agca, a Turk gave his ominous warning in a letter to an Italian daily newspaper.
In a telegram to the order of an Italian nun killed in Somalia who may be the crisis' first victim, the Pope hoped her sacrifice would help build "real fraternity among people with reciprocal respect of everyone's religious convictions".
But the deluge of criticism and threats continued. Italian media said an al Qaeda group in Egypt called for the German-born Pope, who is 79, to be punished by strict Islamic sharia law for insulting their religion. An al Qaeda umbrella group in Iraq has also vowed war on "worshippers of the cross".
Workers at Turkey's Directorate General for Religious Affairs, or Diyanet, petitioned for the arrest of the Pontiff when he makes a scheduled visit to Turkey in November.
They held banners saying "Either apologise or don't come". The Pope's comments annoyed the Turkish government but there are no plans yet to cancel the trip.
In Iraq, where an effigy of the Pope was burnt on Monday, parliament speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani called his apology "inadequate and not commensurate with the moral damage caused to Muslims' feelings".
The Grand Mufti of the Palestinian Territories, Sheikh Mohammad Hussein, said the Pope must make "a personal and clear apology to 1.5 billion Muslims in this world for the insult caused by his lecture..."
In his two page letter to leading Italian Rome based daily La Repubblica, Agca, who was a member of the Turkish terrorist cell the White Wolves, wrote: "Pope Ratzinger listen to someone who knows these things very well.
"Your life is in danger. You absolutely must not come to Turkey. Pope Benedict you must know that between 1980 and 2000 I was in contact with various Western intelligence services and with the Vatican.
"In those twenty tears I learnt many things and I came into possession of many classified secrets."
The letter closed with Agca imploring Pope Benedict to resign for his own safety he wrote: "For your own welfare you must make a grand gesture of honour and resign.
"Then you must return to your native land (Germany) and in your place an Italian cardinal can be elected Pope, possibly (cardinal Dionigi) Tettamanzi or (cardinal Tarcisio) Bertone.
"Then the Vatican should become a centre of peace and fraternity. The world has a need of this it does not need hatred and vendetta."
Agca was jailed for his attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II in St Peter's Square in May 1981 and in 2000 he was allowed to return to Turkey to serve the rest of his sentence.
Earlier this year he was briefly freed from his life sentence after a judge released him but after a huge outcry he was jailed again within days and is now at Istanbul's Kartal Maltepe jail and not due for release until 2012.
In Italy, politicians and churchmen defended the Pope and said his words were taken out of context and his explanation was quite clear.
Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano published it in Arabic on its front page to try to clarify his meaning.
But while some Muslim clerics say the alleged insults are the latest skirmish in a new Western 'crusade' against Islam, some Catholic churchmen say the Pontiff's words have been purposefully twisted by militant Muslims.
"We pray for the Pope whose words have been maliciously interpreted," Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe said in Naples at the annual 'miracle' of fourth century Saint Gennaro, whose blood turns from powder to liquid in what is seen as a good omen.
The head of Australia's 5.1 million-strong Catholic church went as far as to say that violent reaction "justified one of Pope Benedict's main fears" about Islam.
Cardinal George Pell said this showed "the link for many Islamists between religion and violence, their refusal to respond to criticism with rational arguments, but only with demonstrations, threats and actual violence". Local Muslims called Pell's comments 'unhelpful'.
I had to copy one person'a comment about this article in thisislondcon.co.uk:
"I ask you one thing, now that the Pope has been insulted, blamed, threatened with death, why dont the Catholics riot in the streets?
- Rul Antal, germany"
Ha ha ha! Thanks Rul!