Vatican declines to comment on release of Ali Agca

 The Turkish man who shot Pope John Paul II in 1981 is due to be released from prison in his homeland on Thursday. Agca served 19 years of a life sentence in Italy for the assassination attempt before being pardoned at the late Pope's request in 2000. He was then extradited to Turkey to serve a separate sentence in an Istanbul jail for robbery and murder. An official Vatican statement said: "the decision is in the hands of the courts involved." The Pope nearly died from his injuries but doctors saved his life, mainly because the bullets had missed vital organs. He publicly forgave Agca four days after the shooting and again when he visited his assailant in a Rome prison in 1983. Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, Pope John Paul's former secretary who is now archbishop of Krakow in Poland, told the Corriere della Sera newspaper that the late Pope would have approved. "He is praying for him (Agca) from heaven and I am too," Dziwisz said. Source: VIS/ICN