Pope Shooter: I Almost Didn't Do It

The gunman serving a life sentence for shooting Pope John Paul II in 1981 says he almost walked away from St. Peter's Square that day without pulling the trigger.

CBS News Correspondent Allen Pizzey reports Mehmet Ali Agca was interviewed on a talk show late May 15 on RAI state TV about the Vatican's revelation two days earlier of the so-called third secret of Fatima.

The Catholic church says the prophecy was delivered to three shepherd children when the Virgin Mary appeared to them in Fatima, Portugal, on May 13, 1917. The Vatican said the third secret foretold that a pope would be shot, but that he would survive.

Speaking from his prison in Ancona, on Italy's east coast, Agca offered the public his version of the dramatic moments during the pope's general audience before he started firing.

"The pope had done his first swing," Agca said, referring to the pontiff's moving through the square in an open-topped white vehicle as thousands of faithful waved and cheered. "He had his back to me," said Agca, an alleged sharpshooter, contending that he refused to shoot any man who had his back to him.

Agca said at that point he was thinking that he would walk away, "throw the gun into the Tiber" River, which flows near the Vatican and take a train to Zurich, Switzerland.

Then "I heard this strong applause. I saw the pope in front of me, 50 yards away.... Something was dragging me (back). `You must do it. You must do it,'" Agca said he recalled a voice in his head saying.

The pope had just picked up a blond, curly-haired toddler that a parish priest had held out to the pontiff, then gave the girl back. Agca said at that moment he pulled the trigger.

In the interview, Agca, speaking almost perfect Italian, insisted he acted alone.

The Turk, who has been seeking a pardon from the Italian president, implied in his interview that some unnamed authorities had suggested that he come up with some co-conspirators in order to win early release.

"If there is nothing, you have to invent something to get out," Agca said. Most life sentences in Italy are commuted after about 20 years.


AP
An image of the Virgin of Fatima was paraded before the Basilica of Fatima in Portugal last Friday.

The pope chose the Vatican's No. 2, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, to reveal the meaning of the secret while the pontiff was at Fatima Saturday during his latest pilgrimage to the shrine to give thanks for surviving the shooting.

Many believers had feared the secret was about some apocalyptic end for humanity.

The oter two secrets had been revealed decades earlier. The visions foretold the end of World War I and the beginning of World War II, and the rise and fall of Soviet Communism.