The courage of forgiveness… A lesson that took place 36 years ago

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The courage of forgiveness… A lesson that took place 36 years ago

By Fr. Dr. Rif'at Bader

On December 28, namely 36 years ago (in 1981), Pope John Paul II visited Prison of Rebibbia in Rome, to meet terrorist Mehmet Ali Ağca, the Turkish man who tried to assassinate him on May 13 of that year. At the time, the Pope completely forgave that person who had shot him several times and was about to take his life.

It is a historic image, that is always remembered in the contemporary world, and an ineffable message in full forgiveness in an era of convulsions, of the desire for taking revenge, and of the inability to forgive even in the same house.

Polish Pope Karol Józef Wojtyła pardoned the Turkish criminal after spending five days in the hospital. He said, "I have forgiven with all my heart the man who tried to kill me." However, on the third day of Christmas on that year, the forgiveness took place face to face when they met in prison.

John Paul II is today a saint in the Kingdom of God. The bullet extracted from the vicinity of his heart had been placed on the crown of the statue of Virgin Mary in Fatima-Portugal because the assassination attempt took place on the day of Her feast. As for the criminal, he was freed from prison on certain intervals in his country. Yet, he was imprisoned later in the wake of committing various violations other than the attempt on the life of the Pope.

We are badly in need of those who sow the seeds of goodness, namely forgiveness of all from all one's heart. The cowardice lies in sowing the seeds of hatred, in creating tension in the world, and in the desire to exterminate others. The courage lies in forgiveness and in sowing seeds that germinate into holiness for decades. Everything remains in the hands of the Merciful God.

The criminal asked the Pope on this very day, 36 years ago, saying, "Why you did not die? I aimed the bullets well at you?" He answered: "There is one hand that shoots bullets, and there is another hand that directs them."

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