Forty-four days after President Ronald Reagan was shot by a would-be assassin in 1981, Pope John Paul II was shot as he crossed St Peter’s Square in Vatican City.
A young Muslim man, Mehmet Ali Agca, had escaped from a Turkish prison where he was serving a life term for murder. As John Paul mingled among some 10,000 on-lookers, Agca shot the pontiff twice. Wounded in the abdomen, right arm and left hand, the pope underwent 5 hours and 25 minutes of surgery in which parts of his intestine were removed.
On December 27, 1983, John Paul met with Agca in his prison cell. At the meeting, John Paul forgave his transgressor. After the 21 minute meeting, the pope left the prison and said: “Ali Agca is, as everyone says, a professional assassin. Which means that the assassination was not his initiative, someone else thought of it, someone else gave the order.” Later reports suggested a complicated murder conspiracy between the Soviet KGB, an angry cardinal inside the Vatican, and Agca.
At the pope’s request in 2000, Agca was pardoned by the president of Italy, and returned to Turkey to finish his life sentence and ended in 2010.
The pope’s act of forgiveness is still hailed as an example of Christian forgiveness. Admirable as it was, it falls far short of the forgiveness experienced by the sinner from God.
The Bible says, God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them … for He made Christ who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:19, 21). This means that God forgave your sins by placing them on Jesus, then Jesus took your death sentence and you walked away.
The pope forgave and left the prison but Agca remained in his jail cell; Jesus however, took the sinner’s punishment so that the sinner could be forgiven and go forever free.