"The assassination attempt on the pope really shocked everybody in the world," Reese said. "And clearly it had an impact on him. He saw himself as really under God's protection. He could have been dead, but God wanted him to do some more. God had some more work for him to do."
Two years later, it seems one of the things the pope thought God wanted him to do was forgive the man who shot him.
The pope visited Ali Agca in prison, and did just that.
"His attempted assassin was a Muslim, and so he reached out to someone of another religious faith in a long pontificate," McBrien said. "He did a lot of things. But I think that's one of the highlights -- I mean, to be able to reach out to the person who tried to kill you."
Forgiving your enemies is on of the central teachings of Jesus. The pope embodied and personified something that utterly central to what Christianity is supposed to be, he said.
"It's a model for everybody," McBrien said. "There's no question about that."