Pope doing fine two days after Christmas scare

Sunday, December 27, 2009
Pope Benedict XVI blesses the faithful Saturday during the Angelus prayer at the Vatican. The Vatican will review security procedures after a woman jumped a barrier and rushed at Pope Benedict XVI for the second time in two years, this time managing to knock him down before being pulled away by guards. (GREGORIO BORGIA ~ Associated Press)

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI appeared in good shape Saturday as he addressed the faithful two days after a woman knocked him down at the start of Christmas Eve Mass.

Benedict spoke about the plight of persecuted Christians around the world and did not mention the incident in his message to a crowd gathered in a rainy St. Peter's Square.

On the day Christians commemorate St. Stephen, the church's first martyr, the pope remembered those who "undergo trials and suffering because of their faith" and urged prayers for them.

The 82-year-old pontiff was processing through St. Peter's Basilica on Thursday when a woman described by Vatican officials as mentally unstable jumped the barricades and pulled him to the ground as she was taken down by guards.

Benedict quickly got up and, though slightly rattled, continued with the Mass. The morning after, he delivered his traditional Christmas Day message.

Photo made available Friday Dec. 25, 2009 by the Italian Interior Ministry, of Susanna Maiolo, identified by the Vatican as the woman who jumped a barrier inside St. Peter's Basilica at the start of Christmas Eve Mass, and rushed at Pope Benedict XVI for the second time in two years, managing to knock him down before being pulled away by security. The incident in the Basilica raised fresh questions about security for the pontiff, however, after officials said the woman involved had jumped the barrier at the 2008 Midnight Mass in a failed bid to get to the pope. She even wore the same red-hooded sweat shirt. Benedict, 82, wasn't hurt and delivered his traditional Christmas Day greetings in 65 languages from the loggia overlooking St. Peter's Square. (AP Photo/Italian Interior Ministry, HO) ** EDITORIAL USE ONLY **

While Benedict was unhurt in the tumble, a retired Vatican diplomat, French Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, fell and fractured his hip in the commotion.

The Vatican's spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Saturday that the 87-year-old prelate would probably undergo surgery today.

The Vatican identified the woman involved in Thursday night's incident as 25-year-old Susanna Maiolo, a Swiss-Italian national with psychiatric problems.

She remains in a clinic for treatment and Lombardi said she is still under Vatican jurisdiction. The city-state's judiciary will decide in the coming days whether to take further steps against her based on the reports from Vatican police and doctors, he said in the statement.

Maiolo was from in the Swiss town of Frauenfeld, where she spent two years at a residential home for people with psychiatric disorders and illnesses, said Rolf Kessler, director of the Wohngruppe Kanzler home.

Pope Benedict XVI greets the faithful at the end of the Angelus prayer, at the Vatican, Saturday, Dec. 26, 2009. The Vatican will review security procedures after a woman jumped a barrier and rushed at Pope Benedict XVI for the second time in two years, this time managing to knock him down before being pulled away by guards. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Confirming reports in Swiss media, Kessler said Maiolo stayed there from July 2006 to July 2008 before moving into her own apartment.

Italy's ANSA news agency said the woman's family visited her Saturday afternoon at a hospital outside Rome where she is being held.

The incident raised fresh questions about security for the pontiff, especially after officials said Maiolo was the same person who had jumped the barriers at the 2008 Christmas Eve Mass in a failed bid to get to the pope. She even wore the same red hooded sweat shirt.

The Vatican has said it will review security procedures, while warning there will always be risks since the pope is regularly surrounded by tens of thousands of people for his weekly audiences, Masses, papal greetings and other events.

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