Pope Benedict was attacked and knocked to the ground by a disturbed woman who jumped over the barrier at the start of his Christmas Eve mass in St Peter’s Basilica last night.
The 82-year-old Pontiff was not harmed and went on to finish the two-hour service, but an elderly French cardinal in the papal procession fell to the floor and was taken to hospital with a broken leg.
Television pictures showed the woman, dressed in a red top, jumping over the barricade and hurling herself at the pope, provoking screams from members of the congregation.
Watch the video here http://itn.co.uk/
The woman was this morning identified as Susanna Maiolo, 25, a Swiss-Italian national with psychiatric problems.
Maiolo, who was not armed, was taken to a clinic for necessary treatment, Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said.
Maiolo jumped the barricade at the start of Christmas Eve Mass and lunged for the pope as he processed down the aisle toward the altar.
As security guards brought her down, she grabbed Benedict’s vestments and pulled him down with her, according to witness video obtained by The Associated Press.
With the help of attendants, Benedict stood up and continued to process down the aisle, to the cheers of ‘Viva il Papa!’ (‘Long live the pope’).
He continued to celebrate the Mass without incident. Lombardi said Benedict’s busy Christmas schedule would proceed without change.