Pope in Good Shape 2 Days After Xmas Scare

By: Ariel David AP Email
By: Ariel David AP Email

VATICAN CITY (AP) - Pope Benedict XVI appeared in good shape on 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.

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 on Sunday.

"Visitors report that the cardinal is serene and in high spirits and that he offers his prayers for the pope and awaits with optimism the surgery," Lombardi said in a statement.

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.

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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