x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Woman assaults Pope at St Peter's

Pope Benedict XVI was knocked to the ground by an "unbalanced" woman as he about to deliver his Christmas Eve Mass.

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
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

Pope Benedict XVI was knocked to the ground by an "unbalanced" woman as he about to deliver his Christmas Eve Mass. In an amateur video from the procession, a woman wearing a red coat is seen jumping over a barrier at St Peter's Basilica before lunging at the pontiff, who fell to the ground as security members intervened and onlookers screamed in the background. In a statement released by Rev Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, the woman was identified as Susanna Maiolo, 25, a dual Italian and Swiss citizen.

Rev Lombardi said Pope Benedict was able to stand up again immediately after the accident and continue on with the procession. However, Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, known for attempting to prevent the 2003 invasion of Iraq, fractured his femur and will have to undergo an operation. Ms Maiolo, who showed signs of "psychological imbalance", was admitted to a health facility for treatment, Rev Lombardi said.

The Vatican said that Ms Maiolo, who was unarmed, had been involved in a similar attempt to disrupt the pope's procession last year, but she was unable to reach him before being tackled by security. She even wore the same red-hooded sweat shirt this year as last year. Pope Benedict yesterday delivered his annual Christmas Day address at packed St Peter's Square. He began by giving the traditional Christmas greeting to the crowd in 65 languages, before lamenting the effects of the financial crisis, conflict in the Palestinian territories and Africa, and the plight of its Iraqi Christian flock.

"At times [the flock] is subject to violence and injustice, but it remains determined to make its own contribution to the building of a society opposed to the logic of conflict and the rejection of one's neighbour," he said. kshaheen@thenational.ae * With additional reporting by the Associated Press