Thursday, December 24, 2009

Woman knocks down Pope at Christmas Eve Mass

A woman jumped over a barricade, lunged at Pope Benedict and knocked him to the floor at the start of his Christmas Eve mass in St Peter's Basilica.

The 82-year-old pope was not harmed and went on to finish the two-hour service late on Thursday, but an elderly French cardinal in the papal procession fell to the floor and was taken to hospital with a broken leg.

The woman who pushed the pope appeared to be mentally unstable and had been arrested by Vatican police.

Footage aired on Italy's RAI state TV showed a woman dressed in a red hooded sweatshirt vaulting over the wooden barriers and rushing toward the pope before being swarmed by bodyguards.

Dressed in gold and white vestments and mitre, the pope showed no discomfort as he read out his Christmas Eve homily, decrying selfishness, which he said "makes us prisoners of our interests and our desires that stand against the truth and separate us from one another."

This attack on the pope took place amid concern over his health after a Vatican decision to schedule the mass two hours earlier than the traditional midnight hour due to the pontiff's advanced age.

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