Pope ‘well’ after being knocked down (Second Lead)

Friday, December 25, 2009

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI is “well” despite being knocked down at Christmas midnight Mass and will deliver Friday his traditional Christmas Day message, according to the pope’s spokesman.

Spokesman Father Federico Lombardi also said the woman who threw herself at the 82-year-old pontiff, grabbing the shawl he was wearing and causing him to fall as he led the Mass procession in St Peter’s Basilica Thursday night, was not “armed”.

The woman who jumped over a cordon barrier to get to the pope before she was held by Vatican security guards, was identified by Lombardi as 25-year-old Susanna Maiolo, who has Swiss and Italian citizenship.

Maiolo suffers from psychological problems and is being treated at a medical institution in Rome, Lombardi said.

A senior Vatican cleric, the 87-year-old French Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, who also fell in the scuffle caused by Maiolo’s intrusion, was receiving treatment for a fractured femur in a Rome hospital, Lombardi said.

Shortly after the incident, Benedict was helped to his feet by aides, and taking hold once again of the golden cross he was carrying before being knocked down, continued to lead the procession for the beginning of the Mass.

The Vatican’s traditional midnight Mass this year began two hours earlier than usual in order to allow the pontiff some rest.

Earlier this month the Vatican denied Italian media speculation that the decision to begin the mass at 10 p.m. (2100 GMT) was due to unspecified “health problems” afflicting the German-born pontiff.

At the time, papal spokesman Father Federico Lombardi explained that the move - first announced by the Vatican in October - aimed to “tire the Pope a bit less”, giving him a few extra hours sleep before his Christmas Day duties.

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