Pope gives blessing after St Peter's attack

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The Independent Online

The Pope was today appearing for his traditional Christmas Day blessing hours after being knocked down by a woman who jumped over a barrier in St Peter's Basilica, the Vatican said today.

The woman was identified as Susanna Maiolo, 25, a Swiss-Italian national with psychiatric problems. Maiolo, who was not armed, was taken to a clinic for treatment.

French cardinal Roger Etchegaray, 87, a long-term Vatican diplomat, fractured his hip in the fall and will be operated on at Rome's Gemelli hospital.

Maiolo jumped over the barricade at the start of Christmas Eve Mass and lunged for the Pope as he processed down the aisle towards the altar.

As security guards brought her down, she grabbed Benedict XVI's vestments and pulled him down with her.

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.

Benedict's busy Christmas schedule will proceed without change and Etchegaray's condition was said to be good.

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