Vatican ponders legal action

The Vatican is considering taking legal action against the 25-year-old woman who attacked the Pope at Christmas Eve mass, as questions are raised about the pontiff's security.

Susanna Maiolo, a Swiss-Italian national, broke through guards at St Peter's Basilica on Christmas Eve and knocked Pope Benedict XVI to the floor. Although shaken, the 82-year-old pontiff was unhurt.

The Vatican said its justice officials would decide over the next few days what steps to take against Ms Maiolo. However, a spokesman said that Vatican justice "is usually benevolent", signalling Ms Maiolo will most likely be put into long-term care in an Italian psychiatric institution.

Father Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, said, "Ms Maiolo is known to the Vatican, but she was never thought to have been of any serious danger. If anything, the poor woman needs treatment, which is what she is getting."