Page last updated at 14:53 GMT, Sunday, 3 January 2010

Pope's aide visits Christmas Eve Mass attack woman

Pope Benedict with his personal secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein (archive image from 2007)
Monsignor Gaenswein (in background) is the Pope's personal secretary

Pope Benedict XVI's personal secretary has visited the mentally disturbed woman who assaulted the pontiff at Mass on Christmas Eve.

Monsignor Georg Gaenswein saw Susanna Maiolo at a psychiatric clinic near Rome at the pontiff's request.

The Vatican confirmed the visit after Italy's Il Giornale newspaper said it had taken place on New Year's Day.

It added that a judicial case opened against Ms Maiolo by the Vatican authorities would "run its course".


The moment the Pope was knocked down

The Roman Catholic world was shocked by the attack, in which Ms Maiolo leapt over a barrier at St Peter's Basilica and brought the 82-year-old Pope to the ground at the beginning of the Mass.

She was quickly overpowered and Benedict, who was not injured, proceeded with the service.

Attacker 'forgiven'

Ms Maiolo, 25, attempted an identical lunge at the Pope during the same Mass in 2008, but was restrained by security guards.

Monsignor Gaenswein made the visit to convey Pope Benedict's concern for the woman's situation, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told the Associated Press news agency.

Handout picture released by police on 25 December 2009 shows Pope's alleged assailant, Susanna Maiolo
Susanna Maiolo was immediately taken to a clinic for treatment

He saw Ms Maiolo at a hostel for people with psychiatric problems in the town of Subiaco.

According to Il Giornale, the papal aide brought her a rosary and told her the Pope believed in her good intentions and had pardoned her.

The paper added that an elderly French cardinal, Roger Etchegaray, who suffered a broken hip during the incident in St Peter's, had also passed on his forgiveness.

Fr Lombardi said he did not want to comment on what was said at the meeting but added: "Every Christian pardons."

Asked about the judicial proceedings, he said it had still to be determined if the woman, who has a history of psychiatric problems, could be held legally responsible for what she did.

Print Sponsor

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Telegraph Pope Benedict XVI forgives Christmas Eve attacker - 12 hrs ago Pope's aide visits Christmas Eve attacker - 15 hrs ago
Times Online Pope sends his secretary to visit attacker - 16 hrs ago Pope's Aide Visits Woman Who Attacked Him - 17 hrs ago
Reuters UK Pope's secretary visits woman who floored pontiff - 19 hrs ago

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific