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Pope's aide visits Christmas Eve Mass attack woman

3 January 10 14:53 GMT

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 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.

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.

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