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Woman who lunged at pope is Swiss-Italian

A woman who lunged at Pope Benedict XVI and caused him to fall at the start of his Christmas eve mass holds a Swiss passport, the Vatican said on Friday.

The incident did not keep the pope from delivering his Christmas Day blessing, although he looked tired and unsteady but otherwise fine.

The 25-year-old woman, who also holds an Italian passport, leapt over a barrier and grabbed the pope’s clothes, knocking him down. She was “psychologically unstable” but unarmed, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said.

Vatican officials identified the woman as the same person who had tried to jump a barricade to reach the pope at last year's Christmas mass.

French Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, 87, who has been in frail health recently, fell to the floor "in the confusion" and was taken away in a wheelchair. He suffered a broken femur and will have to undergo surgery but is not in serious condition.

The pope, dressed in gold and white vestments, was helped up by security men and after a few seconds continued the procession up the centre aisle. He seemed calm and unfazed during the rest of the ceremony.

"It's surprising that it happened inside St Peter's, because the security there has changed a great deal in recent years and is much more tight than it used to be," the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, leader of Catholics in England and
Wales, told the BBC.

swissinfo.ch and agencies


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