Security Questioned After Pope Was Knocked Down

December 25, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Pope Benedict delivered his traditional Christmas Day blessing, but an incident Thursday is raising serious security questions. The Vatican says Pope Benedict the 16th is fine after being knocked down by a woman who jumped the barrier at the start of Midnight Mass in St. Peter's Basilica.

But a Vatican spokesman said 87-year-old French Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, a longtime Vatican Diplomat, fractured his hip in the fall and will undergo an operation.

As the pope was beginning his Midnight Mass procession in St Peter's Basilica, a woman jumped over the barrier, lunging at the pope and pulling him down.

Mary Beth Burns, American tourist from Texas said, "All of a sudden this person sort of flew over the barricade and the Holy Father went down and all of a sudden all the security people were all on top of it, you know the whole pile there, getting her off and pulling him back up."

You could hear the faithful gasping in shock.

It took just seconds for the Vatican security guards to wrestle her to the ground. Unhurt, the 82 year old Pontiff quickly got up and continued with the traditional Christmas Eve celebrations. It's not the first time this woman has tried to get closer to Pope Benedict. At the end of last year's Christmas message, she rushed up to him but was stopped by security just in time. There are reports that she is mentally unstable. Earlier, the pope appeared at the window of his studio to light a candle, a symbol of peace.

All over the world, the faithful have been marking the day. From china where thousands of Catholics were celebrating Christmas Eve Mass to the Holy Land.

In Bethlehem the day began with a march by a Boy Scout band

Ending with a mass at St Catherine's Church, next to the church of the nativity.

The message this year - peace and security for everybody.

And in Poland where Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without a nativity scene.


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