Vatican Weighs Decision on Papal Attacker

The Vatican will decide how to proceed with the young woman responsible for knocking down Pope Benedict XVI during Christmas Eve Mass only after it reviews medical and Vatican security reports, said Vatican spokesmen. Critical to the prosecutor's decision will be the doctors' evaluation concerning the woman's mental state and whether or not she was "of sound mind," said Rev. Ciro Benedettini, vice director of the Vatican press office. When the Vatican prosecutor has all the information, including a medical evaluation, he can recommend acquitting her of any crime, handing her over to Italian or Swiss authorities, or handing down a sentence, Father Benedettini said. The prosecutor will send his recommendation to the Vatican tribunal, which will then make the final ruling.

Susanna Maiolo, 25, jumped a security barrier at the start of the Dec. 24 liturgy as Pope Benedict processed into St. Peter's Basilica. As Vatican security guards tackled her to the ground, she was able to pull on the pope's vestments, causing him to lose his balance and tumble to the marble floor. The woman, who has Italian and Swiss citizenship, was taken away by papal guards. She was not armed but showed signs of mental instability, according to a Vatican statement. Immediately after the incident the pope was back on his feet and appeared unharmed. The Mass and other papal events took place as scheduled. Maiolo "remains under compulsory clinical treatment and the case remains under the jurisdiction of the Vatican judiciary," said Federico Lombardi, S.J., the Vatican spokesman. While the pope was unharmed by the attack, French Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, 87, suffered a broken hip and spent Christmas in Rome's Gemelli hospital. Vatican sources confirmed that Maiolo was the same person who attempted to rush the pope at midnight Mass in 2008, but was tackled by guards before she could reach the pontiff.

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