Pope Benedict XVI: 'I forgive the woman who attacked me'

Pope Benedict XVI has forgiven the mentally disturbed woman who attacked him during a Christmas Eve Mass at St Peter's Basilica.

Susanna Maiolo, 25, was seen by millions across the world as she jumped over barriers and grabbed hold of Pope Benedict, dragging him violently to the ground.

Amazingly, despite the heavy fall, the 83-year-old Pontiff escaped injury but elderly French cardinal Roger Etchegaray suffered a broken leg in the scrum.

Susanna Maiolo
Pope Benedict XVI

Forgiveness: Pope Benedict XVI has forgiven Susanna Maiolo (l): the mentally disturbed woman who attacked him during Christmas Eve Mass

Vatican sources said Pope Benedict had forgiven Maiolo after being told the dual Swiss-Italian had a history of mental problems.

Following last week's incident she has been detained in a clinic just outside Rome.

The incident raised serious questions about the Pope's security. Especially as Maiolo had been involved in a similar 'rushing episode' at the same Christmas Eve event last year.

French Cardinal Roger Etchegaray

Injured: French Cardinal Roger Etchegaray suffered a broken leg in the attack

But, despite the ease with which Maiolo managed to get so close to the Pope, aides have said there is no chance of 'making him off limits' as he sees his role as one of being close to the faithful.

Pope Benedict is due to visit Britain next year and officers from the Vatican Gendamerie have been to London to liaise with Scotland Yard's anti terrorist and diplomatic protection units.


Unbowed: The Pope has vowed to continue working closely with the public despite questions about his security

Vatican prosecutor Nicola Picardi is also expected not to pursue the case against Maiolo because of her fragile mental state and because she was unarmed when stopped and had no malicious intent.

Maiolo has told doctors at the Angelucci clinic in Subiaco that she did not want to hurt Pope Benedict and added that she was hopeful she would be tried so she could explain she meant no harm but just wanted to make sure he was 'doing as much as he could for the least in the world.'

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