Pope Benedict knocked down by woman before Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica

This isn’t the first time someone tried to get at the Pope, but this one actually got to him.

Here is a story from AP:

Pope Knocked Down by Woman at Christmas Mass

Thursday, December 24, 2009

VATICAN CITY —  A woman jumped the barriers in St. Peter’s Basilica and knocked down Pope Benedict XVI as he walked down the main aisle to begin Christmas Eve Mass on Thursday, a Vatican spokesman said.

The Rev. Ciro Benedettini said the 82-year-old pope quickly got up and was unhurt. As the pope’s procession was making its way toward the main altar gasps rang out through the public and a commotion could be seen among the clergymen surrounding Benedict. The procession came to a halt and bodyguards rushed to the trouble spot.

Benedettini said the woman who pushed the pope appeared to be mentally unstable and had been arrested by Vatican police. He said she also knocked down Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, who was taken to hospital for a check up.

"During the procession an unstable person jumped a barrier and knocked down the Holy Father," Benedettini told The Associated Press by telephone. "(The pope) quickly got up and continued the procession."

After the incident, Benedict calmly resumed his walk to the basilica’s main altar to start the Mass.

Benedict made no reference to the incident as the service started. As a choir sang, he sprinkled incense on the main altar [I bet that was messy!   Who writes this stuff?] before opening the service with the traditional wish for peace in Latin: "Pax vobis" ("Peace be with you"). The faithful responded: "Et cum spiritu tuo" ("And also with you").  [Not for much longer!]

It was the second year in a row there was a security breach at the service. At the end of last year’s Mass a woman who had jumped the barriers got close to the pope but was quickly blocked on the ground by security.  [And there was a man in the square who tried to get at the Pope on the popemobile.]

Benedettini said it was not immediately known if the same woman was behind Thursday’s incident.

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  1. Theodorus says:

    Poor Papa. May God Almighty protect our Holy Father from any harm.

  2. Well, his homily said we have to wake up and be a vigilant people. Guess he should have given that homily _before_ Mass…. :)

    Seriously, I felt sorry for the guards and security men. They were so edgy after all that; they were giving the hairy eyeball to the little kids.

  3. Maltese says:

    Expect the unexpected. From the man who shot John Paul II to the terrorist who shot-up Michelangelo’s Pieta, to the most recent attack on Italy’s PM, things may seem fine, but there are always those lurking in the shadows, who think violence and destruction is the way to solve their individual grievances. Although, come to think of it, the Soviet Empire was, ultimately, behind JP II’s assassination attempt, so violence against one person can happen collectively. But this single female attacker against Benedict XVI was probably a radical feminist who doesn’t like the Church’s stand against priestesses or abortion, or whatever…

  4. stbasil777 says:

    I still keep laughing about the Pope “sprinkling incense on the altar.” That is hilarious to think about… How write this stuff indeed.

    Christus natus! Gloria in excelsis Deo!

  5. dcs says:

    Yet another reason for the sedia gestatoria.

    Just sayin’.

  6. Jayna says:

    “But this single female attacker against Benedict XVI was probably a radical feminist who doesn’t like the Church’s stand against priestesses or abortion, or whatever…”

    Actually, I bet you anything she is fanatically devoted, to the point of mental instability. She may not have even meant to knock him over, not to downplay the severity of her actions, of course.

  7. boko fittleworth says:

    If only Vatican security had a couple more hours prep time. I kid, I kid.

  8. jaykay says:

    “After the incident, Benedict calmly resumed his walk to the basilica’s main altar to start the Mass.”

    The serenity of the Holy Father is truly uplifting. God grant peace to her troubled soul. We can be sure he forgave her instantly, and no doubt prayed for her during the Mass.

  9. My first thought when I heard this was, I bet the LCRW gang is snickering, rejoicing,even about this…yeah, I know, some kind of Christmas spirit.
    But our Papa is not going to be deterred from doing his mission, no matter what the cost.
    May he reign for many years! God bless and keep him!

  10. Bryan says:

    Just as an aside…for laying violent hands on the Roman Pontiff, under canon law, she’s excommunicated herself (probably an aging member of the pantsuit set…), remission of which is reserved to the Holy Father himself.

    God protect this good and gentle shepherd of Christ’s somewhat messy and disordered flock.

  11. Mike says:

    Well, I think the security has to be really improved there. I see George Weigel has already said we can’t make the Vatican into a prison. Sure. But why can’t four bodyguards in proper dress put a ring around the Pontiff? This is inexcusable.

    Thank you, Lord, for protecting your Sweet Vicar on earth!

  12. Traductora says:

    Anna Arco said that the attacker was a mentally unstable Italian woman who was angry because she thought the Pope’s homily at an earlier mass was a criticism of transvestites and transexuals. I saw the RAI video – the woman is wearing jeans and a red, hooded sweatshirt and is extremely athletic. She vaults the barrier and launches herself at the Pope, knocking him down.

  13. wanda says:

    I thank the Blessed Virgin Mary for protecting Our Holy Father, she keeps her mantle around him. Thank you Lord, that no harm was done.

  14. Mitchell NY says:

    Now the Pope can not even walk safely toward the Altar. Please pray that the Pope elects to use the Sedia for all indoor processions. Things seem to be pushing toward that conclusion as he is no longer safe walking the distance. If he was elevated this would not have happened. Vatican security surely screens for any weapons that could be used against him if elevated and it seems easier to control the entry of weapons than to control people’s immediate impulses who choose to lunge at the Holy Father. This could have ended in a disaterous way. I would even prefer to see the Sedia encased like the Popemobile and being carried safely than risking these lunging incidents becoming more frequent. Thank God he is safe and unhurt.

  15. boko fittleworth says:

    Red, hooded sweatshirt. Heh! Nice Adam Sandler tune.

  16. Theodorus says:

    From the news footage, the woman jumped out and dragged the Holy Father down with such great violent force, and the Holy Father fell forward without any chance to react. Although Holy Father got up quickly, but I am really worried. Any fall for any elderly person is a disaster,not to mention that Holy Father already had wrist injury and fell several times before. Let’s pray for our Holy Father’s safety and health.

  17. EXCHIEF says:

    If a Sedia is used it needs bullet resistant glass on all sides. Given the size of the crowds that attend Mass when the Pope celebrates I would be very concerned about security’s ability to completely screen all attendees for weapons. Elevating the Pope without bullet resistant protection would present a target much more vulnerable than when he walks down the aisle in procession.

  18. It wasn’t me (LOL)! I don’t even leave for Rome until the day after Christmas.

  19. boko fittleworth says:

    Now there’s a rumor that it might have been a guy who attacked the pope. Transvestite or transgendered. (S)he did make quite the athletic vault.

  20. Mitchell NY says:


    Apparently not, no shooting incidents have happened in recent years and if someone got in with a weapon I am quite certain they would not cancel their plan if he was walking and not on the Sedia. You can screen for weapons but screening for or preventing people’s impulsive lunging can’t be stopped as this is the second time this has happened. Simply put, all Sedia debate aside, had he been elevated this would have not have happened. As for the glass, maybe that is a good compromise, but this can not happen again. The Holy Father could have sustained fatal injuries from this. It is time for the Vatican to be looking at what HAS happened and not only what could. Pray for our Holy Father. This was unacceptable on the most Holy of Nights.

  21. xsosdid says:

    I think I heard something about this, it’s called “Pope tipping”. A disturbing trend for sure…

  22. Praise God that the Pope is safe.

    This must not be allowed to happen again…who says he can’t be a “prisoner” of the Vatican. No more outdoor Masses, no more outdoor audiences, everyone get’s a security check and surround him with six bodyguards in surplus and soutaine ready to lay down thei life.

    I once worked for a federal cabinet minister, who would say, “remember David, if someone shoots your job is to jump in front of the bullet.” He was only half joking.

    But the Secret Service took a bullet for Ronald Wilson Reagan.

    I expect the Swiss Guards to take no less!

    Now fix this and don’t let it happen again.

    We need many more Christmas Masses from Papa Ratzinger.

  23. kelleyb says:

    Today the Senate passed Heath care bill, tonight the Pope is knocked down….looks like the devil is a little to frisky tonight. St Michael Help us!

  24. Jerry says:

    “this can not happen again. The Holy Father could have sustained fatal injuries from this”

    Keep in mind that when the Lord is ready to take the Holy Father, He will do so — with or without help from the peanut gallery. If He is not ready to take him, well, today was a good example.

  25. TNCath says:

    I just viewed the “raw video” of the fall on YouTube. This woman, whoever she was, was lying in wait for him. I don’t know what her intentions were, but she jumped that barricade quite adroitly. You could see one of the Sampietrini attempting to wrestle her to the ground, but she got to the Holy Father too quickly.

    Honestly, what scared me more was not so much the actual attack as it was the comments of people on on YouTube to the attack. People are actually amused and even glad the attack took place, saying things like, “He deserved it” and other such nonsense. While this may sound a bit dramatic, do not underestimate the mischief of the Devil in this act.

  26. Theodorus says:


    Oh yes, the devil is looking for every opportunity to knock down the Holy Father, and the satanic minions are doing exactly the same as they did during the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ: “Crucify him”, “Why don’t you save yourself”….

  27. Brian K says:

    Some media outlets are reporting that Cardinal Roger Etchegaray broke his femur. That is a very serious injury in a man his age.

  28. ljc says:

    There don’t need to be any major changes to security. There just needs to be a guard on either side of the Pope at all times during the procession. In the video you can see the nearest guard is just a little bit back from the Pope, which is why he’s just a hair too late to stop the attacker. I bet from now on guards will be right on either side of him.

  29. Brian K says:

    According to a Reuters report, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi has confirmed that French Cardinal Roger Etchegaray suffered a broken femur.

  30. Dr. Eric says:

    I think that the Sedia may be a worse idea. Could you imagine someone knocking down one of the men carrying the Sedia and the whole thing tipping over? That would be a worse fall.

    Shouldn’t the Swiss Guards process closer to the Holy Father?

  31. Hidden One says:

    Whatever happens, there will be one major security review.

    How difficult would it have been for two or three (or more) athletic attackers to have jumped that barrier together, instead of just the one?

    God save the Pope!

  32. Thursday says:

    According to the BBC and the Vatican it is known that the woman who attacked the pope is the same one who tried to attack him last year, one would presume for the same motive. Apparently last year she was upset because she believed the pope’s Christmas message was an attack on homosexuals and transsexuals. Ironically enough, it appears the woman was wearing the same hooded sweatshirt she wore last year. I should hope next year the papal bodyguards keep a sharp eye out for red sweatshirts.

  33. Praying many Rosaries for Papa!

  34. gio says:

    It would not have happened of the full Papal Court was not abolished. With all the Noble, Swiss and Palatine Guards in attendance at the procession, any attacker would have had greater difficulty in breaching the security perimeter. As I see it now, there are only two guards processing with the Pope and the whole contingent of Swiss Guards are spread too thinly in the Basilica.

  35. patrick_f says:

    “It would not have happened of the full Papal Court was not abolished. With all the Noble, Swiss and Palatine Guards in attendance at the procession, any attacker would have had greater difficulty in breaching the security perimeter. As I see it now, there are only two guards processing with the Pope and the whole contingent of Swiss Guards are spread too thinly in the Basilica.”

    Couldnt have said it better.

    MIght I also add, there was a greater sense of “Fear of the Lord” then. Now they call it “Reverence” . Very different concepts

  36. adamrgh says:

    The comments by people on the youtube video of the incident are unbelievably disturbing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpDffQJjm9c

    May God grant Pope Benedict many more years of good health and service to the Church.

  37. Penguins Fan says:

    I can surmise the remarks being made about Papa Benedetto, but I’m not going to read them. Anti-Catholics are worthy of prayers for the conversion of their souls but their remarks are not worth the time to read them.

  38. chonak says:

    So apparently not even an ID check is required to get into this Mass.

    What next? Will the White House party crashers get a seat with the cardinals next time?

  39. robtbrown says:

    The KC Chiefs need to take a look at her–last week they couldn’t knock down anyone. JHarrison gained 286 yards rushing for the Browns, and JCribbs had two 100 yd kickoff returns.

  40. TNCath and adamrgh: Some of the comments you mention are OBSCENE and full of venomous hatred.
    I couldn’t read more than two or three.
    In reparation, let us pray: O God, Shepherd and Ruler of all the faithful, look with favor upon Your servant Pope Benedict XVI, whom You have appointed Pastor of Your Church.Grant that by word and example he may assist those whom he serves so that the shepherd and the flock entrusted to his care may together attain everlasting life. We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

  41. Prof. Basto says:

    Thank God the Holy Father wasn’t hurt.

    But security arround him needs to improve.

    Prayers for Card. Echegaray. Poor man. A femur fracture for a man of his age is a bad, bad thing. May he recover quickly.

    By the way, back in the days prior to the Pauline reforms of the papal Court, not only the Pope would be carried by the gentlemen of His Holiness in the Sedia, but men from the Noble Guards would flank the Sedia-bearers, thus offering the Pope a layer of physical protection.

  42. PhilipNeri says:

    When I go to St. Peter’s for these sorts of events I go in full habit. Though I always go through the metal detectors, I am never searched or questioned. I’ve even attended ticketed events w/o a ticket. Security just waves me through. Until last night, I thought this was grand. How much trouble would it be for a serious attacker to purchase religious garb in Rome? Scary.

    Of course, the Holy Father knows that he serves at God’s pleasure. . .but it would make me feel a whole lot better if he processed in with a phalanx of corn-fed NAC boys surrounding him. There would be no lack of volunteers!

    Fr. Philip, OP

  43. Mike says:

    How much trouble would it be for a serious attacker to purchase religious garb in Rome? Scary.

    Fr. Philip–I’ve only been to Rome once, but when there this yr saw a store selling vestments, etc, and a sign said “proper ID necessary” for purchase…hope that’s common practice, but such things are likely hard to enforce…alas…

  44. irishgirl says:

    I was on my way to our adoration chapel when I heard the news of the attack on the radio-I thought I was going to have an accident myself!

    Thank God our Papa wasn’t hurt! Poor Cardinal E [can’t spell his last name]-at that age, it’s going to take a long time to recover from an injury of that sort!

    This woman needs to be put away, pronto!

    Hey Fr. Philip-your idea of NAC boys surrounding the Holy Father sounds good! Maybe there are some football linemen among them!

  45. catholicmidwest says:

    Nonsense. You can just walk into your local friendly protestant bookstore and purchase all the shirts you want–or go online.

  46. catholicmidwest says:

    As much as we love this man and would like him to stay with us forever, he is 82.

    The pope has been making a lot of changes that were overdue, and I’m sure he is aware of all the probabilities involved in his ministry. Perhaps this will serve only as a reminder of his personal schedule and ministry. IT’s natural for someone who’s 82 to think this way.

    Pope Benedict XVI will be proclaimed a saint in due time. He’s been the best pope in many, many years and he’s not done yet by far. Viva il Papa! Long live Benedict XVI!

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