Pope is attacked at Christmas eve mass

Dec 25th, 2009 | By | Category: Signs of the Times (click on article name)

Pope is attacked at Christmas eve mass

By The Associated Press

VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI’s Christmas Eve Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica got off to a tumultuous start Thursday after an apparently deranged woman jumped the barriers and knocked him down on his way to the altar.

In his homily, delivered unflappably after the incident, Benedict urged the world to “wake up” from selfishness and petty affairs, and find time for God and spiritual matters.

The 82-year-old pope was unhurt after his fall, said a Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Ciro Benedettini.

Earlier, in Bethlehem, thousands of pilgrims from around the world descended on the traditional birthplace of Jesus, for the most upbeat Christmas celebrations the Palestinian town has seen in years.

While the Holy Land’s top Roman Catholic clergyman reminded followers that peace remains elusive, while the threat of sectarian violence in the Islamic world and the lava spilling from a volcano in the Philippines clouded the celebrations for other Christian communities across the globe.

At the Vatican, witness video obtained by The Associated Press showed a woman dressed in a red hooded sweat shirt vaulting over the wooden barriers that cordoned off the basilica’s main aisle and rushing toward the pope before being swarmed by bodyguards. She grabbed the pope’s vestments as she was taken down, with Benedict seemingly falling on top of her.

The commotion happened as the pope’s procession was making its way toward the main altar and shocked gasps rang out through the public that packed the basilica. The procession came to a halt and security 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.”

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