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Vatican leans toward clemency for Pope's attacker

December 28, 2009

The woman who leapt at Pope Benedict XVI during midnight Mass at St. Peter’s basilica on Christmas Eve is being held in a psychiatric facility in Rome, while Vatican officials weigh their legal options.

Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, said that Pope Benedict-- who was not injured when he was pulled to the floor in the bizarre incident—had already forgiven his assailant, Susanna Maiolo. Father Lombardi emphasized that there was no evidence Maiolo intended to harm the Pontiff.

If Maiolo is deemed psychologically unstable—as most observers expect—she will not be prosecuted, the papal spokesman disclosed. Because the incident occurred inside the Vatican, the Holy See has jurisdiction over the case.

Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, who also fell and broke his leg during the melee that broke out during the procession before midnight Mass, was reported in good condition after undergoing hip-replacement surgery at the Gemelli Hospital in Rome. The French-born prelate-- a former president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace who has undertaken several special diplomatic assignments in recent years—is 87 years old.


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