Pope Benedict XVI (82), with his fellow celebrants and assistants, begins the usual procession towards the main altar. Susana Maiolo (25), an Italian-Swiss national living in Switzerland, was sitting among the congregants. She has a history of psychiatric problems. As the pope was approaching near her place, she jumps over a security barricade, runs toward the pope and pulls him toward the church floor by holding on to his Mass vestments. Security guards rush to restrain her, yet she manages to topple the pope on to her on the floor.
In the chaotic melee, the pope is unhurt but loses hold of his papal mitre and staff, but 87-year-old Cardinal Etchegaray, who was nearby, broke his hip by falling on to the ground.
Pope Benedict quickly rose up and went on to celebrate his Mass without losing his composure. In the homily, he skipped the mention of the incident. He decried the selfishness of man. He said that selfishness "makes us prisoners of our interests and our desires that stand against the truth and separate us from one another." He also mentioned, "Conflict and lack of reconciliation in the world stem from the fact that we are locked into our own interests and opinions, into our own little private world."
After the pulling down incident, Susana Maiolo was taken away. It was found that she was the same person who tried to make a similar type of attack on the same pope in last year's Christmas-Eve Mass, but was restrained by a security guard before it happened. After her arrest this time, she said that she just wanted "to hug" the pope. She has been placed in a psychiatric hospital for evaluation and treatment.
The Pope, this time, was safe, but the threat to his life is real and numerous.
For videos on Susanna Maiolo's attack on the pope, visit the YouTube.