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Pope meets assailant

Benedict forgives Swiss woman

13 January, 13:54
Pope meets assailant (ANSA) - Vatican City, January 13 - Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday met and personally forgave the woman who tugged him to the ground in St Peter's on Christmas Eve, the Vatican said.

Swiss-Italian Susanna Maiolo, 25, met the pope immediately after Wednesday's general audience, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said.

The woman, who left a psychiatric hospital near Rome on Saturday, told the pope "how sorry she was" for the incident, Father Lombardi said.

The pope "showed her his forgiveness and his cordial interest and best wishes for her health," he said.

Lombardi said the pope and Maiolo met privately although she had been accompanied to the audience by family members.

A Vatican probe into the incident will "go forward until its completion," Lombardi added.

Lombardi recently noted that Vatican justice was "generally benevolent".

Benedict, 82, had already sent an aide to forgive the mentally unstable Maiolo during her two-week court-ordered stay in a psychiatric ward at Subiaco east of Rome.

Maiolo jumped a barrier as the pope and his entourage was coming in to say midnight mass on December 24, tugging at the pontiff's robes and bringing him to the floor.

She had tried to reach the pope on the same occasion in 2008 but was quietly tackled by security guards.

On both occasions she wore the same red sweat shirt.

Security around the pope has been tightened in the wake of the incident but Benedict happily approached the faithful to bless them and caress children at last week's Epiphany Mass.

French Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, 87, was knocked over after the pope went down and broke a hip.

He is expected to be discharged shortly from a Rome hospital.

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