Vatican: Pope sent emissary to attacker

Jan. 3, 2010 at 6:55 PM

VATICAN CITY, Jan. 3 (UPI) -- Pope Benedict XVI sent his personal secretary last week to visit the woman who knocked him over on Christmas Eve, the Vatican said Sunday.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi confirmed that Pope Benedict, 82, had asked Father Georg Gaenswein to visit Susanna Maiolo, 25, at a secure psychiatric unit near Rome on New Year's Day, The Times of London reported.

The purpose of the visit was to "show the Pope's interest and benevolence," Lombardi said, declining to comment on reports that the pontiff had sent a message "pardoning" Maiolo.

The Times said the Swiss-Italian woman has been held at a clinic near the Abbey of St. Benedict southeast of Rome. She will reportedly be held there until the Vatican's chief prosecutor makes a determination on whether Maiolo can be held responsible for her actions.

The president of the Vatican Court told the newspaper it is unlikely the woman will be criminally charged, given her history of psychiatric problems and that she was unarmed when she vaulted barricades and pulled the pope to the ground as he was leading a procession to celebrate mass.

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