Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Papal Security Scare Not Really a Shocker

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Papal Security Scare Not Really a Shocker

Article excerpt

Video images of a woman lunging at Pope Benedict XVI during Christmas Eve Mass made for striking TV. Yet for anyone who's spent much time in close proximity to the pope, they weren't really a shocker.

Susanna Maiolo, 25, jumped a security barrier at the start of the Dec. 24 liturgy as Benedict processed into St. Peter's Basilica. As Vatican security guards tackled her to the ground," she was able to pull on the pope's vestments, causing him to lose his balance and tumble to the marble floor.

The woman, who has Italian and Swiss citizenship, was taken away by papal guards. She was not armed but she showed signs of mental instability, according to a Vatican statement Dec. 25.

Immediately after the incident the pope was back on his feet and appeared unharmed. The Mass and other papal events took place as scheduled.

Maiolo was transferred Dec: 25 to a psychiatric hospital in Subiaco, about 45 miles outside of Rome, for what the Vatican called "mandatory clinical treatment."

In comparison to presidents, prime ministers or even rock stars, the security membrane around a pope is remarkably permeable. While it's rare for the pope to get bowled over by someone hurling themselves at him, that's more a matter of luck (or providence) than a reflection of how thoroughly insulated he is from potential threats.

Everyone who follows the pope probably has their favorite illustrations of the light security touch; here's one of mine:

When John Paul II visited Azerbaijan in May 2002, he celebrated Mass in an indoor sports arena. …

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