Amid Heightened Security, Pope Ushers In Christmas

Pontiff heralds holiday without incident
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 24, 2010 4:45 PM CST
Updated Dec 24, 2010 5:04 PM CST
Two Vatican aids carry a kneeler as Pope Benedict XVI celebrates Christmas Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Dec. 24, 2010.   (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

(Newser) – Pope Benedict XVI ushered in Christmas Eve with an evening Mass today amid heightened security concerns following the package bombings at two Rome embassies and Christmas Eve security breaches at the Vatican the past two years running. Benedict made his way down the central aisle of St. Peter's Basilica at the start of the Mass without incident; with his normal phalanx of bodyguards on either side, he stopped twice to bless babies held up to him from the pews.

As a brass ensemble played, the crowd snapped pictures and clapped as he made his way to the altar. During the Christmas Eve service in 2008 and 2009, a mentally disturbed woman lunged at the pope as he walked to the altar—and last year managed to pull him to the ground. The Vatican identified her as Susanna Maiolo, a Swiss-Italian national with a history of psychiatric problems. Both years she wore a telltale red sweatshirt.

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