Pope OK After Incident Before Christmas Mass
Woman clears barrier at Vatican, knocks down pontiff
By M. Morris,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 24, 2009 3:59 PM CST
Updated Dec 24, 2009 5:29 PM CST

(Newser) – A woman jumped the barriers in St. Peter's Basilica and knocked down Pope Benedict XVI tonight as he walked down the main aisle to begin Christmas Eve Mass, a Vatican spokesman says. The pope was not hurt and quickly got up. Benedict, 82, calmly resumed his walk to the basilica's main altar and began celebrating Mass, which started 2 hours earlier than the traditional midnight in deference to the pontiff's age, reports the AP.

The incident caused a "huge commotion," according to a BBC correspondent in Rome, but the pontiff's voice was strong and clear during his 10-minute homily. The spokesman said the woman who pushed the pope appeared to be mentally unstable and had been arrested by Vatican police. He said she also knocked down Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, who was taken to hospital for a checkup.