The Pope has been dragged to the ground by a spectator who jumped over a barrier at the start of his Christmas Eve Mass.
The Vatican has described the woman as “unstable’, saying she tried something similar at last year’s service. Said to be from Switzerland, she has been detained for questioning.
An 87-year-old French cardinal in the papal procession suffered a broken leg after he fell during the security breach at St Peter’s Basilica.
Pope Benedict, who is 82, was clearly shaken by the incident, which was captured on amateur video. It raises serious questions about his security.
Eyewitnesses in the congregation described what they had seen.
“A young lady jumped over the barrier and seemed to have been pulled away and at that point she kind of lunged her arms out and grabbed onto the Pope and that is when they all went down together,” said American tourist Gregory Contreras.
“For me it was a shock, because within a moment it happened,” said another worshipper.
Despite the incident, the Pope finished
the mass, which began two hours early to give him more time to rest before his duties today.