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Pope forgives attacker
Published on 27 Dec. 2009 1:06 AM IST
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Just hours after forgiving the woman who attacked him, Pope Benedict XVI appealed people to “abandon all logic of violence and revenge” and lead with “generosity” on “the path of peaceful coexistence.” In his Christmas Day appearance, blessing tens of thousands of congregants in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope sent across the message of tolerance, which came less than a day after Susanna Maiolo, 25, pushed past security guards to reach the Pope, knocking him down in a chaotic papal mishap, The New York Daily News reports. The 82-year-old pontiff delivered his Christmas good-wishes in 65 languages. At the end of the ceremony, which was broadcast live to dozens of countries, Benedict held his arms aloft and waved to the faithful from a balcony at St Peter’s Basilica. The pope’s English greeting said: “May the birth of the Prince of Peace remind the world where its true happiness lies; and may your hearts be filled with hope and joy, for the Saviour has been born for us.” In his “to the city and to the world” Urbi et Orbi message, Benedict recalled how Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago represents “a special light” shining on the human family and the Church. The pontiff then placed the meaning of the Christmas event in a modern-day context. Christmas represented a sign of hope for a “human family profoundly affected by a grave financial crisis, yet even more by a moral crisis, and by the painful wounds of wars and conflicts”, Benedict said. Earlier, papal spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the pontiff was “well”, despite the incident at Thursday’s midnight mass. The Pope was uninjured, but a prominent French cardinal who was near the Pope also fell, and was hospitalised with a broken hip. The woman, Maiolo, a Swiss-Italian, has been hospitalised and apparently told doctors she did not mean to hurt the Pope. A Vatican spokesman said the woman was “apparently unbalanced,” but they would be “very lenient” with her and she would be pardoned. “It was an assault, but it wasn’t dangerous because she wasn’t armed,” the spokesman said. Lombardi said the woman who threw herself at the pontiff, grabbing the shawl he was wearing and causing him to fall as he led the mass procession in St Peter’s Basilica, was not “armed”. Maiolo had previously tried to accost the pope at the same mass a year ago, but was blocked by Vatican guards before she could reach him. A senior Vatican cleric, 87-year-old French Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, who also fell in the scuffle, was receiving treatment for a fractured femur in a Rome hospital, Lombardi said. Shortly after the incident, Benedict was helped to his feet by aides, and taking hold once again of the golden cross he was carrying before being knocked down, continued to lead the procession for the beginning of the mass. The Vatican’s traditional midnight mass this year began two hours earlier than usual in order to allow the pontiff some rest. Earlier this month the Vatican denied Italian media speculation that the decision to begin the mass at 10 p.m. (2100 GMT) was due to unspecified “health problems” afflicting the German-born pontiff. At the time, papal spokesman Lombardi explained that the move - first announced by the Vatican in October - aimed to “tire the Pope a bit less”, giving him a few extra hours sleep before his Christmas Day duties.

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