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Pope meets, forgives his attacker

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI met on Wednesday with the woman who knocked him over at St. Peter's Basilica during Christmas Eve Mass, and he forgave her, the Vatican said.

Susanna Maiolo, a 25-year-old with a history of psychiatric problems, and her family met in a private audience with the pope at the end of his general audience, said a Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi.

Maiolo told the pontiff she was sorry, and Benedict inquired about her health and "wanted to demonstrate his forgiveness," Lombardi said in a statement.

The Vatican said no photos or video would be released of the meeting.

Maiolo, a Swiss-Italian national, jumped a security barricade in St. Peter's Basilica at the start of Christmas Eve Mass and pulled Benedict down when a security guard tackled her. The pope was not hurt.

Maiolo had tried to reach the pope in the same way during the 2008 Midnight Mass service but didn't manage to get to him. She has been treated at a clinic outside Rome since the incident.

The Vatican investigation into the incident continues, Lombardi said. A retired Vatican diplomat, French Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, fractured his hip in the commotion and had to undergo surgery. Benedict visited Etchegaray in the hospital last week.

Man who shot Pope John Paul to be freed

Mehmet Ali Agca, who shot and wounded Pope John Paul II in 1981 as the pontiff was greeting the faithful in St. Peter's Square, said Wednesday he would answer questions about the attack after he is released from prison next week. Arrested after the attack, Agca first said he had acted alone. Later, he suggested Bulgaria and the Soviet Union's KGB were behind the attack, but then backed off that line. His contradictory statements, including claims to be a Messiah, have raised questions about his mental health. The pope met and forgave Agca in 1983 while the gunman was serving a 19-year sentence in an Italian prison. On Monday, Agca ends another 10-year prison sentence in Turkey for killing a Turkish journalist in 1979.

Pope meets, forgives his attacker 01/13/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 13, 2010 10:13pm]
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