The attack by a young mentally disturbed woman on Pope Benedict XVI at the start of Midnight Mass highlights security risks that the pope is exposed to more than any other major world leader.
The 25-year-old Swiss Italian vaulted a crowd barrier during the entrance procession and, before being tackled by security personnel, grabbed the pope’s vestments and pulled him down hard onto the marble floor.
The thinness of the pope’s protection is highlighted by several recent incidents reported by Andrea Tornielli, a journalist for the Italian newspaper Il Giornale.
On Nov. 28, a black Volkswagen drove at high speed through two checkpoints into Vatican City State and reached a side entrance of St. Peter’s Basilica, where the pope had just celebrated Vespers. The car was blocked in by a Vatican television truck and a florist’s scooter as police arrived. The driver was identified as a mentally disturbed young Roman man.
On Dec. 9, a car with a Vatican license plate was shot at while parked in a Roman neighborhood. The back windshield was broken. Police did not find the perpetrator, whom they said was probably just a “lout.”
But don’t expect the Vatican to change its security much. “The pope cannot be shielded 100 percent unless a wall were created between the pope and the faithful, which is unthinkable,” the papal spokesman said.