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Woman lunges at Pope before Midnight Mass

St Peter's

St Peter's

A woman jumped the barriers in St Peter's Basilica and knocked down Pope Benedict XVI just before Christmas Eve Mass last night,  but the Holy Father got up unhurt and went on to celebrate the Mass.

Cardinal Etchegaray, 87, is reported to have suffered a fractured leg in the fall.

TV footage show a woman  in a red hooded top jumping over the wooden barriers that cordoned off the basilica's main aisle and rushing toward the Pope before being taken away by the guards.

The commotion occurred as the Pope was processing towards the main altar and shocked gasps rang out among the thousands who packed the basilica. The procession came to a halt, the music stopped and security rushed to the trouble spot.

Vatican spokesman, Rev Federico Lombardi, said that the woman,  Miss Maiolo, 25, a Swiss/Italian national had psychiatric problems and was taken to a clinic for treatment. She is reported to have attempted a similar attack last year.