Pope Benedict XVI met the woman who knocked him down during Christmas Eve Mass today and forgave her for the attack.
Susanna Maiolo, a 25-year-old Swiss-Italian woman with a history of psychiatric problems, met the Pope privately with members of her family after his general weekly audience, according to Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman.
Ms Maiolo jumped over a security barrier in St Peter’s Basilica at the beginning of Christmas Eve Mass as the Pope was processing towards the altar.
She pulled the Pope down by tugging at his robes. The Pope, 82, was unhurt in the melee, but Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, 87, fell and broke his hip. He is still in hospital in Rome.
The incident caused an urgent review of papal security as Ms Maiolo had tried to reach the Pope on the same occasion the year before and was even wearing the same red sweatshirt.
Since the attack she has been under treatment at a clinic at Subiaco outside Rome but was released last weekend and taken to a secret location chosen by her family.
While at Subiaco she was visited by Pope Benedict’s personal secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein. The Vatican said that the Pope had wanted to show his “concern for her wellbeing”.
The Vatican is conducting an investigation into the incident but has yet to decide whether to prosecute Ms Maiolo. Vatican officials have indicated that charges are unlikely.
Yesterday Father Lombardi said that Ms Maiolo had “told the Holy Father of her regret for the incident that happened at the beginning of the celebration of Midnight Mass last month. For his part, the Pope expressed his forgiveness as well as his cordial concern and his best wishes for her health."
Pope Benedict will pay an historic visit to the Rome synagogue on Sunday despite controversy over his recent decision to proceed with the beatification of Pope Pius XII, the wartime pontiff who is accused by critics of failing to speak out against the Holocaust.
This week the Pope said that he hoped his visit would open a new phase in relations between Catholics and Jews.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, said in a message to the Chief Rabbi, Riccardo Di Segni, that the Pope’s visit would begin “a new phase along the irrevocable path of agreement and friendship".
Piero Terracina, a Holocaust survivor, said that he would refuse to attend the ceremony on Sunday because Pius XII had failed to try to save Jews rounded up from the Roman ghetto in October 1943 and taken to concentration camps.
Defenders of Pius XII maintain that he saved thousands of Jewish lives by asking Catholic institutions to take Jews in and was praised for this after the war by Jewish leaders including Golda Meir, the Israeli Foreign Minister and subsequently Prime Minister.