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Vatican City: Pope attack prompts security review

The Vatican will review security procedures after a woman jumped a barrier and rushed at Pope Benedict XVI for the second time in two years, this time managing to knock him down before being pulled away by security guards, according to a Vatican spokesman. 

The incident in St. Peter’s Basilica raised questions about security, especially since officials confirmed that the same woman had jumped the barrier at the 2008 Midnight Mass in a failed attempt to get to the pope, according to the Huffington Post. The woman reportedly even wore the same red-hooded sweatshirt.

Despite being knocked down, the pope was not injured and was able to deliver his traditional Christmas Day blessing as planned. 

There are very few security measures put in place for such events. While tickers are required they are easy to obtain if requested in advance and no identification is required to attend, although visitors must pass through a metal detector. 

Rev. Federico Lombardi told the Associated Press that it’s not realistic to think the Vatican can ensure 100 percent security for the pope considering he is regularly surrounded by tens of thousands of people for his weekly audiences, Masses, papal greetings and other events.

“It seems that they intervened at the earliest possible moment in a situation in which ‘zero risk’ cannot be achieved,” he said Friday.

The Vatican’s security officials will nonetheless review the episode and “try to learn from experience,” Lombardi said.
It was the first time a potential attacker has come into direct contact with Benedict during his nearly five-year papacy. Security analysts have frequently warned the pope is too exposed in his public appearances, but Lombardi noted that they are a necessary part of the job.

“People want to see him up close, and he’s pleased to see them closely too,” Lombardi said. “A zero risk doesn’t seem realistic in a situation in which there’s a direct rapport with the people.”

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