- The Washington Times - Monday, January 4, 2010


Aide visits woman who knocked down pope

VATICAN CITY | Pope Benedict XVI’s personal aide visited the mentally disturbed woman who jumped over a barrier and knocked down the pontiff in St. Peter’s Basilica on Christmas Eve, a Vatican spokesman said Sunday.

Benedict asked his secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, to pay a call on Susanna Maiolo, 25, “to show his interest and benevolence,” the Rev. Federico Lombardi told Associated Press in a telephone interview.

Father Lombardi declined to comment on an Italian newspaper report Sunday that the aide told the woman that the pope had forgiven her and gave her a rosary during the Dec. 26 visit.

Monsignor Gaenswein had been discreet in visiting the psychiatric clinic in the town of Subiaco near Rome, and the Vatican hadn’t planned on publicly talking about it until the newspaper report appeared, Father Lombardi indicated.

The spokesman said he didn’t want to comment on what might have been said between the papal aide and the Italian-Swiss woman.

“Every Christian pardons,” Father Lombardi said.

He said the Vatican City’s magistrates are conducting their own investigation of the Dec. 24 incident. Still to be determined is whether the woman, with a history of psychiatric problems, could be held legally responsible for her actions.

After scrambling over the barrier separating thousands of faithful from the pope’s procession up the basilica’s center aisle, Ms. Maiolo yanked Benedict’s vestments, pulling him down as he walked up the center aisle to celebrate Mass.

The 82-year-old pope, although looking shaken, was physically unharmed and continued on to the central altar to celebrate Christmas Eve Mass at 10 p.m. In the commotion, a French cardinal also fell and broke his hip.

Exactly a year earlier, Ms. Maiolo, wearing the same red, hooded sweat shirt, also tried to reach the pope during the Christmas Eve service, but security quietly tackled her.


Artist’s suspected attacker held earlier

STOCKHOLM | The Somali man accused of trying to attack an artist who depicted the Prophet Muhammad in a controversial cartoon previously was arrested in Kenya, Danish media reported Sunday.

The Danish intelligence agency PET knew that the 28-year-old Somali man was held in Kenya in September on charges of participating in a plot to attack Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Politiken newspaper reported.

Citing unnamed sources, it said the Somali was later released because of a lack of evidence.

Mrs. Clinton visited Kenya as part of an 11-day-tour of Africa in August.

Denmark’s ambassador to Kenya, Bo Jensen, told the news agency Ritzau that the Somali man was arrested in Kenya at the time for having incomplete travel documents. However, he said Kenyan authorities never told the embassy that he was suspected in any terrorist plot and that the newspaper misunderstood the situation.

The suspect was charged with two counts of attempted murder Saturday after breaking into artist Kurt Westergaard’s home armed with an ax and a knife on Friday night. He denied the charges at the court hearing.

Mr. Westergaard — one of 12 Danish artists whose cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad outraged the Muslim world in 2006 — escaped the attack by fleeing to a specially made safe room and alerting police. Police shot the Somali man in the hand and knee.


Minimum price set for vodka

MOSCOW | The price of the cheapest vodka on the Russian market more than doubled Friday as the government set a minimum price in an effort to fight rampant alcoholism.

Drinking causes an extraordinary number of deaths in Russia, where male life expectancy is about 60 years, and it contributes to an array of economic and social problems.

The minimum price of $3 for 17 ounces of vodka went into effect at the start of the 12-day New Year’s and Orthodox Christmas holidays, when alcohol consumption is at its highest.

Russia has one of the highest levels of alcohol consumption in the world, the equivalent of 4.8 gallons of pure alcohol for every man, woman and child per year.

A study published last year in the Lancet medical journal said drinking has caused more than half of the deaths among Russians ages 15 to 54 since the 1991 Soviet collapse.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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