By Sabina Castelfranco reporting from Rome
ROME, ITALY (BosNewsLife)– Pope Benedict XVI delivered his traditional Christmas Day “blessing” Friday, December 25, just hours after being knocked to the ground by a woman at the start of Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. The Vatican said the 82-year-old pontiff was unhurt and that his busy Christmas schedule would remain unchanged.
Speaking in 65 different languages from the central balcony of Saint Peter’s Basilica, Pope Benedict said he wanted to offer a blessing of peace and joy for the holiday.
“May the birth of the Prince of Peace remind the world where its true happiness lies, and may your hearts be filled with the hope and joy for the Savior has been born for us,” he said.
In his Christmas message, Pope Benedict decried the effects of the world financial crisis, conflicts in the Holy Land and Africa, and the plight of what he called the “tiny flock” of Christians in Iraq.
He said that at times Iraqi Christians are subject to violence and injustice. But he said they remain determined to make their own contribution to the building of a society opposed to the logic of conflict and the rejection of one’s neighbor.
The pope appeared as planned for his traditional Christmas Day message and blessing hours after being knocked down by a woman who jumped the barrier at the start of Christmas Eve Mass.
The 25-year-old woman, described as “psychologically unstable”, was detained for questioning by Vatican security police. She was the same person who tried to jump a barricade to get close to the pope at last year’s Christmas Mass. She has now been taken to a medical facility for examination.
French Cardinal Roger Etchegaray was also injured in the incident, suffering a broken leg. He was taken to the hospital and will undergo surgery.
The pope celebrated Christmas Eve Mass two hours earlier than the usual midnight starting time in a move by the Vatican to ease his busy holiday commitments. Pope Benedict has been remarkably healthy during his pontificate, keeping to a busy schedule and traveling around the world. He already has plans to travel to Malta, Portugal and Britain in 2010. (Sabina Castelfranco’s report also airs via the Voice of America (VOA) network).