A shaken Pope Benedict has celebrated Christmas Eve Mass in St Peter’s Basilica shortly after being knocked over by a female spectator.
The woman, said to be mentally unstable, managed to grab him by his vestments near the neck as a security guard tried to overwhelm her.
The Vatican said she had also tried to jump at the Pope last year.
French Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, 87, was standing a few metres away and fell and broke his hip during the incident.
Proceeding with the Mass, Benedict looked shaken and stumbled over some words.
The Vatican later said the Pope was unharmed and would give Mass on Christmas Day as planned.
“It was an assault, but it wasn’t dangerous because she wasn’t armed,” said Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi.