The Vatican will review its safety procedures after a woman managed to break through security guards and push the pope to the ground Thursday.
Pope Benedict, 82, was not hurt when 25-year-old Susanna Maiolo knocked him to the floor after jumping the barrier at St. Peter's Basilica on Christmas Eve.
He continued with the evening mass and went on to deliver his traditional Christmas Day greetings the next day in 65 languages to the crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square.
But as a senior Vatican official at the service noted, "the sense of shock in the Basilica was amazing – there was a huge gasp, no – one could believe what was happening."
The incident also puts to question the Vatican's security protocol as Thursday's incident marked the second time in the last 12 months that Italian-Swiss national Maiolo rushed at the pope. On the first attempt, Maiolo was restrained before reaching the pontiff.
"The fact this woman is known and was still able to get through security is very, very serious," commented the Vatican official to The Telegraph.
"We are talking about a frail 82 year old man being knocked to the ground – it could be anyone's grandfather and if this lady was known and did this last year then this is a major security breach," he added.
According to the Vatican, Maiolo, who was described as "unbalanced," was arrested and taken to hospital for psychological treatment.
It was not immediately clear how she was able to get past security as all the people who were inside St. Peter's were required to have invitations and were checked and asked to give their names upon entry.
The last time Maiolo rushed at the pope was at Midnight Mass last year.