|Pope Benedict XVI visited a soup kitchen yesterday in the Trastavere section of Rome.|
VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI waded into a crowd of well-wishers in Rome yesterday, just three days after he was knocked down by a woman at a Christmas Eve Mass.
It was the 82-year-old pontiff’s first appearance outside the Vatican since the attack, which left him unhurt but raised security concerns.
Security was tight, but Benedict greeted well-wishers as usual. He kissed some children and caressed the hands of others as he entered a soup kitchen operated by the Sant’Egidio Community, a lay Catholic group based in Rome, a few miles from the Vatican.
Many in the crowd applauded, some shouting, “Viva il Papa!’’ or “Long Live the Pope!’’
The pope has kept up his busy holiday schedule despite the incident, in which a woman jumped a barricade in St. Peter’s Basilica and pulled the pope to the ground as she was taken down by guards.
Benedict got up quickly and celebrated the Mass. The next morning, he delivered his traditional Christmas Day message.
The Vatican said the woman was mentally unstable and identified her as Susanna Maiolo, 25, a Swiss-Italian national. She remains in a clinic for treatment.
Also yesterday, the pope delivered the traditional Angelus prayer from his studio window overlooking St. Peter’s Square before traveling to the soup kitchen in Rome’s Trastevere neighborhood.
There, he shared lasagna, meatballs with lentils, and mashed potatoes with the poor and later gave Christmas presents to about 30 children at the center.
According to the Sant’Egidio Community, among those sitting at his table were a homeless Afghan refugee; a Nigerian who arrived in Italy four years ago after grueling travel across the Libyan desert; and a Somali woman who came to Italy to give her disabled son better care.