A woman, said to be mentally disabled, jumped the barriers in St. Peter's Basilica and knocked down Pope Benedict XVI at the start of Christmas Eve Mass.
The commotion occurred as the Pope's procession was making its way toward the main altar and shocked gasps rang out among the thousands who packed the basilica. The procession came to a halt, the music stopped and security rushed to the trouble spot.
Witness video showed a woman dressed in a red hooded sweat shirt vaulting over the wooden barriers that cordoned off the basilica's main aisle and rushing toward the pope before being swarmed by bodyguards.
The video showed the woman grabbing the Pope's vestments as she was taken down by guards, with Pope Benedict then falling on top of her.
The 82-year old Pope remained on the ground for a few seconds before being helped back up by attendants. At that point, a few shouts of "viva il papa!" (long live the pope!) rang out, followed by cheers from the faithful, witnesses said.
After getting up, Benedict, flanked by tense bodyguards, resumed his walk to the basilica's main altar to start the Mass. The Pope appeared unharmed but somewhat shaken and leaned heavily on aides and an armrest as he sat down in his chair.
Benedict made no reference to the disturbance after the service started. As a choir sang, he sprinkled incense on the altar before opening the Mass with the traditional wish for peace in Latin.
A Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Ciro Benedettini said the woman had been taken into custody by Vatican police. He said she also knocked down Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, who was taken to hospital for a checkup.
Here's the video of Pope Benedict knocked down by a woman: