The man was wrestled to the ground by security officers, who have been on edge ever since May 13, 1981 when the previous pontiff, John Paul II, was shot and critically wounded by a Turkish gunman as he entered the same to address the faithful.

Pope Benedict XVI was not hurt in Wednesday’s incident and eyewitnesses said he didn’t even appear to notice that the man had jumped over the protective barricade in the square and toward the white popemobile.

The incident happened as the popemobile drove by with the pope waving to the audience. Reporters said that at least eight security officers trailing the popemobile grabbed the man and pushed him to the ground.

POLICE CUSTODY

A Vatican official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to journalists, was quoted as saying that the man was "being held for questioning" by Vatican police, but it was not clear how long he would remain in custody.

The Associated Press news agency quoted the official as saying that the man had gotten as far as the back of the pope’s white jeep before being wrestled to the ground, although from video footage of the incident it was unclear whether he actually made it onto the jeep.

The man, who was described as "between 20 and 30 years old" and whose nationality was unknown, was wearing a pink T-shirt and dark shorts, a beige baseball cap and sunglasses, reporters said. He apparently vaulted himself up and over the barricade from the second or third row back.

POPE CONTINUES

Despite the incident, the leader of the world’s one billion Catholics continued his journey.

Pope Benedict XVI kept waving and proceeded with the audience as if nothing had happened, eyewitnesses said.

The motives of the man who tried to jump into the popemobile were not immediately clear. (With reports from Vatican City).

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