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Rescuers Overpower Man on Vatican Dome

Authorities overpowered a man who climbed the side of the soaring dome of St. Peter's Basilica (search) on Saturday and perched there for hours, bringing him to safety.

Firefighters, a bishop and other clergymen had been trying to persuade the man to return to safety, when suddenly firefighters and other rescuers scrambled over the railing, overpowered him and thrust him back over the rail and on to the terrace.

News reports initially said the man had threatened to jump, but fire department officials said they didn't know what provoked the man to climb over the protective fence around the dome's walkway.

Private Italian TV Sky TG24 TV interviewed a woman, Giuseppina Santilli from the central region of Abruzzo, who said someone had phoned her to say the man was her 45-year-old son, Rino.

She said he had a history of psychiatric problems and might have been seeking help to care for poor people. The woman said her son had left home in the morning, saying he was headed to Rome to spend the day with friends.

There was no immediate way to confirm the man on the dome was indeed her son, but the mother said she was certain even though she hadn't seen television footage of the drama.

Earlier in the day, the square was being dressed up with potted flowers for Easter Sunday (search) morning Mass.

Pope John Paul II (search) has been convalescing in his apartment in the Apostolic Palace — about 200 yards from the basilica — after throat surgery on Feb. 24.