Pope Francis has apologised for angrily slapping a woman’s arm when she grabbed hold of his hand and yanked him towards her, saying he had lost his patience and set a “bad example”.
- Pope Francis apologised for his actions at a New Year mass at St. Peter’s Square
- He told thousands of pilgrims he lost his patience and set a bad example
- It remains unclear what the woman was saying before she tugged the pope towards her
The pontiff was walking through the square in Vatican City and greeting pilgrims on his way to see a large Nativity scene set up in the huge, cobbled esplanade.
After reaching out to touch a child, the Pope turned away from the crowd only for a nearby woman to seize his hand and pull him toward her.
The pilgrim, who has not been identified, startled a clearly disgruntled Francis, who then wrenched himself free by slapping down at her arm.
“So many times we lose patience, even me, and I apologise for yesterday’s bad example,” the pope told thousands of pilgrims gathered in St Peter’s Square on Wednesday (local time) at the end of the traditional New Year Mass.
The woman had made the sign of the cross as the Pope had approached.
It was not clear what she was saying as she subsequently tugged him toward her
In March last year, the Pope repeatedly withdrew his hand as throngs of people lined up to meet him and kiss his ring.
The tradition goes back centuries and is a sign of obedience and respect, but some accused the pope of snubbing worshippers.
Video footage of the incident went viral and the Vatican later stated Pope Francis was merely concerned about the spread of germs.
“The Holy Father told me that the motivation was very simple: hygiene,” Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti told reporters at the time.
“He wants to avoid the risk of contagion for the people, not for him.”
The pope also used the new year service to issue a forthright condemnation of the abuse of women in modern society.
“All violence inflicted on women is a desecration of God,” he told a packed St Peter’s Basilica
During his homily, Francis also addressed another theme close to his heart, immigration, saying women who moved abroad to provide for their children should be honoured, not scorned.
“Today even motherhood is humiliated, because the only growth that interests us is economic growth,” he said