Pope Francis has apologised for hitting the hand of a well-wisher who grabbed him and yanked him towards her.
In his new year’s wishes to the public in St Peter’s Square on Wednesday, Francis confessed to losing his patience with the woman while he was strolling in the square on Tuesday night to admire the Vatican’s nativity scene.
Cameras captured the scene when the woman, from behind a barrier, reached out and took the pope’s hand.
Francis reacted sharply, exclaimed something and then slapped her hand so she would let him go.
Frowning in anger, he turned and strode away.
In his impromptu remarks on Wednesday, Francis said people often lose patience, including him.
He then apologised for the “bad example” he gave.
Focusing the rest of his speech on his peace message, the pope thanked the volunteers in places “where peace and justice are threatened”, who choose to be present in a non-violent and unarmed form.
The pontiff also thanked those who joined a march for peace on Wednesday.
Violence against women
Francis described violence against women as “a blasphemy against God”.
“If we want to weave humanity into this our time, we need to start again from the woman,” the pontiff said on Wednesday.
“Yet they are continually insulted, beaten, raped, forced to prostitute themselves and to suppress the life they bear in the womb.”
Francis referred to women as the “sources of life”.
“Humanity’s salvation came forth from the body of a woman: we can understand our degree of humanity by how we treat a woman’s body.”
The Catholic Church traditionally celebrates the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God feast day on New Year’s Day.