Pope Francis has apologized for hitting the hand of a well-wisher who grabbed him and yanked him toward 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 Tuesday night to admire the Vatican’s Nativity scene.
Cameras captured the scene when the woman, from behind a barrier, reached out and grabbed the pope’s hand, pulling him violently toward her. Francis reacted sharply, exclaimed something and then slapped her hand so she would let him go. Frowning in anger, he turned and strode away.
Francis said “so many times we lose patience. Me, too.” He then added “I say ‘excuse me’ for the bad example”
In his impromptu remarks Wednesday, Francis said “so many times we lose patience. Me, too.” He then added “I say ‘excuse me’ for the bad example” he gave in the incident Tuesday.
Pope Francis grew visibly angry and even swatted at the hand of a woman who tugged his arm as the head of the Roman Catholic Church greeted pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square on New Year’s Eve.
In video of the incident, Francis walks down a line of admirers separated by fencing, clasping their hands, waving and smiling with the basilica and the Vatican obelisk in the background.
Just as the pope appears to turn to walk away from the crowd, a woman reaches out, grabs his hand and then jerks him forcefully toward her.
Francis immediately recoils and swats at her hand to free himself as the pope’s security detail also moves to intervene.
The woman made the sign of the cross just before the incident. It’s not clear what she said to the pope as she grabbed him.