According to CBS News, Pope Francis apologized Wednesday for his widely viewed slap of a woman who had grabbed his hand as he greeted Catholic faithful on New Year’s Eve. A personal apology followed with the pope stating “Love makes us patient. We lose patience many times. Even me and I apologize for yesterday’s bad example” Francis was greeting children before the Nativity scene on Saint Peter’s square and was turning away when the woman who had crossed herself and then cried out something, pulled on his hand and almost caused him to fall. The 83-year-old pope grimaced before managing to break free by slapping her hand twice. He continued his tour, walking with some difficulty while maintaining a slightly greater distance from visitors, and gradually relaxed again as he came into contact with other children.
The heated encounter isn’t the first time the Pope has become upset during public events. Earlier this year, Pope Francis appeared to become irritated when a line of worshippers tried to kiss his papal ring, a common sign of respect that dates back centuries. The video was widely shared online and divided some within the Catholic community, with conservative critics accusing the Pope of showing “graceless” disrespect for the long-standing tradition. According to CTV News, a spokesperson for the Pope said at the time that it was “a simple question of hygiene” and that the Pope did not want to spread germs. Pope Francis is known for warmly greeting worshippers and kissing babies handed to him at public events. Originally from Argentina, Francis has even drunk out of gourds given to him by strangers that are filled with mate, a highly-caffeinated tea popular in South America.
The Pope also went on to condemn violence against women, adding that “women are sources of life. Yet they are continually insulted, beaten, raped, forced to prostitute themselves and to suppress the life they bear in the womb. Every form of violence inflicted upon a woman is a blasphemy against God, who was born of a woman.” He also mentioned gender equality in his speech, noting that women “should be fully included in decision-making processes” and that “every step forward for women, is a step forward for humanity as a whole.”
Reports in the Italian media claimed that earlier the same day, Francis had attended the private funeral of a friend, showing up without notice at the Roman parish of San Giuseppe al Nomentano to pay his respects to María Grazia Mara. She was a professor emerita at the Patristic Institute Augustinianum in Rome, died Monday at 95. She was a noted scholar of the history and theology of the Roman Catholic Church’s founders whom Francis visited at her home in 2018 and then singled out for special praise during a visit to the college in early 2019. Francis also presided over a New Year’s Eve service in St. Peter’s Basilica, where he called on the Catholic Church to “connect with others and listen to what they are living and their cry for help.”