Pope Francis has issued a public apology after he was caught on camera swatting away a woman who tugged aggressively at his arm.
The incident occurred as Francis greeted devotees in St. Peter’s Square on New Year’s Eve. The pope could be seen traveling down the line of pilgrims, shaking hands and issuing blessings, before approaching a rather over-excited woman. As Francis prepared to turn and walk in the other direction, the woman screamed something out before violently yanking him towards her. At this point, Pope Francis, clearly perturbed by the gesture, started slapping away her hand.
Astonishingly, for a few brief moments, the woman continued to hang on.. much to the Pope’s bewilderment.
Appearing confused by his response, the enthusiastic devotee eventually lets go of the Holy See and was quickly confronted by the Pope’s security detail.
According to reports, the Pope then started to keep some more distance between him and his faithful followers in order to avoid any further incidents.
Later, in a series of impromptu remarks, Francis apologized for losing his cool.
“We lose patience many times,” he said, according to CBS News. “It happens to me too. I apologize for the bad example given yesterday.”
The majority of Twitter users responding to the controversy pinned the blame firmly on the lady who grabbed the Pontiff.
“That was kind of an aggressive move on her part,” one person said of the woman’s actions.
“He’s their religious leader who should be treated w/reverence,” another added. “Also, he’s human. Not some plaything that can be grabbed on a whim. Plus, it looks like she hurt him which can’t be done to even an animal.”
In March of this year, Pope Francis garnered headlines after repeatedly pulling his hand away from pilgrims as they attempted to kiss his ring. According to Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti, Francis has become concerned about spreading germs.
“The Holy Father told me that the motivation was very simple: hygiene,” Gisotti said, according to the Guardian. “He wants to avoid the risk of contagion for the people, not for him.”