A furious Pope Francis slapped a woman’s hand in order to break free after she grabbed him during celebrations at the Vatican.
A furious Pope Francis slapped a woman’s hand in order to break free after she grabbed him during celebrations at the Vatican.

Worshipper gets slap from furious Pope

A visibly furious Pope Francis had to pull himself away from a woman in a crowd in St Peter's Square after she grabbed his hand and yanked him towards her on New Year's Eve.

The 83-year-old leader of the Catholic Church was walking through the square in Vatican City to admire the nativity scene, much to the delight of tourists and Romans.

Shouts of "Pope! Pope!" and "Happy New Year!" resounded as families rushed to catch a glimpse of him or thrust out their infant in the hope he would pat their heads or pinch their cheeks.

After reaching out to touch one child, though, the Pope turned away from the crowd - only for a woman to seize his hand and pull her towards him.

The abrupt gesture appeared to cause him pain, and he struck the woman's hand twice to free his own from her grasp.

He then went on to examine the large nativity scene in the square outside the cathedral.

The heated encounter isn't the first time the Pope has become upset during a public event.

Pope Francis pulls himself free from woman's clutch
Pope Francis pulls himself free from woman's clutch

In March last year, he was caught on video appearing to become irritated when a line of worshippers tried to kiss his papal ring, a common sign of respect that dates back centuries.

In the footage, he pulls his hand away from people who tried to kiss the ring.

A spokesman for the Pope said at the time that it was "a simple question of hygiene" and the Pope did not want to spread germs.

At a New Year's Eve Vespers service in St Peters' Basilica, the Pope urged people to practise more solidarity and to "build bridges, not walls".

Since becoming pontiff in 2013, he has preached openness - a reform-minded agenda that has irritated a small but vocal group of ultraconservatives in the church.

- with AP