Pope apologizes for slapping woman’s hand after she yanked him toward her

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The woman who was waiting patiently for Pope to greet her opted to grab his hand upon realising he was not going to shake the hands of everyone who was cheering him as walked towards Nativity scene.

Pope Francis had greeted children before the Nativity scene on Saint Peter's plaza and was turning away when the woman cried out something, grabbed his hand and nearly caused him to fall.

Cameras captured the scene when the woman, from behind a barrier, reached out and grabbed the pope's hand, pulling him violently toward her.

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He went on to address the issue of women and immigration, criticizing those who turn away young mothers fleeing poverty and war.

"I apologize for the poor example yesterday", he said, going off-script before the sermon on violence.

It's not clear what words were exchanged between the two - but the pope appeared to berate the woman in the clip.

Reciting the midday Angelus prayer today, Pope Francis was talking about how God's offer of salvation in Jesus is "not magic, but patient, that is, it involves the patience of love, which takes on inequity and destroys its power".

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To get away, the Pope slapped her hand and gave her a serious scowl.

In his New Year's Day homily, he also said, "All violence inflicted on women is a desecration of God", according to Reuters.

Comments on Twitter were mostly supportive of the pontiff's instinctive reaction.

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.

As Francis greets a nearby child, the woman can be seen making the sign of the cross. "We can understand our level of humanity by the way we treat a woman's body", he told the congregation. He was all smiles while greeting the public, until a woman grabbed his hand and pulled him, almost knocking him off his feet.

The pope said last April the Church had to acknowledge a history of male domination and sexual abuse of women.

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