On Tuesday night, Pope Francis greeted pilgrims at the Vatican, circulating close to the nativity scene and wishing his visitors a Happy New Year’s Eve. One woman wasn’t satisfied with being close enough to the Pope to smell him. She wanted to touch. In a video clip that has gone viral, the woman can be seen grabbing the Pope’s hand and attempting to pull him closer to where she is standing behind the barricades.

He does not look happy about it and a moment later he slaps her grasp away:

People were astounded to see the Pope strike someone in a moment of frustration, because the Pope is supposed to be God’s most holy messenger on Earth. While it does sometimes feel like God is giving us a smack, we’re not supposed to see the Pope literally do it. There were a lot of jokes and a lot of commentary, with everyone from atheists to religious conservatives weighing in:

Pope Francis had a chance to repair some of the PR damage the very next day, as he presented his New Year message to followers at St. Peter’s Basilica, this time from behind a podium where no one could physically accost him. And, somewhat surprisingly for a representative of the Catholic Church, he actually apologized, saying, “We often lose patience. So do I.”

He also denounced violence against women, according to CNN, saying that he was sorry that his behavior was an example of that abuse, if a mild one.

“Women are sources of life,” he said. “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 added, “I apologize for the poor example yesterday,” and went on to discuss gender equality and his belief that women “should be fully included in decision-making processes,” concluding that “every step forward for women, is a step forward for humanity as a whole.”

Guess his own actions slapped some sense into him.

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*First Published: January 1, 2020, 11:19 am