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Pope Francis Regrets ‘Bad Example’ He Set After Angrily Slapping Away Hand of Female Worshiper

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Pope Francis has apologized for angrily slapping the hand of a woman who was holding on to him and pulling him toward her as he walked through the Vatican City‘s Nativity scene on New Year’s Eve.

The following day, the pontiff apologized for the interaction while giving his annual New Year’s well wishes to the public in St. Peter’s Square. “I say ‘excuse me’ for the bad example,” he said in unscripted remarks, adding that “so many times we lose patience. Me, too.”

Video of the incident went viral on social media, and shows the Pope walking through a crowd of Catholic pilgrims on New Year’s Eve. As he tried to walk away from one group, a woman can be seen grabbing his hand and yanking him closer to her. As he tried to pull away from her, she would not let go. The Pope, who appeared frustrated, then slapped her on the hand and frowned as he walked away.

The following day, Pope Francis spoke out against violence toward women during his New Year’s Day homily in St. Peter’s Basilica, equating it to profaning God, according to the Associated Press.

He noted that “many times women’s bodies are sacrificed on the profane altar of advertisements, of profit, of pornography,” and lamented that women are ”continually offended, beaten, raped, forced into prostitution” and forced to have abortions — a procedure the Catholic Church is against.

The Pope also said he hoped that in the new year women worldwide would take on more leadership roles.“If we want a better world, that is a house of peace and not a courtyard of war, may the dignity of every woman be at the heart of it. Women are givers and mediators of peace, and should be fully associated with decision-making processes.”

Women are not able to become priests in the Catholic Church. The pontiff did not say how roles for women might be specifically expanded in the church in the coming year.

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Write to Josiah Bates at josiah.bates@time.com