The video of Pope Francis slapping a woman’s hand at St. Peter’s Square sparked conversations about his actions as the supreme head of the Catholic Church who is always expected to do good.
The pontiff was seen making his way to the Nativity scene at the center of Vatican City but he needed to go through the plaza where thousands of people had gathered at the end of the traditional New Year Mass.
During his walkabout, a woman suddenly grabbed his arm and then pulled him toward her but it was unclear what she was trying to tell him, although she could be heard exclaiming, “Happy for this day!”
The pope was visibly surprised at her grip and he shortly slapped her hand before managing to pull away in an evidently displeased state.
Prior to making contact with him, the woman had made the sign of the cross.
This evening after visiting the Nativity scene in St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis loses his cool after being grabbed by a pilgrim who wouldn't let go of his hand. The Pope repeated slapped her hand and told her to let go of him. pic.twitter.com/6Qrgh8aZKz
— Catholic Sat (@CatholicSat) December 31, 2019
The pope later apologized for his behavior and admitted that he lost his patience and exhibited a “bad example” to millions of Catholics around the world.
“So many times we lose patience, even me, and I apologize for yesterday’s bad example,” he said.
The pontiff’s action towards the particular woman earned various opinions from the public who were expectedly divided about how he reacted in the situation.
Others thought that his reaction was a given since the woman was aggressively pulling him in a way that might cause him to be injured or be in pain given his age.
“Pulling an 83-year-old man, the way Pope Francis was pulled could have been a precursor to a fall that can be fatal to an old man. Instincts rushed the Pope, who in any such case, is still a frail man,” a Twitter user said.
Some thought that anyone who was grabbed in such an unexpected manner would have the same reaction, regardless of whether the individual was the head of the Catholic Church or not.
“Pope or not, you must not grab anyone like that. At ang mahalaga, after the incident, Pope Francis owned up to his mistake and apologized,” said another Twitter user.
“Di mo din kasi masisi si Pope Francis. Ikaw ba naman hilain ng paulit-ulit,” wrote another user.
“Everyone has his own boundaries and we must respect that,” said another user.
Meanwhile, there were those who said that what the pope did was “unchristian” in itself.
“What a terrible display from the so-called pope. It was obvious she was excited to see him,” a Twitter user said.
Another user said that the pope could’ve given “at least a mild, non-physical rebuke” in the “spirit of encounter and dialogue.”
“This does not promote the love of God or the fellowship of His saints,” another user wrote.
Power of the pope
Pope Francis’ popularity is not surprising since he is considered more “modern” and in touch with the times than his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.
He is also dubbed the “People’s Pope” for his more open attitude on certain issues such as calling for equal pay for women, advocating for the forgiveness of women who have received abortions and pushing world leaders to address climate change.
The pontiff has also met with members of the LGBTQ+ community and victims of those sexually abused by the clergy, among others.
This makes him widely popular, especially among Christians who comprised the largest religious group in the world as of 2015.
The role of the pope is a daunting one since it means presiding over the entire Catholic Church. He is considered the “Supreme Pastor” who represents “Christ’s love and concern for every single individual.”
He is also called the “Unifier of the People of God” who builds bridges with local Church leaders and leaders of other Church denominations.
“As the head of the Roman Catholic Church, the pope’s authority is linked back to Saint Peter, one of Jesus’s disciples who is considered by the Roman Catholic Church to be the first pope,” a Huffington Post article notes.
“Papal pronouncements hold serious weight and the pope has great influence on how Catholics understand what is holy—for instance, he plays the central role in the process of declaring saints and shrines,” it added.