New Delhi: Pope Francis apologised for smacking a woman in an attempt to free himself during a walkabout in St Peters Square on Tuesday. It was caught on camera and launched a debate on social media whether the action behoved the Pope.

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“So many times we lose patience, even me, and I apologise for yesterday’s bad example,” the pope told thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday at the end of the traditional New Year Mass.

Many social media users observed that the woman was wrong as she pressed the Pope’s hand vigorously. Still, the reaction from the Pope didn’t evoke praise.

Interestingly, his first Mass was on violence against women. “Every form of violence against women is a blasphemy against God, who was born of a woman,” he said. In the Christian faith, “from a woman was born the Prince of peace,” he said and bemoaned that women’s bodies were “sacrificed on the profane altars of advertising, of profiteering, of pornography”.

“Today even motherhood is humiliated because the only growth that interests us is economic growth,” he said.

“There are mothers, who risk perilous journeys to desperately try to give the fruit of the womb a better future and are judged to be redundant by people whose bellies are full of things, but whose hearts are empty of love.”