VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has used his New Year message to denounce violence against women, hours after slapping a woman’s hand to free himself from her grip.
“Women are sources of life. Yet they are continually insulted, beaten, raped, forced to prostitute themselves and to suppress the life they bear in the womb,” the Pontiff told worshipers gathered at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican on Wednesday.
“Every form of violence inflicted upon a woman is a blasphemy against God, who was born of a woman.”
Shortly before beginning his traditional New Year’s Day address, the Pope said he was sorry for smacking a woman’s hand the previous day, to free himself from her grip.
“I apologize for the poor example yesterday,” he said, going off-script.
Pope Francis had been making his way to the Nativity scene in Vatican City on Tuesday, New Year’s Eve. When he began to walk away from the crowd that had gathered to greet him, video shows a woman grabbing his hand and yanking him toward her.
He became visibly upset, slapping the woman’s hand in an attempt to extricate himself. Footage of the altercation also appears to show him shouting at the woman.
Prior to the incident, the woman had made the sign of the cross. She addressed the 83-year-old Pope as she took his hand but it is unclear what she was trying to tell him.
During his New Year address on Wednesday, the Pontiff also spoke about gender equality, telling the congregation that women “should be fully included in decision-making processes.”
“Every step forward for women, is a step forward for humanity as a whole.”