To my mind the Pope reacted understandably and proportionately. Needless to say, he later apologised, and came out with statements that would please feminists. The Times piece, emphases mine:
A scowling Pope Francis has apologised after he slapped away the hands of a woman who yanked him towards her during a walk-about in St Peter’s Square on New Year’s Eve.
The encounter happened as Francis, 83, was working his way along a line of pilgrims and well wishers while paying a visit to the traditional nativity scene set up in the square.
He turned away from pilgrims, who were standing behind a wooden railing, just before passing the woman, who leaned over the fence and grabbed the pontiff’s right hand. She pulled him towards her, spinning him around and causing him to wince in pain.
As the Pope turned to face her, the woman spoke to him urgently and shook his hand, prompting him to slap at her, freeing himself before walking away with an angry look.
Today Francis apologised, saying: “We lose patience many times. It happens to me too. I apologise for the bad example given yesterday.”
The Pope regularly greets the crowds that come to see him, alarming his security guards as he embraces pilgrims. On the same walk-about last night he kissed the head and stroked the cheek of a child who tumbled over the barrier and fell into his path.
But he is also known for his moody expressions, notably when he was photographed next to a smiling Donald Trump when the US president visited the Vatican in 2017.
Francis has also shown he has a tough streak, repeatedly castigating Vatican prelates in his end of year addresses for their unholy vices.
As the clock ticked down to midnight yesterday, speculation mounted on social media over what the woman in St Peter’s told Francis. The audio accompanying the video of the encounter is not clear, but some alleged that she was beseeching him over the treatment of Hong Kong protesters by China this year.
Critics accuse the Pope of cosying up to China while working on a deal to jointly approve Chinese bishops with Beijing.
Some conservative Catholics were quick to attack him, with one Twitter user writing, “How Awful! Angry socialist pope slaps female pilgrim.”
But Francis may have felt justified in escaping from the woman’s grasp after his predecessor, Pope Benedict, was knocked to the ground by a woman leaping over a barrier inside St Peter’s basilica on Christmas Eve in 2009.
The 25 year old Swiss-Italian woman, who suffered from psychiatric problems, was intercepted by security guards as she lunged for the pope, but Benedict, then 82, fell, losing his mitre and staff, and a French cardinal broke his hip as he also fell.
Following the slapping incident on yesterday evening, Pope Francis gave a homily in St Peter’s Basilica in which he decried the abuse of women in the world, claiming, “All violence inflicted on women is a desecration of God.”
Calling women, “donors and mediators of peace,” Francis said, “How often is a woman’s body sacrificed on the profane altar of advertising, profit, pornography [J4MB: there are, of course, long queues of women keen to be “exploited” on these “altars”] — exploited as a surface to be used,” adding, “We can understand our level of humanity by the way we treat a woman’s body.”
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