Pope sorry for 'losing patience' after slapping hand of woman who grabbed him

The pope has apologised for angrily striking the hand of a woman who reached out and yanked him towards her.

In his New Year wishes, the pontiff admitted losing his patience with the woman while greeting pilgrims on his way to see the Vatican's Nativity scene in St Peter's Square on Tuesday.

Footage showed the moment the woman reached out from behind a barrier, grabbed his hand and pulled him violently towards her.

Visibly annoyed, Pope Francis said something and then slapped her hand in order to wrench himself free.

Frowning in anger, the disgruntled head of the Catholic Church turned and strode away.

In his impromptu remarks on Wednesday, the pope, who once worked as a nightclub bouncer in his native Argentina, said "so many times we lose patience. Me too".

He asked people to "excuse me for the bad example" during Tuesday's incident.

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