Pope Francis apologised Wednesday for his widely-viewed slap of a woman who had grabbed his hand as he greeted Catholic faithful on New Year’s Eve.
The image of Francis slapping his way free from the clutches of the admirer was an instant hit on social media.
A personal apology followed.
“We lose patience many times,” Francis confessed.
“It happens to me too. I apologise for the bad example given yesterday,” the head of the Catholic church said before celebrating Mass at the Vatican.
Twitter enthusiasts commented with abandon on the pontiff’s prompt riposte to the woman.
Francis had greeted children before the Nativity scene on Saint Peter’s square and was turning away when the woman who had crossed herself then cried out something, pulled on his hand and almost caused him to fall.
The 83-year-old pope grimaced before managing to break free by slapping her hand twice.
He continued his tour, walking with some difficulty while maintaining a slightly greater distance from visitors, and gradually relaxed again as he came into contact with other children.
Twitter comments were mostly supportive of the pontiff’s instinctive reaction.
“HE IS HUMAN.. Been (sic) a Pope doesn’t make you immune to Pain or avoid Reaction to pain,” one typical comment read.
In his first Mass of the New Year, the pontiff later denounced “all violence against women” as “a profanation of God, born of a woman.”
Francis also said women were “the source of life” but deplored that they were constantly “offended, beaten, abused and forced into prostitution” and forced to “supress the life they carry within” them.
He emphasised that the “rebirth of humanity began with a woman,” and bemoaned that women’s bodies were “sacrificed on the profane altars of advertising, profit, pornography.”
“HE IS HUMAN.. Been (sic) a Pope doesn’t make you immune to Pain or avoid Reaction to pain,” one typical comment read.
In his first Mass of the New Year, the pontiff nonetheless denounced Wednesday “all violence against women” as “a profanation of God, born of a woman,” a position underscored by several Twitter enthusiasts.
Another concluded that as 2020 dawned, “the pope is trending.”
I ‘lost patience’ with exuberant admirer
Pope Francis confessed Wednesday he had “lost patience” with an exuberant admirer who had grabbed his hand on Saint Peter’s Square, prompting a swift pair of slaps.
“We lose patience many times. It happens to me too. I apologise for the bad example given yesterday,” the head of the Catholic church said before celebrating Mass at the Vatican.
Pope Francis led an impassioned mass for tens of thousands of emotional worshippers at a packed Bangkok stadium Thursday, urging respect for prostitutes and trafficking victims in a part of the world where sex work is rampant.
The remarks came at the end of a whirlwind day of meetings for Pope Francis, who is on his first trip to Buddhist-majority Thailand where he is carrying a message of religious harmony and peace.
He heads to Japan next, visiting the twin atomic bombs sites of Nagasaki and Hiroshima where he will seek a ban on “immoral” nuclear weapons.
The 82-year-old arrived at the stadium in a golden robe woven for him from Thai silk, greeting crowds of flag-waving faithful, some wiping tears from their faces at the sight of the leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics.
An estimated 60,000 worshippers gathered for the mass, some pouring into a nearby stadium to watch the hymn-filled service on large screens.
Known for his down-to-earth style, the Pope did not shy away from difficult topics.
He focused on the importance of helping vulnerable children and women “who are victims of prostitution and human trafficking, humiliated in their essential human dignity”.
He also referred to drug addicts, migrants and “exploited sinners and bypassed beggars”.
“All of them are part of our family. They are our mothers, our brothers and sisters. Let us not deprive our communities of seeing their faces, their wounds, their smiles and their lives,” said the Pope, after leading prayers.
The remarks were delivered in a region beloved by tourists but infamous for a thriving sex trade and unchecked human trafficking.
Prostitution is illegal in Thailand, home to at least 300,000 sex workers — some four percent of whom are believed to be trafficked, according to official estimates.
Many women are drawn to the work because they can earn up to 10 times more than the minimum wage, and critics say some corrupt Thai authorities turn a blind eye to the thriving trade.
Earlier, the Pope praised Thailand’s efforts to stamp out the “scourge” of exploitation and enslavement of women and children, urging a “dignified” future for vulnerable youth.
The Catholic Church has been shaken by child sex abuse scandals itself in recent years, with many high-profile cases brought against clergy.
– ‘Gift from God’ – Thailand has not had a visit from a pontiff since John Paul II in 1984, and the small but spirited Catholic community was thrilled ahead of the mass.
Just over 0.5 percent of the population is Catholic but the community has been here for centuries.
For Pimrapat Panyawattanatikul, the service was her second shot at seeing a pope after John Paul II touched her head some 35 years ago.
Now she’s hoping her mother will get a similar honour, with the pair sitting right on the track Francis was set to drive past in his Popemobile.
“It’s a miracle we got these seats. It’s my mom’s dream to see the pope and to go to Italy. This is a gift from God,” Pimrapat told AFP, her mother next to her clutching a rosary.
The Pope’s colourful mass capped a packed schedule on the first full day of Thailand where he was welcomed Wednesday by cheering worshippers in Bangkok eager for a glimpse of his motorcade.
On Thursday Francis followed in the footsteps of John Paul II, paying a visit to the supreme Buddhist patriarch Somdej Phra Maha Muneewong at one of Bangkok’s famed gilded temples.
The pair sat before a brilliant gold Buddha statue inside the ornate temple, built 150 years ago by the former Thai King — the supreme patriarch barefoot and draped in orange robes as they spoke.
The Pope reciprocated the gesture, removing his shoes for part of the tete-a-tete.
In an earlier speech, the Pope said the meeting was “a sign of the importance and urgency of promoting friendship and inter-religious dialogue”.
– Nuclear ban – This visit coincides with the 350th anniversary of the founding of the “Mission de Siam”, marking the first papal mission from Europe in the 17th century.
Though Christianity’s first visitors were initially met with scepticism, today Thailand’s nearly 400,000 Catholics face little discrimination.
The Pope also paid a visit to Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha and King Maha Vajiralongkorn, gifting the top royal a colourful mosaic of a papal blessing in Vatican City’s Saint Peter’s Square.
On Friday the pontiff will host another mass, this one for young people, and meet with religious leaders in the city.
He jets to Japan Saturday, where he will visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki, both devastated when the US dropped atomic bombs at the end of World War II in 1945.
The pope, who years ago had hoped to be a missionary in Japan, has made strong calls for a ban on nuclear weapons.
Five Vatican employees, including the number two at its anti-money laundering authority, have been suspended following police raids linked to a financial wrongdoing probe, Italian media said Wednesday.
There was no immediate comment from Vatican authorities to the report which came the day after prosecutors seized documents and electronic devices from he offices of two key Vatican departments, the Secretariat of State and the FIA financial authority.
The L’Espresso magazine published a police circular dated Wednesday showing photographs and the positions of the five “suspended as a precaution”.
The circular said Vatican guards should no longer grant access to the five, except for healthcare purposes.
One of those suspended, secretariat head of information and documentation Mgr Mauro Carlino, will continue to be granted residence in the same hotel complex which is home to Pope Francis.
Also named was FIA director Tommaso Di Ruzza. The FIA is an independent anti-money laundering authority designed to lend transparency to operations by the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR) — which acts as the Vatican Bank.
The three others suspended hold administrative posts in the secretariat.
The Vatican had said Tuesday’s raids, authorised by prosecutor Gian Piero Milano and his deputy Alessandro Diddi, were “linked to the complaints presented at the beginning of last summer by the Institute for Works of Religion and the Office of the General Auditor, regarding financial transactions carried out over time.”
The Secretariat of State, the Catholic Church’s governing body, works closely with Pope Francis.
L’Espresso reported that the investigation was looking into “real estate operations abroad,” notably in London with the alleged participation of British companies.
The magazine said investigators were analysing transactions on bank accounts which receive sums of money donated to the Catholic Church.
Pope Francis will travel to Thailand in November, the Vatican said Friday, in a visit to Asia that will sweep in Japan and the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki which were both decimated by atomic bombs in 1945.
It has been nearly four decades since a pontiff visited Thailand and Japan, both Buddhist-majority countries.
The late Pope John Paul II went to the largely Shinto Buddhist Japan in 1981, and he travelled to Thailand three years later where he met with the late King Rama IX and the Queen Mother.
The Vatican announced Friday the current pontiff will travel to Thailand from November 20-23, and then Japan to November 26.
In Bangkok, Pope Francis will “preside at religious ceremonies and pastoral visits to Catholic communities”, said a press statement from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Thailand.
Sister Ana Rosa Sivori, the Pope’s second cousin who runs a Catholic girls’ school in Thailand, told AFP she would be with Pope Francis during his Bangkok visit.
“This visit shows his desire to improve the dialogue to other religions to bring a message of peace,” she told AFP.
The four-day papal visit will coincide with the 350th anniversary of the founding of the “Mission de Siam”, which was first established by Pope Clement IX in 1669.
Today, the Christian community make up an estimated 1 per cent in Thailand, with the majority residing in the north and many within ethnic minority groups like the Jarai and the Akha.
The Vatican also provided more details of a visit to Japan, which was announced in January. The Pope had wanted to work in the country as a missionary in his youth but the plan was abandoned following a lung operation.
The Shinto Buddhist country is home to some 450,000 Catholics and 510,000 Protestants.
“During the latter visit, the Holy Father will visit Tokyo, Nagasaki, and Hiroshima,” said the statement, adding that an official schedule will be provided on a later date.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki were decimated after the US dropped atomic bombs at the end of Second World War in 1945.
More than 140,000 people were killed in Hiroshima, while the port city of Nagasaki suffered a death toll of 74,000 after the Americans dropped the atomic bombs.
The Pope has referenced the bombings in the past.
In January last year, he printed cards with a 1945 photo of victims of the Nagasaki bombing, inscribing the words “the fruit of war” in Italian on the card above his signature.
The photo, captured by American photographer Joe O’Donnell, showed a young boy standing ramrod straight carrying his dead younger brother on his back while waiting for his turn at a cremation site.
Since Pope Francis’ election five years ago, he has made two trips to Asia, visiting the Philippines and Sri Lanka in 2014, followed by Myanmar and Bangladesh last year.
Pope Francis on Saturday made an impassioned plea to Madagascans to protect the Indian Ocean’s unique environment from “excessive deforestation”, on the second leg of his African tour.
Weeks after a spike of fires in the Amazon, the Argentine pontiff told his hosts they should “create jobs and money-making activities which respect the environment and help people escape poverty”.
Madagascar — famed for its immense diversity of flora and fauna — is home to 25 million people, the vast majority of whom live in poverty on an income of less than two dollars a day.
More than half of its young people are out of work, even if many boast good qualifications.
The pope said there “were many causes driving excessive deforestation which benefits just a few people… and compromises the future of the country.”
The authorities should also ensure social justice, he added.
Madagascar’s British ambassador Philip Boyle told AFP the country loses around 200,000 hectares of forest each year, adding that “most of the tropical rainforest could disappear by 2040”.
he country’s economy is largely dependent on agriculture, the export of vanilla and cocoa in particular.
“The alarm has been raised by the pope and we are ready to take on the challenge,” environment minister Alexandre Georget told AFP.
He said Madagascar would do more to prevent forest fires, and use tree-planting drones and aerial seed bombing techniques to restore its forests.
“In six months we reached an objective of planting 40,000 hectares of land (98,000 acres), but this is pointless when there are forest fires” said Georget, adding that laws would be enforced and farmers made more aware of the issue.
Liberal-leaning president Andry Rajoelina was elected to a second term last year mainly on promises of jobs and housing.
“Corruption and inequality outrage us,” said Archbishop Desire Tsarahazana, addressing the pope in his welcome speech.
Hope for the young
At Antananarivo’s Soamandrakizay stadium, thousands of young people – mainly scouts – gathered for a vigil. They waited for hours in the heat.
“I am here to ask for the pope’s blessing to face the harsh realities of life, insecurity, poverty and corruption,” said 17-year old student Njara Raherimana, who travelled hundreds of kilometres for the event.
“All this gives me hope for change in my country,” echoed fellow student, Antony Christian Tovonalintsoa, who lives in the outskirts of the capital.
During the vigil, Pope Francis lauded the “joy and enthusiasm” of the singing crowd.
He encouraged the youth not to fall into “bitterness” or to lose hope, even when they lacked the “necessary minimum” to get by and when “educational opportunities were insufficient”
800,000 faithful expected
Sunday will mark the high point of Francis’ visit with a huge mass in the capital expected to be attended by some 800,000 faithful.
Many had already started setting up tents on the outskirts of the city on Friday, armed with posters of the Argentine pontiff.
Prospere Ralitason, a 70-year-old farm worker, arrived with some 5,000 fellow pilgrims from the central eastern town of Ambatondrazaka, 200 kilometres (125 miles) away.
“We are tired, but it’s worth making all these sacrifices to see the pope with our own eyes and receive his blessing,” he told AFP,
John Paul II
The last pope to visit was John Paul II 30 years ago.
“I was a lieutenant when I helped with the security of John Paul II in 1989. Today I am a divisional general and overseeing security for Francis’ visit to Madagascar,” said Samuel Rakotomalala.
Some 700 police officers will be deployed at the site, which is also equipped with 200 surveillance cameras and the 12,000 young scouts will also help out.
In June, 16 people were killed and dozens hurt in a stampede outside a sports stadium in the capital during a free concert.
Francis visited Mozambique earlier in the week. He is also due to travel to the island of Mauritius, which like Madagascar is situated off the eastern coast of Africa.
After a jubilant arrival in Mozambique at the start a three-nation African tour, Pope Francis on Thursday will meet with political and civil leaders to encourage them to consolidate a fragile peace accord.
The pope’s three-day visit to Mozambique comes a month after the government signed a historic peace treaty with the former rebel group Renamo, which is now the main opposition party.
Mozambique’s 16-year civil war devastated the former Portuguese colony, killing around one million people, and Renamo had never completely disarmed.
Francis, the first pope to visit Mozambique since John Paul II in 1988, was whisked away in his popemobile after arriving on Wednesday as crowds waved and danced in welcome.
He starts Thursday with a private meeting with President Filipe Nyusi, who wants to run for a second term in an election scheduled for October 15. The two men had already met one year ago at the Vatican.
As well as discussing the peace agreement, Francis is expected to address the devastation caused by two back-to-back cyclones earlier this year in the poor southeast African country.
He will not travel to Beira, the second city of the country swept away in March by Cyclone Idai, which left 600 dead and hundreds of thousands homeless.
Even six months on, many people are without shelter and food.
“Even if I can not go beyond the capital, my heart is with you and embraces you all, with a special place for those who live in difficulty,” he said to the victims of the cyclone, before his trip.
‘Pope of the Poor’
On Friday, the pope will address a mass at the giant Zimpeto stadium in the seaside capital Maputo.
The pope may also address the issue of extremism in northern Mozambique where jihadist attacks have claimed more than 300 lives over two years.
Francis could also speak about climate change, a key topic for the pontiff who has organised in a global meeting of bishops in Rome dedicated to the Amazon, which has been hit by devastating fires.
According to the World Bank, Mozambique, with its more than 2,000 km of coastline along the Indian Ocean, is among the ten most threatened countries in the world due to the consequences of climate change.
The pope will later visit the large Indian Ocean island of Madagascar and its much smaller neighbour Mauritius — both situated off the eastern coast of Africa.
Mozambique and Madagascar are among the world’s poorest countries and Francis’ choice to visit has been seen as act of solidarity from a cleric who was often in shantytowns of Argentina and is now called the “pope of the poor”.
Disgraced Cardinal George Pell lost his appeal against child sex abuse convictions Wednesday, prompting relief from those who fought to bring one of the Catholic Church’s most powerful men to justice.
Once the Vatican’s third-ranking official, Pell had been trying to overturn the verdicts and six-year sentence for sexually assaulting two 13-year-old choirboys at a Melbourne cathedral in the 1990s.
The high-profile case pitted the powerful 78-year-old — who previously helped elect Popes, ran the Vatican’s finances and was involved in the church’s response to child sex abuse claims — against a single surviving former choirboy.
Pell, dressed in a dark suit, occasionally bowed his head as Chief Justice Anne Ferguson dismissed his arguments and described his victim as “very compelling” and someone who “was clearly not a liar, was not a fantasist and was a witness of truth.”
The ruling prompted cheers to ripple into the courtroom from a large crowd gathered outside, and produced emotional statements from victims, their families and advocacy groups.
The now-adult victim — who cannot be named for legal reasons — said the “stressful” four-year legal fight had taken him “to places that, in my darkest moments, I feared I could not return from.”
Dismissing vocal media critics, the man said the death of his friend, the second choirboy, from a drug overdose had prompted him to break his silence.
“After attending the funeral of my childhood friend… I felt a responsibility to come forward,” he said in a statement read by his lawyer.
“I am not an advocate. You wouldn’t know my name. I am not a champion for the cause of sexual abuse survivors.”
A lawyer for the father of the second victim said he felt “a weight had been lifted.”
“He feels that justice has been delivered today. He has a real sense of relief that George Pell is behind bars tonight,” Lisa Flynn told AFP.
Following the ruling, Pell — who will be eligible for parole in three years and eight months — maintained his innocence and said he was now considering a second and final appeal.
“Cardinal Pell is obviously disappointed with the decision today,” said a statement issued through the church.
“His legal team will thoroughly examine the judgement in order to determine a special leave application to the High Court.”
‘Done their job’
Pell’s lawyers now have 28 days to consider further legal steps.
They had raised 13 objections to his convictions, casting doubt on everything from the physical possibility of Pell removing his robes to carry out the act, to the credibility of the main witness.
The case was unusual in that it relied heavily on the closed-door testimony of the sole surviving victim.
The three judges unanimously dismissed two so-called “fallback” arguments for Pell related to alleged procedural errors during his trial.
His lawyers argued they should have been allowed to show an animated reconstruction of peoples’ movements in the cathedral on the days of the assaults.
They also took issue with the fact that Pell was not arraigned in the presence of the jury. The process was completed via video link so the large pool of potential jurors was able to watch.
Ferguson said that despite these complaints the judges “decided that it was open to the jury to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Cardinal Pell was guilty of the offence charged.”
Following Wednesday’s ruling Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison expressed sympathy for the victims.
He said the “courts had done their job” and indicated Pell would be stripped of his Order of Australia honour.
During Pell’s trial under a court-ordered veil of secrecy, the Vatican gradually removed him from top Church bodies with little explanation.
Shortly after his conviction, Pell was removed from the so-called C9 Council of Cardinals that are effectively the Pope’s cabinet and inner circle of advisers.
The Vatican dropped him as the Church’s finance chief and opened its own probe into his actions after his conviction was made public in February.
The ruling in Australian Cardinal George Pell’s appeal against his conviction on historical child sex abuse charges will be handed down on August 21, court officials announced Thursday.
Pell, 78, the former Vatican number three, was sentenced in March to six years in prison after being convicted of sexually assaulting two choirboys in the 1990s.
A three-judge panel of Victoria state’s Supreme Court has been deliberating his case since hearing his appeal over two days in early June.
The judges can decide to reject the appeal, order a retrial or acquit Pell, the Catholic Church’s most senior convicted child molester.
Pell was convicted of sexually abusing the two choirboys in 1996 and 1997 after Sunday Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral when he was Archbishop of Melbourne.
His lawyers raised 13 objections to his conviction on five counts of sexual abuse, arguing it was “physically impossible” for the cleric to have committed the crimes in a crowded cathedral.
They cast doubt on everything from the timing of the incident following Sunday services to whether he would have been able to move his cumbersome archbishop’s robes enough to commit the assaults.
The appeal maintains that the case against Pell was unreasonably dependent on the testimony of a single victim –- the other died in 2014 — and fell short of proving his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Prosecutors insisted the jury verdict against the one-time top Vatican official was “unimpeachable”.
Whichever side loses the appeal is expected to take their case to Australia’s High Court — the country’s final court of appeal.
Since his conviction, Pell has been removed as the Vatican finance chief and lost his place in the so-called C9 Council of Cardinals that is effectively the pope’s cabinet and inner circle of advisers.
The Vatican has opened its own probe into Pell’s actions. If his conviction is upheld, it could lead to his expulsion from the priesthood.
The Vatican called off a friendly football match involving its new women’s team in Vienna over the weekend after several Austrian players protested the church’s anti-abortion stance.
The game between the Vatican side founded this year and a Vienna outfit was cancelled Saturday when several Austrians lifted their shirts to reveal pro-choice messages painted on their stomachs and backs when the anthems were played before kick-off, media reports said.
“The game was called off because we are here for the sport, and not for political or other messages”, public broadcaster ORF quoted Danilo Zennaro, a representative of the Vatican sports association, as saying.
A player from the Austrian capital’s Mariahilf women’s team said they hadn’t expected the protest action to lead to the game to be scrapped.
The Vatican’s Vienna representative could not immediately be reached on Sunday for comment.
The Vatican women’s team was formed earlier this year, more than three decades after the men’s side.
Austrian media said the Vienna clash was supposed to be the Vatican women’s first international tie.
Pope Francis issued stringent child abuse legislation for Vatican City employees on Friday, as part of the Church’s bid to address a wave of sex abuse allegations against priests.
The legislation requires officials and employees in the Vatican City State as well the Roman Curia, the central administration of the Catholic Church, to immediately report any abuse against minors and vulnerable people or face fines or a prison sentence.
Anyone convicted of abuse must be “removed from office” under the new rules, which set a statute of limitations for such crimes at 20 years from the date victims turn 18.
Francis said in a letter released with his “motu proprio” decree that it was the duty of everyone “to generously welcome children and vulnerable persons, and to create a safe environment for them”.