'Even I lose patience,' says Pope Francis as he apologises for slapping hand of worshipper

Pope Francis has apologised for hitting the hand of a worshipper who grabbed him and yanked him toward her.

In his new year's wishes to the public in St. Peter's Square on Wednesday, Francis confessed to losing his patience with the woman while he was strolling in the square on Tuesday night to admire the Vatican's Nativity scene.

Cameras captured the scene when the woman, from behind a barrier, reached out and grabbed the pope's hand, pulling him toward her.

Francis reacted sharply, exclaimed something and then slapped her hand so she would let him go.

Frowning in anger, he turned and strode away.

In his impromptu remarks, Francis said "so many times we lose patience. Me, too".

He then added: "I say 'excuse me' for the bad example."

It is not the first time the Pope has reprimanded worshippers for their heavy-handedness.

In March 2019, bizarre footage was released which showed a line of worshippers all diving to kiss his hand.

He could be seen repeatedly pulling his hand away as people try to kiss his papal ring during a visit to an Italian pilgrimage site.