The new year did not get off to a great start for Pope Francis. The 266th pope found himself in hot water after a video of him losing his patience with a woman’s outside the Vatican went viral. The video shows Pope Francis swatting the woman’s hand and fleeing the scene after she repeatedly tried to embrace his hand.
The video took the internet by storm, and while some viewers equated the video to a meme goldmine, others saw only the harmful potential that his action could pose.
The incident occurred on New Year’s Eve in Saint Peter’s Square. The pope was greeting well-wishers as he made his way to the nativity scene in Vatican City. The following day during his New Years Day address, he confronted the elephant in the room and issued an apology.
“I apologize for the poor example yesterday,” he told the crowd.
Pope Francis went on to induce a call to action for gender equality by saying that “by how we treat a woman’s body, we can understand our level of humanity.”
Earlier that day, in accordance with his new platform, he tweeted: “The rebirth of humanity began with women. If we want to weave humanity into the webs of our day, we must begin again with woman.”
Some viewers ran with the notion that the Pope had an aggressive alter ego. One twitter user wrote, “2020 goal: get my a** kicked by the pope.” Another tweeted, “Watching the pope slap the sh*t out of a pilgrim is the kind of energy we all need in 2020.”
Margaret C. Galitzin, of “Traditionalist Issues,” reported that the woman called out to the pope in Chinese before the notorious slap.
“Hold! Hold!” she said. “Look for the Chinese village. They are losing the faith!.” Her words were in reference to the Catholics in China suffering persecution under the Communist regime.
Media outlets subtly accused the pope of hypocrisy. CNN tweeted, “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.”
Blogger Matt Walsh tweeted, “This is a big moment for Catholics because as everyone knows all of the pope’s actions are infallible according to church teaching, therefore we now have moral license to slap whoever we want”. Walsh uses sarcasm to bring up a valuable point — the pope’s action could pose societal impacts.
While the reaction to the incident is varied, the video has prompted the same question in all its viewers: to what extent do we recognize the humanity of public figures? In the age of cancel culture, we decide.