Pope tenderly kissed on forehead by man in front-row seat

International News

Pope Francis is kissed by a man during his weekly general audience, at the Pope Paul VI hall, at the Vatican, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Well-wishers at Pope Francis’ weekly audience have thrust soccer T-shirts, flowers and many a wailing baby into his arms. And on New Year’s Eve, one admirer, trying to pull him closer, yanked his arm so hard he slapped her hand to free himself, an angry reaction Francis later famously apologized for.

On Wednesday, Francis seemed to thoroughly enjoy a surprise expression of affection: a long, tender kiss planted on his forehead by a man in one of the front-row seats reserved for ailing or disabled people at the end of his audience.

Francis appeared to be smiling when the man, who stood up when the pontiff approached to greet him and others in the front row, pulled the pope’s head toward him and gave a kiss lasting several seconds, pressing his nose against Francis’ forehead in the process. The two had already exchanged a few friendly words and more customary pecks on the cheeks before the kiss.

The Vatican didn’t immediately respond to a request for details, including nationality, about the man who was casually stressed in a light blue, zippered sweat jacket.

On New Year’s Day, in remarks to the public in St. Peter’s Square, Francis apologized for losing patience the evening before with the woman who had reached out and grabbed his hand when he passed by during a stroll to admire the Vatican’s Nativity scene. He excused himself for giving what he described as a “bad example” of losing patience.

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