Bizarrely, two new phrases crept into usage in the English language over the Christmas period.
One was “Slapgate”, a noun that refers to the moment when Pope Francis repeatedly slapped the wrist of a woman who clasped his hand and pulled him towards her, almost dragging him off his feet.
The other was “Pope-slapping”, a compound verb to describe the action of a person who frantically slaps the arm of another.
It is mischievous stuff, and very sad for the Church, and the Holy Father has apologised for his “bad example”.
The episode prompts the question, nonetheless, of how a person might grab the Pope’s attention in public.
First of all, it has to be recognised that there is no automatic right to an audience, so if the Pope ignores calls, shouts and waves it might be best to accept that he might not be in the mood to speak.
There is no bar to touching the Holy Father – remember the haemorrhaging woman in the Gospel – although it is inadvisable if uninvited, and the laying of violent hands upon a pope is a mortal sin.
There are no hard and fast rules, but good manners always go a long way.