Pope Francis has cautiously waded back into the crowds after video of him slapping away the hand of an overly enthusiastic pilgrim went viral and sparked a papal apology.

Francis gingerly agreed to a nun’s request for a kiss on the cheek on Wednesday, but said he would only approach her if she did not bite.

The light-hearted moment occurred as Francis entered the Vatican auditorium at the start of his weekly general audience.

Francis kept his distance when the sister first asked for a papal kiss, and then negotiated the terms: “I’ll give you a kiss, but keep calm. Don’t bite!”

Francis, unlike some of his predecessors, is usually very informal with well wishers at such non-religious events, stopping to kiss babies, bless the handicapped, and allowing hundreds of people to touch his hand.

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But he frowns on allowing people to kiss his hand at large events, saying he does not want that gesture of reverence to spread germs.

Last month’s slapping incident was an exceptional one. It was similar to another several years ago when Francis chastised an over-exuberant woman who had pulled him so hard he nearly fell onto a person in a wheelchair.

AAP