Pope Francis had to pull himself away from a woman in a crowd in St Peter's Square after she grabbed his hand and pulled him towards her.

Pope Francis was walking through the square in Vatican City and greeting pilgrims on his way to see the large Nativity scene set up in the huge, cobbled esplanade.

After reaching out to touch a child, the pope turned away from the crowd only for a nearby woman to seize his hand and pull her towards him.

The abrupt gesture appeared to cause him pain and Francis swiftly wrenched his hand free.

The woman had made the sign of the cross as the pope had approached. It was not clear what she was saying as she subsequently tugged him towards her.