Bishop apologizes for how he touched Ariana Grande at Aretha Franklin's funeral

The bishop who officiated Aretha Franklin's funeral apologized to Ariana Grande for the way he touched her after her stirring rendition of “(You Make Me Feel like a) Natural Woman” during the star-studded Detroit ceremony this week.

Bishop Charles H. Ellis III sparked widespread backlash Friday following his awkward encounter with the “No Tears Left to Cry” songstress on the stage of Greater Grace Temple, where thousands gathered to honor Franklin’s life and musical legacy. Images and video of the encounter, which sees Ellis’ arm wrapped tightly around Grande, his hand clutching well above her waist, almost immediately started circulating on social media.

The hashtag, “#RespectAriana” began trending worldwide shortly after the incident.

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“It would never be my intention to touch any woman’s breast,” Ellis said from the cemetery where Franklin was interred late Friday. “I don’t know, I guess I put my arm around her. Maybe I crossed the border, maybe I was too friendly or familiar but again, I apologize.”

Ellis added that he hugged all the performers — male and female — and that he never intended to cause a distraction during the world’s final farewell to the Queen of Soul.

“Everybody that was up, I shook their hands and hugged them,” he said. “That’s what we are all about in the church. We are all about love.”

He also apologized to Grande, her fans and the Hispanic community for cracking a joke about her name. He quipped that it reminded him of something that would appear on a Taco Bell menu, which many criticized as racist. Ellis said he’d only hoped to add to some levity to the lengthy ceremony.

“When you’re doing a program for nine hours, you try to keep it light,” he told the Associated Press.

Grande performed at the “Celebration of Life” on Friday alongside other icons like Stevie Wonder, Jennifer Hudson and Chaka Khan. The service followed two days of public viewings on Aug. 28 and 29, when fans were able to offer their final respects to Franklin.

Franklin died of pancreatic cancer on Aug. 16 at the age of 76.

With News Wire Services