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Pope: Violence against women insults God

January 1, 2022

Emphasizing women's role as peacemakers, the Pope used his New Year's Mass to call for them to be better protected. Francis has spoken out several times against domestic violence, which has increased during the pandemic.

Pope Francis gives a mass for St Mary on New Year's Day
"How much violence there is against women!" the pope said. "There must be an end to it! To violate a woman is to insult God,"Image: Andrew Medichini/AP/picture alliance

Pope Francis on Saturday called for an end to violence against women during his New Year's Day Mass at St. Peter's Basilica.

"To hurt a woman is to offend God, who took his human form from a woman," the pope said on the day the Roman Catholic Church marks both what it calls the "Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God" as well as its annual World Day of Peace.

Francis wove his New Year's homily around the themes of motherhood and women,  saying it was they who were peacemakers that kept together the threads of life.

He said women "look at the world not to exploit it but so that it can have life. Women who, seeing with the heart, can combine dreams and aspirations with concrete reality, without drifting into abstraction and sterile pragmatism."

"And since mothers bestow life, and women keep the world (together), let us all make greater efforts to promote mothers and to protect women," Francis said.

Domestic abuse 'almost satanic'

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began nearly two years ago, Francis has several times spoken out against domestic violence, which has increased in many countries since lockdowns left many women trapped with their abusers.

During an Italian television program last month, the pope told a woman who had been beaten by her ex-husband that men who commit violence against women engage in something that is "almost satanic."

While pledging in his papacy to give women greater roles in the church, Francis has also made clear that the priesthood is reserved for men.

In a tweet before the New Year's Day Mass, Francis elaborated on his hope and strategy for peace.

"All can work together to build a more peaceful world, starting from the hearts of individuals and relationships in the family, then within society and with the environment, and all the way up to relationships between peoples and nations,'' Francis tweeted.

Question over pope's health

On New Year's Eve, the 85-year-old pope had surprised observers by not presiding over the thanksgiving vespers in St. Peter's Basilica with the traditional hymn of praise "Te Deum" ("Thee, O God, we praise") himself as planned.

The reasons for the last-minute change remained unclear: Only minutes before the start of the celebration, Francis' chair was moved, slightly to the side of the altar.

On Saturday, he walked the entire length of the central aisle of basilica, unlike on Friday, when he emerged from a side entrance close to the altar and watched from the sidelines.

Francis suffers from a sciatica condition that causes pain in the legs, and sometimes a flare-up prevents him from standing for long periods.

Public participation at Saturday's Mass was lower than in some past years because of COVID restrictions.

Italy, which surrounds Vatican City, reported a record 144,243 coronavirus-related cases on Friday and has recently reimposed the obligation to wear masks outdoors.

In his Christmas day message, Pope Francis prayed for an end to the pandemic and world conflicts.

mm/rc (AP, Reuters)