Violence against women insults God, Pope Francis says in New Year’s speech

Francis, 85, celebrated a Mass in St Peter’s Basilica on the
day the Roman Catholic Church marks both the solemnity of Holy Mary Mother of
God as well as its annual World Day of Peace.

Francis appeared to be in good form on Saturday following an
unexplained incident on New Year’s Eve where he attended a service but at the
last minute did not preside over it as he had been expected to.

At the start of the Mass on Saturday, he walked the entire
length of the central aisle of basilica, as opposed to Friday night, 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

Francis wove his New Year’s homily around the themes of
motherhood and women – saying it was they who kept together the threads of life
– and used it to make one of his strongest calls yet for an end to violence
against them.

“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.

“How much violence is directed against women! Enough!
To hurt a woman is to insult God, who from a woman took on our humanity.”

During an Italian television programme last month, Francis
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”.

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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

Public participation at the 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
imposed new measures such as an obligation to wear masks outdoors.

In the text of his Message for the World Day of Peace,
issued last month, Francis said nations should divert money spent on armaments
to invest in education, and decried growing military costs at the expense of
social services.

The annual peace message is sent to heads of state and
international organisations, and the pope gives a signed copy to leaders who
make official visits to him at the Vatican during the upcoming year.

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