‘To hurt a woman is to insult God’ -Pope Francis

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.

He 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 the basilica, as opposed to Friday (December 31) night, when he emerged from a side entrance close to the altar and watched from the sidelines.

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

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

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.

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.

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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