Pope 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. In his New Year’s message, he called for an end to violence against women, saying it was insulting to God.
The Pope 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.
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 periods.
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”.
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.