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‘Almost satanic’: Pope denounces domestic violence after surge in Italy

Pope Francis described domestic violence as something "almost satanic" in an interview with Italian television on Monday, after a sharp rise in reports in Italy since the Covid pandemic began.

Pope Francis denounced domestic violence as ‘almost satanic’ in an interview on Sunday.
Pope Francis denounced domestic violence as ‘almost satanic’ in an interview on Sunday. ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP

Pope Francis was referring to “the great number of women who are beaten, abused at home, even by their husbands,” in comments to TG5 during a special programme broadcast Sunday evening.

Cases of domestic violence soared during the lockdowns imposed to try to stem the spread of the coronavirus in Italy.

According to a recent report from Italy’s national statistics agency Istat, more than 15,000 women sought help from the country’s anti-violence centres, or Cavs, in 2020.

More than 90 percent (approximately 13,700) were first-time users of the service.

Compared to the same period in 2019, the first nine months of 2020 saw a significant increase in the number of reports of domestic violence from women who feared threats to their own life or that of a loved one (3,583 versus 2,663), the report said.

READ ALSO: Code Red: Italian prosecutors flooded by reports of domestic violence and sexual abuse

However, for 74.2 percent of the women who sought help from Cavs over the course of 2020 (approximately 7,700 individuals), the violence did not originate with the pandemic but was pre-existing.

40.6 percent had experienced violence for more than five years, and 33.5 percent for between one and five years.

Since January 2021, 112 women have been killed in Italy, according to interior ministry figures. More than half of the murders were perpetrated by a current or former partner.

In his interview on Sunday, Pope Francis was filmed talking to people including a survivor of domestic abuse. They discussed issues such as violence, poverty and the fallout from the pandemic, AFP reports.

READ ALSO: Twelve statistics that show how the pandemic has hit Italy’s quality of life

“It’s a problem which, to my eyes, is almost satanic,” he told one of his interlocutors, a woman who with her children had had to flee her violent husband.

“Because it is taking advantage of the weakness of someone who can’t defend themselves.”

Comparing the suffering of abused women with that of Mary, the mother of Christ, who had to witness his crucifixion, he argued that she had never lost her dignity.

Advising the woman to draw strength from that example, he told her: “I see a lot of dignity in you, for if you had lost your dignity, you wouldn’t be here.”

Pope Francis has on several occasions denounced violence against women, last year comparing it to a “profanation”.

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RELIGION

Pope to create new cardinals who may choose successor at Vatican City ceremony

Pope Francis will on Saturday create 20 new cardinals picked from the four corners of the world, most of whom could one day end up choosing the pontiff's successor.

Pope to create new cardinals who may choose successor at Vatican City ceremony

Francis has raised the possibility of retiring due to his declining health, a path taken by his predecessor Benedict XVI. If he were to do so, a conclave involving all cardinals aged under 80 would be called to pick a successor.

Sixteen of the 20 cardinals created Saturday would be eligible for that conclave based on their ages.

The ceremony at St. Peter’s Basilica is the 85-year-old pope’s eighth since being elected in 2013 and includes clergy known for their pastoral work and, in some cases, progressive views.

All parts of the globe are represented, including new cardinals from Brazil and Nigeria, Singapore and East Timor, among others.

After this weekend, Francis will have chosen 83 out of the 132 cardinals currently qualified to elect a new pope. That is, nearly two-thirds of the total and precisely the percentage needed for any proposed name to pass.

In recent months, the pope has been forced to rely on a wheelchair due to knee pain, which he has said is inoperable.

He also suffers from sciatica, a chronic nerve condition that causes pain in his hip.

Future clues

The new cardinals are always scrutinised by Vatican observers for clues as to the future direction of the Church and its 1.3 billion faithful.

Experts caution, however, that cardinals named by one pope do not necessarily choose successors in their likeness.

The Argentine pontiff has this year completed a major shake-up of the Vatican’s powerful governing body, the Roman Curia, which makes winning new converts a priority.

In keeping with his focus on making the Church more inclusive, transparent and responsive to the needs of the poor and marginalised, Francis has chosen two Africans and five Asians, including two cardinals who hail from India.

Vatican expert Bernard Lecomte told AFP the pope’s choices are “representative of the Church today, with a large spot for the southern hemisphere”, where 80 percent of the world’s Catholics live.

Virgilio Do Carmo Da Silva, the archbishop of Dili, will on Saturday become the first cardinal of tiny East Timor, an overwhelmingly Catholic nation in Southeast Asia.

The pope has also felt free to bypass the archbishops of major cities to choose those from less powerful seats, such as Robert McElroy, the 68-year-old bishop of San Diego, California.

McElroy has supported gay Catholics and criticised moves to deny Communion to US politicians — like President Joe Biden — who support abortion.

The pope will also create the youngest cardinal in the world, 48-year-old Italian missionary Giorgio Marengo, who works in Mongolia.

The new crop of cardinals also includes Nigeria’s Peter Okpaleke, the bishop of Ekwulobia, and Leonardo Ulrich Steiner, archbishop of Manaus, Brazil.

The 80-year-old bishop emeritus of Ghent, Lucas Van Looy, had been nominated but asked to be exempted following criticism of his handling of child sexual abuse by priests in Belgium.

Saturday’s ceremony at the Vatican will be followed by the traditional “courtesy visit,” in which the general public is invited to greet the new cardinals.

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