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Pope urges peace in Vatican New Year address and says hurting women insults God

Pope Francis urged the world to "roll up our sleeves" for peace in a New Year's message Saturday, while calling violence against women an affront to God.

Pope Francis addresses the crowd from the window of the Apostolic Palace overlooking Saint Peter's Square
Pope Francis addresses the crowd from the window of the Apostolic Palace overlooking Saint Peter's Square during the New Year Angelus prayer in the Vatican on January 1st, 2022. Tiziana FABI / AFP

Marking the 55th World Day of Peace, the head of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics devoted his Angelus address to encouraging a stop to violence around the world, telling the assembled crowd at Saint Peter’s Square in Vatican City to keep peace at the forefront of their thoughts.

“Let’s go home thinking peace, peace, peace. We need peace,” said the pope, speaking from the window of the Apostolic Palace under sunny skies.

“I was looking at the images in the television programme ‘In His Image’ today, about war, displaced people, the miseries. This is happening today in the world. We want peace,” he added, referring to a religious broadcast on Italian state television.

The pope — who turned 85 on December 17th — reminded the faithful that peace required “concrete actions,” such as attention to the most fragile, forgiving others and promoting justice.

“And it needs a positive outlook as well, one that always sees, in the Church as well as in society, not the evil that divides us, but the good that unites us!” he added.

“Getting depressed or complaining is useless. We need to roll up our sleeves to build peace.”

Pope Francis celebrates the New Year’s day mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on January 1st, 2022. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

Francis, who in March begins the ninth year of his papacy, called violence against women an insult to God during a mass in honour of the Virgin Mary earlier Saturday in Saint Peter’s Basilica.

“The Church is mother, the Church is woman. And since mothers bestow life and women ‘keep’ the world, let us all make greater efforts to promote mothers and to protect women,” he 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.”

‘Uncertain, difficult times’
To mark the World Day of Peace, Francis recommended education, labour and intergenerational dialogue as building blocks for peace.

“Teaching and education are the foundations of a cohesive civil society capable of generating hope, prosperity and progress,” the pope wrote in a message published by the Vatican on December 21st, noting that military spending had increased beyond Cold War levels.

“It is high time, then, that governments develop economic policies aimed at inverting the proportion of public funds spent on education and on weaponry,” wrote the pontiff.

The pope, who has spent much of his papacy highlighting economic inequality, the plight of migrants and the environment, returned to those themes following his Angelus prayer on Saturday.

“We are still living in uncertain and difficult times due to the pandemic.

Many are frightened about the future and burdened by social problems, personal problems, dangers stemming from the ecological crisis, injustices and by global economic imbalances,” said the pope.

“Looking at Mary with her Son in her arms, I think of young mothers and their children fleeing wars and famine or waiting in refugee camps.”

Pope Francis as arrives to celebrates a mass during the first Vespers and Te Deum prayer in Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on December 31st, 2021. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

On New Year’s Eve, Pope Francis did not preside over vespers at St Peter’s Basilica as planned, instead turning the service over to the dean of the College of Cardinals, Giovanni Battista Re, the dean of the College of Cardinals.

The pointiff read the homily but spent most of the service seated on the sidelines.

The previous year, Francis was unable to celebrate New Year’s masses because of a painful sciatica.

On Friday, the Vatican cancelled the pope’s traditional visit to the Nativity Scene in Saint Peter’s Square over coronavirus concerns.

As elsewhere in Europe, Italy — and by extension the tiny Vatican City State — is facing a surge in coronavirus cases fuelled by the new Omicron variant.

READ ALSO: UPDATE: What are Italy’s new Covid quarantine rules?

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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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