Pope Francis offered a strongly worded rebuke to those who abuse women and children in their own home, saying such people were universally seen as evildoers. Domestic violence is on the rise due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The remarks by the pontiff were among the Catholic Church’s most stringent condemnations yet of domestic abuse. They were made during a special program that aired on Italy’s TG5 network on Sunday, which introduced to the audience four people struggling with serious hardships in their life and seeking consolation from the Pope.
The first guest, Giovanna, said she had fled a violent and miserable home, taking her four children with her, but Covid restrictions had made her situation much worse, trapping them in trauma and destitution.
“The number of women who are beaten and abused at home, even by their own husbands, is very large,” the Pope said. “For me, this problem is almost satanic, because abusers take advantage of the weakness of those who cannot defend themselves.”
Abuse by a spouse or a parent is particularly vile and humiliating, Francis added. Preserving one’s dignity in such a situation is hard, he said, pointing to the inspiring example of Jesus’ mother, Mary, who kept her dignity even as her son was denounced as a criminal and hung near-naked on a cross.
“I see dignity in you,” he told Giovanna, “because if you did not have dignity, you would not be here.”
The Christmas special, titled ‘Pope Francis and the Invisibles’, also featured a homeless woman who spoke about how people living on the streets are barely noticed by passersby, a convict trying to rebuild his life after spending 25 years behind bars, and a teenage girl who said she was struggling with being isolated from her peers and the outside world during the pandemic.
Domestic abuse has been on the rise in many nations since last year, when governments started to impose lockdowns to curb the spread of Covid-19, and the economic slowdown impacted many families. In Italy, police say some 90 cases of violence against women are reported every day, with over 60% of them happening in the woman’s own home.
Pope Francis has repeatedly spoken out against domestic violence in his interviews and public appearances, calling out the abusers’ cowardice and urging society to provide better protection for victims.