By Philip Pullella
ROME (Reuters) – Pope Francis has said that men who commit violence against women engage in something that is “almost satanic”.
He made the comment, some of the strongest language he has used to condemn such violence, during a programme broadcast on Sunday night on Italy’s TG5 network in which he conversed with three women and a man, all with difficult backgrounds.
“The number of women who are beaten and abused in their homes, even by their husbands, is very, very high,” Francis said in answer to a question by a woman named Giovanna, a victim of domestic violence.
“The problem is that, for me, it is almost satanic because it is taking advantage of a person who cannot defend herself, who can only (try to) block the blows,” he said. “It is humiliating. Very humiliating.”
Giovanna said that she had four children to care for after they escaped from a violent home.
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.
Police figures released last month showed that there are about 90 episodes of violence against women in Italy every day and that 62% were cases of domestic violence.
Francis said women who were beaten and abused had not lost their dignity. “I see dignity in you because if you didn’t have dignity, you wouldn’t be here,” he told Giovanna.
Turning to other examples of human misery, he listened to a homeless woman speak of life on the street and a man trying to get back on his feet after 25 years in jail.
Francis has set up services in the area around the Vatican to give Rome’s homeless healthcare, bathing, and hair-cutting facilities.
In 2020, when a palazzo just off St. Peter’s Square that was once a convent became vacant he ordered it to be turned into a homeless shelter, overruling suggestions that it be converted into a luxury hotel.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella, Editing by William Maclean)