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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Italian cardinal handed prison sentence for financial crimes

Angelo Becciu, an Italian cardinal once tipped as a papal contender, has been sentenced to five years and six months in prison.

Italian cardinal handed prison sentence for financial crimes

A Vatican court on Saturday sentenced a once powerful Italian cardinal to five years and six months in jail for financial crimes at the end of a historic trial.

Angelo Becciu, 75, a former adviser to Pope Francis who was once considered a papal contender himself, was the most senior clergyman in the Catholic Church to face a Vatican criminal court.

His lawyer, Fabio Viglione, said they respected the sentence — which included an 8,000-euro ($8,700) fine — but would appeal, continuing to insist on Becciu’s innocence.

The cardinal had been accused of embezzlement, abuse of office and witness tampering, one of ten defendants in a trial focused on a disastrous investment by the Vatican in a luxury building in London.

They included financiers, lawyers and ex-Vatican employees accused of a range of financial crimes — all of whom were found guilty Saturday barring one, Becciu’s former secretary Mauro Carlino.

More than two and a half years after the trial opened, court president Giuseppe Pignatone read out sentences ranging from a fine to more than seven years in jail.

The court also ordered the confiscation from those convicted of 166 million euros, and ordered them to compensate the civil parties to the tune of more than 200 million euros.

The Holy See had declared itself “an offended party” and four Vatican entities were civil parties, claiming hundreds of millions of euros, including for moral and reputational damage.

Murky finances

The trial shone a light on the Holy See’s murky finances, which Pope Francis has sought to clean up since taking the helm of the Catholic Church in March 2013.

Just weeks before the first hearing, Francis gave the Vatican’s civilian courts the power to try cardinals and bishops, where previously they were judged by a court presided over by cardinals.

At the heart of the trial was the purchase of a building in London’s upmarket Chelsea neighbourhood, which resulted in losses that the Vatican claimed dipped into resources intended for charity.

Becciu was found guilty of embezzlement over the decision to invest $200 million in 2013-2014 into a fund run by financier Raffaele Mincione, which the judges said was hugely risky.

Some of this money went to buying part of the Sloane Avenue property — a deal in which the Vatican lost between 140 million and 190 million euros, according to prosecutors.

Prosecutor Alessandro Diddi had requested seven years and three months in jail for Becciu, who had always insisted he never took a cent.

Mincione was on Saturday jailed for five and a half years while another broker involved in the London deal, Gianluigi Torzi, was jailed for six.

Charitable causes

The trial involved more than 80 hearings in the dedicated room within the Vatican Museums, where a portrait of a smiling Pope Francis hangs on the wall.

The process had been mired by procedural wrangling, with defence lawyers complaining about a lack of access to key evidence.

Becciu, a globe-trotting former Vatican diplomat, was number two in the Secretariat of State, the Vatican department that works most closely with the pope, from 2011 to 2018.

He was moved to lead the department that deals with the creation of saints, before abruptly resigning in September 2020, after being informed of an investigation against him.

Initially, this was about a probe into 125,000 euros of Vatican money he donated to a charity in his native Sardinia, run by his brother. He was convicted of conflict of interest over this Saturday.

Becciu was later drawn into investigations into the London purchase.

Becciu was also found guilty over a 570,000-euro payment made to a Sardinian woman, Cecilia Marogna, which he claimed were to help negotiate the release of a Colombian nun kidnapped in Mali. Marogna was jailed for three years and nine months.

Among the other defendants sentenced Saturday was Enrico Crasso, a former Vatican investment manager, jailed for seven years, and former Vatican employee Fabrizio Tirabassi, jailed for seven and a half.