Pope Francis ushered in the new year Saturday by praising the skills women bring to promoting peace in the world, and he equated violence against women to an offense against God.

The Roman Catholic Church marks Jan. 1 as a day dedicated to world peace, and a late-morning Mass in Vatican City’s St. Peter’s Basilica paid tribute to the Virgin Mary’s special place in the faith as the mother of Jesus.

Mothers “know how to overcome obstacles and disagreements, and to instill peace,” Francis said during his homily.

“In this way, they transform problems into opportunities for rebirth and growth. They can do this because they know how to ‘keep,’ to hold together the various threads of life,” the pontiff said. “We need such people, capable of weaving the threads of communion in place of the barbed wire of conflict and division.”

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Francis urged everyone to step up efforts to promote mothers and to protect women.

“How much violence is directed against women! Enough! To hurt a woman is to insult God, who from a woman took on our humanity,” the pope said, referring to the Christian belief that Jesus was the son of God.

He lavished praise on women, including mothers, saying they “look at the world not to exploit it but so that it can have life. Women who, seeing with the heart, can combine dreams and aspirations with concrete reality, without drifting into abstraction and sterile pragmatism.”

While pledging in his papacy to give women greater roles in the church, Francis has also made clear that the priesthood is reserved for men.

In a tweet before the New Year’s Day Mass, Francis elaborated on his hope and strategy for peace.

“All can work together to build a more peaceful world, starting from the hearts of individuals and relationships in the family, then within society and with the environment, and all the way up to relationships between peoples and nations,” Francis tweeted.

Except for the pope and members of a chorus made up of boys and adults, participants in the Mass wore face as part of COVID-19 precautions.

Francis, who is 85 and vaccinated against the coronavirus, wore a surgical mask during a New Year’s Eve prayer service which a Vatican cardinal presided over at the basilica. It was a rare departure from his shunning of masks during public ceremonies throughout the two-year pandemic.

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