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Associated PressDecember 20, 2021
Pope Francis greets the crowd as he leads the Angelus from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Dec. 19, 2021. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

ROME (AP) — Pope Francis has denounced domestic violence against woman as “nearly satanic” and said parents should never slap their children.

Francis made the comments in a televised encounter with an abused woman who recently fled her home with her four children. Their meeting was broadcast late Sunday on the private Mediaset network's TG5 program and also included footage of Francis interacting with a homeless woman, a prisoner and a student.

The abused woman told the pope her story and asked him how she can find her dignity after she and her children suffered so much violence.

Francis, who has previously spoken out about “femicides,” responded by acknowledging the problem of domestic violence, which regularly makes headlines in Italy.

“For me the problem is nearly satanic, because it’s about profiting off the weakness of those who can’t defend themselves, who can only try to stop the blows,” he said. “It’s humiliating, very humiliating.”

He then added that it was also “humiliating” for a parent to slap a child. “I always say it: Never slap a child in his or her face. Why? Because your face is your dignity.”

Responding directly to the abused woman's question, Francis told her that she hasn’t lost her dignity at all.

“I can sense your dignity. If you had lost your dignity, you wouldn’t be here,” he said, urging her to be inspired by the image of the “Pieta,” the statue of Mary cradling the crucified Jesus.

“Look at the Madonna, and remember that image of courage,” he said.

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