Pope Francis has spoken out about violence against women in Latin America describing the violence as “a plague”.
Speaking at a Mass in the northern city of Trujillo, the Pope said: “There are so many cases of violence that stay silenced behind so many walls,” the Pope said on Saturday.
The BBC reported him as continuing: “I’m calling on you to fight against this source of suffering including legislation and a culture that rejects every type of violence.”
His comments follow UN digures which show that half of the 25 countries with the largest number of murders of women are in Latin America.
The Argentine Pope, 81, is on the second and final leg of a week-long regional tour where on Thursday he became embroiled in a row over clerical sex abuse.
He drew anger by accusing victims of a paedophile priest of slandering a bishop who they say tried to cover up the priest’s crimes.
At the end of his visit there, Francis said there was “no proof” for claims that abuse by Father Fernando Karadima had been covered up by Bishop Juan Barros.
Reacting the Pope’s top adviser on clerical sex abuse has implicitly rebuked the pontiff over his accusations of slander against Chilean abuse victims, saying that Francis’ words were “a source of great pain for survivors of sexual abuse”.
Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston, said he could not explain why Francis “chose the particular words he used”.
In an extraordinary effort at damage control, Cardinal O’Malley insisted that Francis “fully recognises the egregious failures of the church and its clergy who abused children and the devastating impact those crimes have had on survivors and their loved ones”.
Francis sparked national uproar upon leaving Chile on Thursday by accusing victims of the country’s most notorious paedophile priest of having slandered another bishop, Juan Barros.
The victims say Bishop Barros knew about the abuse but did nothing to stop it – a charge which the bishop denies.
“The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I’ll speak,” Francis told Chilean journalists in the northern city of Iquique.
“There is not one shred of proof against him. It’s all calumny. Is that clear?”
The remarks shocked Chileans, drew immediate rebuke from victims and their advocates and once again raised questions over the 81-year-old Argentine Jesuit’s stance on the issue.
The scandal over the crimes of the Rev Fernando Karadima has devastated the credibility of the Roman Catholic Church in Chile, and Francis’ comments will likely haunt it for the foreseeable future.
Cardinal O’Malley’s carefully-worded critique was remarkable since it is rare for a cardinal to publicly rebuke the Pope in such terms.
But Francis’ remarks were so potentially toxic to the Vatican’s efforts to turn the tide on decades of clerical sex abuse and cover-up that he clearly felt he had to respond.
Cardinal O’Malley headed Francis’ much-touted committee for the protection of minors until it lapsed last month after its initial three-year mandate expired. Francis has not named new members, and the committee’s future remains unclear.