Pope Francis began the new year with a sermon on the Virgin Mary, saying that to hurt a woman is a direct insult to God and decrying the harm done to women around the world.
“How much violence is directed against women! Enough! To hurt a woman is to insult God, who from a woman took on our humanity – not through an angel, not directly, but through a woman,” the pontiff said.
“And since mothers bestow life, and women keep the world [together], let us all make greater efforts to promote mothers and to protect women,” Pope Francis said.
In the Catholic liturgical calendar, Jan. 1 is the feast of The Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God – special intentions and prayers are frequently offered for women.
“The New Year begins under the sign of the Mother. A mother’s gaze is the path to rebirth and growth,” the pope said. “Mothers know how to overcome obstacles and conflicts. They know how to instill peace. Thus, they succeed in transforming problems into opportunities for rebirth and growth.”
The pontiff went on to state that violence against women was “almost Satanic” in nature, and an extremely grave sin.
Pope Francis was not the only Catholic clergyman to comment on the significance of the holiday.
Archbishop José H. Gomez of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles also spoke about the significance of the holiday, comparing the life of the Virgin Mary to the meaning of New Year’s Day.
“My brothers and sisters, today is the beautiful Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God. It’s fitting that we start every new year by honoring Mary because through her time was given a new beginning and a new purpose,” Gomez said in a tweet.
Gomez is also the acting president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“We can never take our Mother Mary for granted!” the archbishop added. “What Our Blessed Mother did — what she said yes to — changes the whole world. She gave us the beautiful gift of Christmas. The beautiful gift of the infant lying in the manger.”