Violence against women insults God, pope says in New Year’s message

Pope Francis used his New Year’s message on Saturday to issue a clarion call for an end to violence against women, saying it was insulting to God.

Francis, 85, celebrated a Mass in St Peter’s Basilica on the day the Roman Catholic Church marks both the solemnity of Holy Mary Mother of God as well as its annual World Day of Peace.

Francis appeared to be in good form on Saturday following an unexplained incident on New Year’s Eve where he attended a service but at the last minute did not preside over it as he had been expected to.

At the start of the Mass on Saturday, he walked the entire length of the central aisle of basilica, as opposed to Friday night, when he emerged from a side entrance close to the altar and watched from the sidelines.null

Francis suffers from a sciatica condition that causes pain in the legs, and sometimes a flare-up prevents him from standing for long periods.

Francis wove his New Year’s homily around the themes of motherhood and women — saying it was they who kept the threads of life together — and used it to make one of his strongest calls yet for an end to violence against them.

“And since mothers bestow life, and women keep the world [together], let us all make greater efforts to promote mothers and to protect women,” Francis 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 — not through an angel, not directly, but through a woman,” he said, in a reference to Jesus’s mother Mary.

During an Italian television programme last month, Francis told a woman who had been beaten by her ex-husband that men who commit violence against women engage in something that is “almost satanic”.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic began nearly two years ago, Francis has several times spoken out against domestic violence, which has increased in many countries since lockdowns left many women trapped with their abusers.

Public participation at the Mass was lower than in some past years because of Covid restrictions. Italy, which surrounds Vatican City, reported a record 144,243 coronavirus related cases on Friday and has recently imposed new measures such as an obligation to wear masks outdoors.

In the text of his Message for the World Day of Peace, issued last month, Francis said nations should divert money spent on armaments to invest in education and decried growing military costs at the expense of social services.null

The annual peace message is sent to heads of state and international organisations, and the pope gives a signed copy to leaders who make official visits to him at the Vatican during the upcoming year.

5.3 magnitude earthquake jolts northern parts of country

5.3 magnitude earthquake jolted northern parts of the country on Saturday, according to the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD).

The PMD said the earthquake struck at 6:15pm in the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border region at a depth of 180 kilometres.

Tremors were felt in Swat, Peshawar, Lower Dir, Swabi, Nowshera, Chitral, Mardan, Bajaur, Malakand, Pabbi, Akora, Islamabad and its surroundings.

People left their homes in panic for safer places but no loss of life and property was reported.

The Provincial Disaster Management Authority also said its control room had not received any reports of loss of lives or property. It added that its control room was fully functional and urged citizens to report any untoward incident to its helpline at 1700.

Meanwhile, Indian news agency ANI reported that the earthquake’s effects were felt in Indian-occupied Kashmir as well at 6:45pm.

On December 8, parts of Karachi were jolted by a 4.1 magnitude earthquake. According to the National Seismic Monitoring Centre, the earthquake’s epicentre was 15km north of DHA Karachi and had a depth of 15km.

In October, at least 15 people were killed while more than 150 were injured after a 5.9 magnitude earthquake struck parts of Balochistan.

The worst-affected area was the remote mountainous district of Harnai, where landslides blocked some roads, hampering rescue efforts. Harnai district, 95km northeast of Quetta, bore the brunt of the quake where casualties occurred and hundreds of mud-houses collapsed or were damaged, rendering thousands of people homeless.

Govt raises petrol, high speed diesel prices by Rs 4

The government increased the prices of petrol and high speed diesel (HSD) by Rs4 per litre, according to a statement issued by the Finance Division late on Friday.

The statement said the new prices will be effective from January 1 (Saturday).

“In the fortnightly review of petroleum products prices, Prime Minister [Imran Khan] has rejected the proposal of Ogra (Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority) for an increase in prices of petroleum products and advised to increase only Rs4 per litre to meet the petroleum levy target agreed with the IMF (International Monetary Fund),” the statement read.

The Rs4 increase in the price of petrol is part of a commitment made by the government under an agreement with the IMF for a net fiscal adjustment of almost Rs550 billion during the remaining part of the current fiscal year.

Making an announcement in this regard, Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin had said during a press conference in November that a Rs4 per litre monthly hike in petroleum levy on major petroleum products would be made as part of an austerity plan for the revival of $6 billion IMF package.

The Rs4 increase announced on New Year’s Eve is the first instance of the monthly raise announced by Tarin.

Following this development, the price of petrol has been increased from Rs140.82 to Rs144.82, that of HSD from Rs137.62 to Rs141.62, of kerosene from Rs109.53 to Rs113.53 and that of light diesel oil from Rs107.06 to Rs111.06, according to the Finance Division’s statement.

The statement said sales tax on petrol and diesel had been adjusted downwards as compared to December 16, 2021, to keep the prices lower.

On December 15, 2021, the government had slashed the prices of petrol and high speed diesel by Rs5 per litre in an effort to provide relief to the people.