ROME – Pope Francis began 2020 with a bang Wednesday, issuing a harsh condemnation of violence against women and insisting that how society treats women and their bodies is a measure of its level of humanity.

In a special Mass marking the Catholic Church’s Jan. 1 feast celebrating Mary, Mother of God, the pope noted that in God’s plan of salvation, “The rebirth of humanity began with a woman.”

“From her, woman, salvation arose and therefore there is no salvation without the woman…Women are sources of life,” he said. “Yet they are continually offended, beaten, raped, forced into prostitution and forced to suppress the lives they carry in their wombs.”

“Every violence inflicted on women is a profanation of God, born of a woman. Humanity’s salvation came from the body of a woman: By how we treat a woman’s body, we can understand our level of humanity,” the pope said.

He condemned the frequent “sacrifice” of a woman’s body on “the profane altars” of profit-making industries such as advertising and pornography. A woman’s body “must be freed from consumerism, it must be respected and honored,” he said, calling it “the noblest flesh in the world, it conceived and gave birth to the love that saved us!”

Motherhood is also often “humiliated,” he said, “because the only growth that draws interest is that of the economy.” (Read the rest here.)