Pope Francis to Anti-Crime Directorate "We need to unite, collaborate, network: and not just a defensive network, but above all a preventive network!"

Clementine Hall
Saturday, November 26, 2022
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, good morning and welcome!
I thank the Chief of Police for the introductory words – thank you very much, they were strong – and I greet all of you who form the Central Anti-Crime Directorate. I am happy to be able to meet you just after the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, promoted by the United Nations. This year the theme is a call to unite in the struggle to free women and girls from the various forms of violence, which unfortunately is permanent, widespread and transversal to the social body.
I would like to thank you, both for the work you carry out with professional and human commitment, and because, by asking to meet me in this circumstance, you draw everyone's attention to the need to join forces for this goal of dignity and civilization.
First of all, thank you for the service you do to Italian society every day. Unfortunately, the news continually brings us news of violence against women and girls. And you are an institutional point of reference to counter this painful reality. There are many women among you, and this is a great resource: women who help other women, who can better understand them, listen to them, support them. I imagine how demanding it must be for you, as women, to bear within yourself the weight of the situations you encounter, and which involve you on a human level. I think how precious a targeted psychological preparation is for this work. And, I allow myself to add, also spiritual, because only at a deep level can one find and preserve a serenity and calm that allow confidence to be conveyed to those who are victims of brutal violence. That inner strength which Jesus Christ shows us in his Passion, and which he communicated to many Christian women, some of whom we venerate as martyrs: from Agata and Lucia to Maria Goretti and Sister Maria Laura Mainetti.
Regarding your institutional responsibility, I have to touch on another important aspect. Unfortunately, women very often not only find themselves facing certain situations of violence, but then, when the case is reported, they do not get justice, or the times of justice are too long, interminable. We need to be vigilant and improve on this, without falling into justicialism. The state must ensure that the case is accompanied at every stage and that the victim can obtain justice as soon as possible. Just as it is necessary that women are "saved", that is, it is necessary to ensure that they are safe from current threats and also from relapses, which unfortunately are frequent even after a possible sentence.
Dear friends, as I was saying, I am grateful to you because our meeting draws attention to this year's International Day, which calls us to unite to fight all forms of violence against women together. In fact, a specialized body, however efficient, is not enough to win this battle; law enforcement and the necessary repressive actions are not enough. We need to unite, collaborate, network: and not just a defensive network, but above all a preventive network! This is always decisive when trying to eliminate a social scourge which is also linked to cultural attitudes, mentalities and deep-rooted prejudices.
So you, with your presence, which can sometimes become a testimony, also act as a stimulus in the social body: a stimulus to react, not to give up, to act. It is an action – we said – above all of prevention. We think of families. We have seen that the pandemic, with forced isolation, has unfortunately exacerbated certain dynamics within the home. It has exacerbated them, not created them: in fact, these are often latent tensions, which can be resolved in advance at an educational level. This, I would say, is the keyword: education. And here the family cannot be left alone. If the effects of the economic and social crisis fall on families for the most part, and they are not adequately supported, we cannot be surprised that there, in the closed domestic environment, with so many problems, certain tensions explode. And on this point we need prevention.
Another decisive aspect: if the mass media continually propose messages that feed a hedonistic and consumerist culture, where models, both male and female, obey the criteria of success, self-assertion, competition, the power to attract 'other and dominate it, even here, then we can not, in a hypocritical way, tear our clothes in the face of certain news stories.
This type of cultural conditioning contrasts with an educational action that places the person at the centre, with his dignity. A Saint of our times comes to mind: Saint Josephine Bakhita. You know that the ecclesial work that works alongside women victims of trafficking is named after her. Sister Giuseppina Bakhita suffered heavy violence in her childhood and youth; she fully redeemed herself by accepting the Gospel of God's love and became a witness of her liberating and healing power. But she is not the only one: there are many women, some are "saints next door", who have been healed by the mercy, by the tenderness of Christ, and with their lives they testify that we must not resign ourselves, that love, closeness, the solidarity of sisters and brothers can save us from slavery. This is why I say: to today's girls and boys, we offer these testimonies. In schools, sports groups, oratories, associations, we present true stories of liberation and healing, stories of women who have come out of the tunnel of violence and can help open their eyes to the pitfalls, traps, dangers hidden behind false models of success.
Dear friends, I accompany my double "thank you" with prayers for you and for your work. May the Virgin Mary and Saint Bakhita intercede for you. From my heart I bless all of you and your families. And I ask you please to pray for me. Thank you.