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  • Associated Press Pope Francis greets a woman Saturday after blessing her as he toured around the Plaza de Armas, in Trujillo, Peru. Francis consoled Peruvians who lost their homes and livelihoods in devastating floods last year.

Sunday, January 21, 2018 1:00 am

Pope calls on Peruvians to protect women

Pushes for laws that will protect against femicide

Associated Press

Also: Adviser rebukes Francis' comments

Pope Francis' top adviser on clerical sex abuse implicitly rebuked the pontiff for having accused Chilean victims of slander, saying Saturday that his words were “a source of great pain for survivors of sexual abuse.” Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the archbishop of Boston, said he couldn't explain why Francis “chose the particular words he used.”

Francis accused victims of the country's most notorious pedophile priest of slandering Bishop Juan Barros for saying Barros knew of the abuse but did nothing to stop it.

Plane wedding's legitimacy questioned

After Pope Francis grabbed headlines by pronouncing two flight attendants man and wife while flying 36,000 feet over Chile, the conservative Catholic commentariat questioned the legitimacy of the impromptu sacrament and warned it could cheapen the church's marriage preparation down the line.

Canon lawyer Ed Peters, a consultor on the Vatican high court but a frequent critic of Francis, questioned whether a host of church laws were followed, including the requirement that the couple undergo pastoral counseling and that the church have evidence that there were no obstacles to the marriage.

TRUJILLO, Peru – Pope Francis denounced femicides and other gender-based crimes that have turned Latin America into the most violent place on Earth for women, calling Saturday for legislation to protect them and a new cultural mindset as he visited one of Peru's most dangerous areas.

At a Marian prayer in the northern seaside city of Trujillo, Francis called women, mothers and grandmothers the guiding force for families. And yet, he said, in the Americas they are too often victims of murder and “many situations of violence that are kept quiet behind so many walls.”

The first Latin American pope called for lawmakers to make an effort to protect women and for a new culture “that repudiates every form of violence.” His remarks came the same day large crowds marched throughout the United States and other countries in support of female empowerment.

Francis' use of the term femicide – the killing of women where the motive is directly related to gender— marked the second time in as many days that he has spoken out against “machismo” culture in Latin America. The region has the dubious honor of having the world's highest rates of violence against women occurring outside romantic partnerships, and the second-highest within.

Even though more and more countries in the region are adopting protective policies for women, female homicides are rising in Latin America, with 2 in 5 resulting from domestic violence, according to a November 2017 report from U.N. Women and the U.N. Development Program that called the phenomenon a “global pandemic.”

In recent years, women have taken to the streets across Latin America, including in Peru, to protest gender violence as part of the international “Ni Una Menos” or “Not One Less” campaign.

In the Peruvian Amazon this week, Francis denounced forced prostitution and the trafficking of women in the area, saying it pained him how they are “devalued, denigrated and exposed to endless violence.

Francis' comments came in his final event in Trujillo, where devastating floods last year killed more than 150 people and destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes.

At a seaside Mass for some 200,000 faithful, Francis said he came to pray with those who lost everything and who must also contend with the “other storms that can hit these coasts, with devastating effects on the lives of the children of these lands.”

He cited organized violence and contract killings, a major problem in Peru and in the north in particular. Extortion is also common in the area, especially around Trujillo and parts hit hardest by the floods, and bus drivers who refuse to pay often see their minibuses torched.

Francis said Peruvians have shown that life's greatest problems can often be confronted when communities come together “to help one another like true brothers and sisters.”

In Trujillo, the pope found a frustrated population hoping his visit could quicken reconstruction from Peru's worst environmental disaster in nearly two decades. Of the 200,000 homes destroyed in last year's floods, only about 60 percent have been repaired, said Edwin Trujillo, an emergency coordinator for the Peruvian Red Cross.

“People are furious because authorities haven't done anything,” said resident Carlos Bocanegra, 60.

Francis is the second pope to visit the city. He follows in the footsteps of St. John Paul II, who came here in 1985, a decade when Peru was afflicted not only by El Niņo floods but also hyperinflation and political violence.