VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis apologised on Wednesday for having angrily slapped a woman’s arm when she had grabbed hold of his hand and yanked him towards her, saying he had lost his patience and set a “bad example”. His unusual apology came after he used his first homily of the new year to denounce violence against women, which he compared to profaning God. Pope Francis, 83, had a sharp encounter with a woman on Tuesday evening during a walkabout in St. Peters Square. The pilgrim, who has not been identified, unexpectedly seized his hand and pulled him towards her, causing him evident alarm. A clearly disgruntled Francis wrenched himself free by slapping down at her arm. “So many times we lose patience, even me, and I apologise for yesterday’s bad example,” the pope told thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday at the end of the traditional New Year Mass. He had used the service to issue a forthright condemnation of the abuse of women in modern society. “All violence inflicted on women is a desecration of God,” he told a packed St. Peter’s Basilica. “How often is a woman’s body sacrificed on the profane altar of advertising, profit, pornography,” he said, adding that the female body “must be freed from consumerism, it must be respected and honoured”. Despite creating life, women “are continually offended, beaten, raped, forced into prostitution” and made to have abortions, he said. “We can understand our level of humanity by the way we treat a woman’s body,” he told the congregation.

Sixteen inmates killed in fight in Mexican prison

MEXICO CITY - Sixteen inmates were killed and five were wounded in a prison fight in the northern Mexican state of Zacatecas, authorities said, in one of the worst outbreaks of violence in the country’s troubled penal system since President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador took power. The fight broke out around 2:30 pm on Tuesday afternoon at the Regional Center for Social Reintegration in the town of Cieneguillas, located on the western flank of state capital Zacatecas, the state government said in a statement issued on Tuesday evening. An inmate was arrested with a firearm, and three more guns were found in the prison, as well as various knives. The government has launched an investigation to determine those responsible for the fight and how the weapons entered the prison, according to the statement. Security will be boosted at prisons in the state after the fight, the government said. The incident marks the latest blow to the security track record of Lopez Obrador, who took power in December 2018 pledging to reduce record levels of violence. Instead, Mexico was in 2019 on track to surpass the previous year’s total of homicides, according to latest data. Mexican prisons have long been plagued by violence. In 2017, at least 28 inmates were killed when a brutal fight broke out in a prison in the Mexican Pacific resort of Acapulco.