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Pope Francis Decries Warzone Rape on Eve of Asia Trip

Pope Francis on Monday voiced concern about the toll of war on civilians across the world, saying he was particularly worried about the rape of women in conflict zones, which he called a violation "in body but also in spirit."

The pontiff said the world cannot "overlook the fact that wars involve another horrendous crime, the crime of rape," according to a transcript provided by the Vatican news network. "This is a most grave offense against the dignity of women, who are not only violated in body but also in spirit, resulting in a trauma hard to erase and with effects on society as well."

Pope Francis made his remarks in his annual address to the Vatican's diplomatic corps, a kind of state of the union speech in which he addressed a wide array of topics of concern to the Roman Catholic Church. He decried the "never-ending spread of conflicts" across the world, particularly in the Middle East and the African countries of Libya, the Central African Republic and Nigeria, the last of which has suffered a string of kidnappings of young girls who are trafficked into the sex trade.

Francis also mentioned his upcoming trip to Asia, for which he was due to depart Monday night, with stops in Sri Lanka and the Philippines. He also expressed hope for thawed relations between South Korea and North Korea, "sister countries which speak the same language."

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— Jon Schuppe