In his general audience this week, Pope Francis had praised a father who admitted smacking his child "but never in the face so as to not humiliate them."
    
Francis described the man's comment as "beautiful," adding: "He knows the sense of dignity! He has to punish them but does it justly and moves on."
    
Verena Herb, a spokeswoman for Germany's Families Ministry, told reporters on Saturday that "there can be no dignified hitting."
    
"There must be no misunderstanding here, because any form of violence against children is completely unacceptable," she said.
    
Germany is one of several countries where corporal punishment of children is illegal.
    
Separately, the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children, a leading advocacy group, said it was disappointed by Francis' comments given that other faith leaders have come out in support of prohibiting all physical punishment of children.
    
"There is a very strong human rights consensus that children have an equal right to respect for their human dignity and physical integrity and to equal protection under the law," the group's Peter Newell said.
    
He noted that the pope's native Argentina is one of 44 countries that have prohibited all physical punishment of children, including in the home.

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