From The Alpha and the Omega - Chapter Eight
by Jim A. Cornwell, Copyright © 1995, all rights reserved SCARLET WOMAN 2019 APRIL-JUNE

    This file is attached to from “Astronomical Events To Appear Between 2014 Through 2017 A.D.” - Chapter Eight by Jim A. Cornwell, Copyright © 1995, all rights reserved.

This file is a continution of Scarlet Woman 2018 or return to Scarlet Woman 2019 January-March or continue to Scarlet Woman 2019 July-September

4/1/2019 U.N.’s Bachelet urges Brunei not to apply death penalty for gay sex, adultery
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet attends a session of the Human Rights Council
at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, March 6, 2019. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
    GENEVA (Reuters) – Brunei will deal a serious setback to human rights if it applies laws allowing death by stoning for adultery and gay sex, marking an end to a de facto moratorium on capital punishment, U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said on Monday.
    Bachelet said Brunei’s revised Penal Code would enshrine serious breaches of international human rights law into law.
    “I appeal to the Government to stop the entry into force of this draconian new penal code, which would mark a serious setback for human rights protections for the people of Brunei if implemented,” she said in a statement.
    Brunei, a Muslim-majority former British protectorate with a population of around 400,000, plans to implement the Islamic Sharia laws from April 3.
    The Brunei prime minister’s office said on Saturday that elements of the laws had been rolled out in phases since 2014 and would be fully implemented this week, aiming to “educate, respect and protect the legitimate rights of all individuals, society or nationality of any faiths and race.”
    The change would allow the death penalty for rape, adultery, sodomy, extramarital sexual relations for Muslims, robbery, and insult or defamation of the Prophet Muhammad, as well as introducing public flogging as a punishment for abortion, and amputation for theft.
    It would also be a criminal offence to expose Muslim children to the beliefs and practices of any other religion.
    Brunei has a de facto moratorium on capital punishment, having carried out its last execution in 1957.    According to international human rights laws, the death penalty should only be used, after a fair trial, to punish murder or intentional killing.
    “In reality, no judiciary in the world can claim to be mistake-free, and evidence shows that the death penalty is disproportionately applied against people who are already vulnerable, with a high risk of miscarriages of justice,” Bachelet said.
    Brunei is ruled by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, 72, the world’s second-longest reigning monarch, who ranks as one of the world’s wealthiest people.
    The expected implementation of the strict Islamic laws has drawn widespread criticism.    Politicians in Europe and the United States have attacked the plans and raised concerns with Brunei.
    Last week former U.S. vice president Joe Biden called the plan “appalling and immoral” and said there was no excuse for such “hate and inhumanity.”
    Oscar-winning actor George Clooney has called for a boycott of luxury hotels owned by The Brunei Investment Company, such as the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Dorchester in London and the Plaza Athenee in Paris.
(Reporting by Tom Miles, Editing by William Maclean)

4/2/2019 Pope: Church should admit history of male domination, abuse of women by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis looks on as he addresses reporters aboard the plane bringing him back following
a two-day trip to Morocco March 31, 2019. Alberto Pizzoli/Pool via REUTERS
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis, addressing an array of scandals, said on Tuesday the Roman Catholic Church had to acknowledge a history of male domination and sexual abuse of women and children and repair its reputation among young people or risk becoming “a museum.”
    But, in a major document offering a partial admission of significant failings by clergy, he also said that the church “could not agree with everything some feminist groups propose,” a clear reference to the Church’s ban on a female priesthood.
    The pope is grappling with criticism over the Church’s response to a decades-long sexual abuse crisis that has gravely damaged its standing around the globe and seen it pay out billions of dollars in compensation.
    Francis made his comment in a 50-page “Apostolic Exhortation,” his reflections on the workings of a month-long meeting of bishops in October on the role of young people in the 1.3 billion-member Church.
    Francis also urged young people not to be disillusioned by the clerical sexual abuse scandal that has hit the Church, but to work with the overwhelming majority of priests and other clergy who had remained faithful to their vocation.
    A living Church can look back on history and acknowledge a fair share of male authoritarianism, domination, various forms of enslavement, abuse and sexist violence,” the 82-year-old pontiff said.
    “With this outlook, she can support the call to respect women’s rights, and offer convinced support for greater reciprocity between males and females, while not agreeing with everything some feminist groups propose,” he said.
    Some women’s groups have called for a female priesthood, which the Church has ruled out based on the argument that Jesus chose only men as his apostles.
    This month the all-female staff of the Vatican newspaper’s monthly magazine on women’s issues abruptly resigned, saying the new editor was trying limit their autonomy and put them “under direct male control.”
    The magazine has run a series of stories, including on the sexual abuse of nuns by priests and nuns working for free as servants for bishops.    The editor has denied their accusations.
    In the document, Francis also acknowledged that the Church had to win back many young people who see it as insignificant in their lives or as an irritant or nuisance.
    “This request does not always stem from uncritical or impulsive contempt.    It can also have serious and understandable reasons: sexual and financial scandals; a clergy ill-prepared to engage effectively with the sensitivities of the young,” he said.
    Church had to keep and attract young people by better explaining its doctrine, he said, doing more than simply condemning the world and not be obsessed by a few issues.
    “A Church always on the defensive, which loses her humility and stops listening to others, which leaves no room for questions, loses her youth and turns into a museum,” he said.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella, Editing by William Maclean and Jon Boyle)

4/2/2019 Georgia governor set to sign abortion bill -Opponents plan to fight restrictions in court by Nicquel Terry Ellis, USA TODAY
    Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, could sign a controversial bill this week that would ban abortions after a heartbeat is detected.
    The “fetal heartbeat” bill, sent to the governor’s desk Friday, would reduce the ability to receive a legal abortion to as little as six weeks, down from 20.    The state would have one of the most restrictive laws of its kind in the nation.
Critics vowed to fight the bill in court.
Question: When will the governor sign the bill?
Answer: Kemp is likely to sign the bill after the legislative session ends Tuesday, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Q: When would the law go into effect?
A: The law, named the Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act, would become effective Jan. 1, 2020.
Q: Who plans to challenge the law?
A: The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia indicated it will go to court to fight the law.    Hollywood celebrities signed a letter saying they will urge TV and film production companies to abandon Georgia if the law is passed.
Q: Are there exceptions for this law?
A: The exceptions are cases that involve rape or incest on the condition that a police report is filed.    There also is an exception when a doctor determines the pregnancy would cause death or bodily harm to the mother or the fetus would not be able to live after birth.
Q: Would the six-week abortion ban be unique to Georgia?
A: No. Georgia would join Kentucky and Mississippi, which both passed six-week abortion bans in recent weeks. Republican lawmakers in several other states, including Tennessee, South Carolina, Ohio and Florida, are considering similar bills.
[A win for pro-life and the pro-choice has less options to commit infantcide.].

4/3/2019 Pope to host South Sudan’s divided leaders in peace retreat next week by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis waves to crowds in St. Peter's square during the weekly general audience at the Vatican, April 3, 2019. REUTERS/Yara Nardi
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis will host the divided leaders of South Sudan at the Vatican next week to help them solidify a faltering peace agreement ending the civil war in the world’s youngest country.
    The meeting, which a Vatican statement on Wednesday called a “spiritual retreat,” could increase the chances of a visit by the pope to the South Sudanese capital, Juba.
    The leaders will include President Salva Kiir, First Vice President and former rebel leader Riek Machar and the other four vice presidents and Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, told reporters.
    “We know the pope wants to go there and we know that the situation has improved a little, especially after the agreement was signed, and also because of the good will of the people who are involved the situation,” Parolin said.
    Oil-producing South Sudan, which became independent in 2011, descended into civil war in December 2013 when a dispute between Kiir and Machar — who was vice president then — sparked fighting, often along ethnic lines.
    In September the two sides signed a power-sharing deal calling on the main rival factions to assemble, screen and train their respective forces and unify them into a national army before the formation of a unity government next month.
    That has not happened.    The government, which has faced frequent international criticism over corruption and rights abuses, blames a lack of funding from donors.
    “It will be a moment of spirituality and above all, it will help make them aware of the responsibility that politicians and authorities have,” Parolin said on the sidelines of a conference on religious freedom at the U.S. embassy to the Vatican.
    All six of the leaders are Christian, as is more than half the population of South Sudan. Sudan is predominantly Muslim.     About 400,000 people have been killed and more than a third of the country’s 12 million people uprooted by the civil war – a conflict punctuated by multiple rounds of mediation followed by renewed bloodshed.
    The conflict sparked Africa’s worst refugee crisis since the 1994 Rwandan genocide and plunged parts of the country into famine.    More than 875,000 refugees have fled into neighboring Uganda since the war broke out.
    Parolin said the pope, who met Kiir at the Vatican on March 16, would attend at least part of the retreat.    Last month, the Vatican said the pope had asked aides to resume planning for a visit that was scrapped in 2017 because of security concerns.
    A Church source said the retreat would be held on April 10-11.
(Additional reporting by Katharine Houreld in Nairobi)

4/4/2019 Vatican removes Guam archbishop after conviction of sexual abuse by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: People take part in "March for Zero Tolerance", during the four-day meeting on the global
sexual abuse crisis at the Vatican, in Rome, Italy, February 23, 2019. REUTERS/Yara Nardi/File Photo
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – The Catholic archbishop of the U.S. island territory of Guam has been definitively convicted of sexual abuse of minors and removed from office, the Vatican said on Thursday in a ruling that advocates for abuse victims condemned as weak.
    Anthony Apuron, who was accused of abusing three young men decades ago, was first convicted by a Vatican tribunal a year ago and had appealed.    He has denied wrongdoing.
    The tribunal of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith upheld the first verdict, a statement said.
    Apuron, 73 and a native of Guam, was removed from office and prohibited from living on the island, even temporarily, the Vatican said.
    He was not however, expelled from the priesthood and was allowed to keep the title of bishop, something which advocates for victims of abuse said they found shocking.
    “It’s baffling that this decision took so long and that the penalties are not proportional to the crimes,” said Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of the U.S.-based abuse tracking group
    “He sexually assaulted children and enabled many other priests to rape and molest children too.    Under his watch, the Agana archdiocese became a place of torment for children.”
    In a statement, Apuron said he was “deeply saddened” by the decision, adding “I believe that the facts and evidence presented demonstrated my total innocence.”
    The allegations against Apuron first emerged in 2016 when one of the victims, a former altar boy, came forward when he was in his 50s and other victims followed.
    The Vatican said the decision announced on Thursday was definitive and no longer could be challenged on appeal.    Apuron had served as the island’s archbishop since 1986.
    The Church’s credibility has been crushed in much of the world by abuse scandals in countries including Ireland, Chile, Australia, France, the United States and Poland.    The Church has paid billions of dollars in damages to victims and forced parishes to close.
    The scandals have reached the upper echelons of the Vatican itself with the conviction of Cardinal George Pell, jailed this month for six years for abusing boys in his native Australia.    He had served as the Vatican treasurer and a member of the pope’s innermost council of cardinals until his conviction last year.
    Other senior Church officials have been accused of knowingly covering up abuse, including the archbishop of Lyon who was convicted this year in France for failing to report abuse.
    Archbishop Michael Byrnes, a former assistant bishop of Detroit, succeeds Apuron as archbishop of the island’s single archdiocese, Agana.
    The archdiocese, which has been hit by a number of lawsuits by victims of abuse, has filed for reorganisation bankruptcy in the island’s U.S. district court.
    Guam’s population of about 170,000 is predominantly Catholic.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella, Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky, William Maclean)

4/5/2019 Kentucky’s ‘ultrasound’ abortion law is upheld by federal appeals court by Deborah Yetter, Louisville Courier Journal USA TODAY NETWORK
    A federal appeals panel has upheld a 2017 Kentucky law requiring doctors who perform abortions to first perform an ultrasound and attempt to show and describe the image to the patient, as well as play an audible heartbeat of the fetus.
    In a 2-1 vote, with Judge John Bush writing for the majority, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday struck down a lower court ruling that said the law known as House Bill 2 was unconstitutional because it violates the free speech rights of physicians.
    Bush, in his opinion, rejected the opponents’ argument that forcing the physician to perform an ultrasound that may not be necessary and describe in detail the results to the patient is a violation of free speech rights.
    “We hold that HB 2 provides relevant information,” Bush wrote.    “The information conveyed by an ultrasound image, its description and the audible beating fetal heart gives a patient a greater knowledge of the unborn life inside her.    This also inherently provides the patient with more knowledge about the effect of an abortion procedure: it shows her what or whom she is consenting to terminate.”
    But in a blistering dissent, Judge Bernice Bouie Donald, a Tennessee native appointed to the appeals court by former President Barack Obama, said she found the reasoning to be deeply flawed and a setback for the freedom of physicians and their patients.
    “I am gravely concerned with the precedent the majority creates today,” she said.    “Its decision opens the floodgates to states in this Circuit to manipulate doctor-patient discourse solely for ideological reasons.”
    She added: “HB 2 is a restriction on speech that has no basis in the practice of medicine.”
    Joining Bush in the majority opinion was Senior Judge Alan E. Norris, appointed to the appeals court by former President Ronald Reagan.
    Thursday’s ruling is a victory for the administration of Gov. Matt Bevin, an anti-abortion Republican whose lawyers had aggressively defended the law struck down by U.S. District Judge David Hale the same year it was passed.
    The 2017 ultrasound law was the beginning of a wave of anti-abortion legislation that began after Republicans seized control of the Kentucky House, a wave that continued through the 2019 legislative session with four major bills passed aimed at restricting or eliminating abortion in Kentucky.    Two already have been blocked temporarily by a federal judge.
    In a statement Thursday, Bevin declared the appeals court decision “a major, pro-life legal victory.”
    “Today is a historic day, as Kentucky continues to lead the charge in implementing strong pro-life protections for its citizens,” Bevin said.    “We applaud the decision by the Sixth Circuit, which affirms the commonsense notion that patients should be well equipped with relevant information before making important medical decisions.    I am grateful to be governor of a state that values every human life, and we are committed to continue our fight on behalf of the most vulnerable among us.”
    The American Civil Liberties Union, which had challenged the law on behalf of EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville, the state’s only abortion provider, reacted with dismay.
    “Today’s ruling is not only extremely disappointing, but also alarming,” said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project.    “Today’s ruling allows Kentucky politicians to continue enforcing a law with no medical basis whose sole purpose is to shame and coerce a woman who has decided to end her pregnancy.    Regardless of how you feel about abortion, such extreme political interference in the doctor-patient relationship should be a cause of serious concern to anyone seeking medical care.”
    The law permits a woman to look away from the image and cover her ears to avoid hearing the physician’s description or the fetal heartbeat.    But physicians who fail to attempt to show and describe the fetus to the patient could face fines of up to $250,000 and action against their medical license.
    At a previous hearing on the case, lawyer M. Stephen Pitt, Bevin’s general counsel, said the law was meant to protect women who might regret abortions or may not fully understand the procedure.
    It might prompt a woman to reconsider an abortion by thinking “Gosh, there’s a living human being inside me.    Maybe I don’t want to do this,” Pitt said.
    Hale, in his opinion, said that evidence shows it is EMW’s practice, as well as the nationwide standard, “to offer women the opportunity” to see an ultrasound, hear its description or hear the fetal heartbeat, but it was not mandatory prior to HB 2.    “There is no evidence that physicians in Kentucky were denying women this information prior to the enactment of HB 2,” he said.
    While supporters of HB 2 argued the law was meant to better inform women seeking abortions, Hale disagreed.
    “HB 2 is intended to dissuade women from choosing abortion by forcing ultrasound images, detailed descriptions of the fetus and the sounds of the fetal heartbeat on them, against their will, at a time when they are most vulnerable,” Hale wrote in a 30-page opinion.

4/5/2019 Mormons repeal ban on baptisms for children of gay parents
    SALT LAKE CITY – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Thursday repealed rules banning baptisms for children of gay parents and making gay marriage a sin eligible for expulsion – marking a reversal of policies condemned as jarring detours from a push by the faith to be more compassionate about LGBTQ issues.    The 2015 rules that were approved by global church leaders had prohibited baptisms for children living with gay parents until the children turned 18 and disavowed same-sex relationships.

4/5/2019 Mormons reverse LGBTQ restrictions by Jorge L. Ortiz, USA TODAY
    Gay Mormons won’t be kicked out of the church anymore, and they’ll again be allowed to baptize their kids.
    In a reversal of rules made four years ago, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Thursday that gay marriage will no longer be considered a sin that warrants expulsion.
    A 2015 policy that deemed those in same-sex relationships “apostates" who must be banished from the religion drew strong opposition and condemnation from the LGBTQ community and its supporters.
    Under the change, children of gay parents can be baptized without special permission as long as their parents approve and acknowledge that the children will be taught Mormon doctrine, the church said in a statement from its three-person governing body.
    First counselor “Dallin H. Oaks instructed that the Gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us to love and treat all people with kindness and civility – even when we disagree,” said the statement.
    The church said it’s not changing its doctrinal opposition to gay marriage and still regards same-sex relationships as a “serious transgression.”
    The Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ rights organization in the USA, was among those greeting the change warmly.    “There’s still work to do,” HRC President Chad Griffin said.    “But this policy reversal is a very welcome change that moves the church closer to a day where LGBTQ Mormons can see themselves affirmed and included within their faith community.”
Gays won’t be expelled from the church. DOUGLAS C. PIZAC/AP

4/5/2019 Lawyers ask Vatican to denounce criminalization of homosexuality by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: A participant waves a rainbow flag in front of President's office building during a lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgender (LGBT) pride parade in Taipei, Taiwan, October 28, 2017. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Human rights lawyers and gay rights advocates urged the Vatican on Friday to issue a clear and unequivocal statement against the criminalization of homosexuality.
    The request was made at a Vatican meeting two days after the United Nations said Brunei was violating human rights by implementing Islamic laws that would allow death by stoning for adultery and homosexuality.
    Brunei has defended its right to implement the laws.
    About 50 lawyers and gay advocates, led by Baroness Helena Ann Kennedy, director of the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, met Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state and gave him a study on criminalization of homosexuality in the Caribbean.
    She said Parolin was “very responsive” to the ideas put forward by the group and thanked Pope Francis for having shown “compassion and understanding” to the gay community.
    “Obviously there are issues that are doctrinal but the point that we were making and which I think he (Parolin) accepted is that this is absolutely about the Church’s teaching about respecting human dignity,” she told reporters.
    The Church teaches that, while homosexual tendencies are not sinful, homosexual acts are but it also says that the human dignity of homosexuals must be respected and defended.
    “What we need is a very clear statement, from the Roman Catholic Church at least, that criminalization is wrong,” said Leonardo Javier Raznovich, lead researcher of a Caribbean report, which they gave to Parolin.
    In 2008, the Vatican called for decriminalization of homosexuality but opposed a non-binding U.N. resolution on the issue because it believed that other parts of it equated same-sex unions with heterosexual marriage.
    Catholic bishops around the world have had differing responses to laws to decriminalize homosexuality.
    “The Church needs to have a clear policy where, if they believe in human rights, if they believe in the dignity of the human being, as they actively preach, they need to make sure that the Church throughout the world has the same response,” Raznovich said.
    A Vatican statement said: “Parolin extended a brief greeting to those present, repeating the Catholic Church’s position in defense of the dignity of every human person and against every form of violence.”
    Francis DeBernardo, executive director of the a U.S.-based Catholic LGBT rights group New Ways Ministry, said the Vatican meeting was “a great step forward for improving the relationship between LGBT people and the Catholic Church but more urgent statements and actions are needed.”
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Edmund Blair)
[The Scarlet woman is forcing a tough choice, but we know what God did to Sodom and Gomorrah, so you are either for or not for.].

4/5/2019 Paraguay’s LGBT community feels outcast amid conservative shift: ‘We are forgotten’ by Daniela Desantis
Marie Garcia and Mariana Sepulveda from trans organization Panambi, talk to Reuters, in Asuncion, Paraguay March 22, 2019. Picture taken March 22, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Adorno
    ASUNCIÓN (Reuters) – Paraguay’s LGBT communities are feeling increasingly isolated amid a conservative shift in the Latin American country, even after they celebrated the global success of local lesbian drama film “Las Herederas” last year.
    Led by right-wing President Mario Abdo, the government recently banned sex education guides for teachers, while the Senate declared itself “pro-life and pro-family” after opening an annual session with a prayer in the usually secular state.
    The chill comes amid what local LGBT organizations told Reuters was a wider shift in the region, exemplified by conservative leaders such as Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has openly made offensive comments about sexual minorities.
    “The rights of LGBTI people are facing a kind of setback right now,” Carolina Robledo, president of Paraguayan lesbian rights group Aireana, told Reuters, referring to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex communities.
    She added that these groups were suffering “many attacks from people, because with a right-wing, conservative government, people feel comfortable and protected to say whatever they want and to mistreat you however they want.”
    One of the most vulnerable groups is the transgender community, with trans organization Panambí documenting hundreds of cases of violence and 61 murders in the last three decades.
    “We are forgotten by the State in life since they have denied us the rights completely.    And once again after people die, because murder cases remain unpunished,” said Mariana Sepulveda, Panambí general secretary.
‘Party of Lesbians’
    The Paraguayan Congress did pay tribute to Las Herederas, the most awarded film in the history of local cinema.    But in doing so, one senator accused its protagonists of being a “party of lesbians” that violates the rights of the family.
    The film, which follows a couple of women going through a crisis, won awards at international festivals – including the Silver Bear for best actress in Berlin.
    Paraguay, unlike some of its neighboring counties, does not have a law against many kinds of gender-based discrimination and does not recognize unions between people of the same sex.
    “The context and the logic of the State toward the LGBT population is the same they had during the dictatorship,” said Simón Cazal, executive director of the SomosGay organization, referring to the 35-year rule of Alfredo Stroessner until 1989.
    “Gays don’t exist in Paraguay: that is the phrase that summarizes the vision that the Paraguayan State has about the population that is not heterosexual,” added Cazal, using the derogatory Spanish term “putos.”
    SomosGay says it has evidence of the existence of two secret “rehabilitation centers” to “cure” homosexuality, one in the arid Chaco region and the other near the capital, Asunción.
    Reuters could not independently verify the existence of the centers but opposition senator Maria Eugenia Bajac said she would be “delighted” to have such establishments in the country.
    “These are human beings damaged in their identity,” she told Reuters.    “We must treat that deviation, or that inclination or that tendency, or that style, sexual choice, so that people could… be cured.”
    In 1959 under Stroessner, authorities arrested 108 people “of dubious moral conduct” who were subjected to public derision.    Since then the number 108 has been seen as pejorative and removed from vehicle plates, telephone numbers and houses.
    Abdo’s Colorado Party, the dominant political force in the country, also ruled during Stroessner’s administration and the president is the son of the private secretary of the general.
    The human rights directorate of Paraguay’s justice ministry admitted issues remain regarding LGBT communities, but said there had been advances, with projects to protect minorities and make them more visible.
    “There are not only documents, but specific protection initiatives,” its director, María José Méndez, told Reuters.    “There’s an idea of integration that didn’t exist 10 years ago, so really for me there have been significant advances.”
(Reporting by Daniela Desantis; Editing by Adam Jourdan and Dan Grebler)

4/7/2019 Catholics demand LGBTQ equality
    Letter writers: Church must end discrimination.
    They came flooding in the hours and days after my column about the way the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville treats gays and lesbians.
    Probably the most emails I have gotten on any column I have written.    The vast majority agreed that the Catholic Church policy that requires married, gay church employees to be fired is wrong.
    Many of those emails identified the writers as Catholic.
    Some of them raised the issue of the archdiocese’s sexual abuse scandal that over the last 16 years has seen a $25 million settlement and numerous priests hauled off in handcuffs and leg irons after the church ignored their crimes – not just sins, but crimes – and put them back into parishes where they could molest little boys and girls again.
    Several writers were upset that the church allows others who violate rules of the faith to keep their jobs but takes a much harsher approach when those violations involve gay men and women.
    Others brought up the fact that Jesus surrounded himself with the people on the margins of society, the lepers and the sinners and rejects and pariahs.    And here, they see the church marginalizing those who have traditionally been forced to live on the fringes of our society.
    “I am a practicing Catholic, went to all 12 years in a Catholic school as well as Catholic college and grad school …” wrote Vonda Norris.
    “I don’t understand.    All we have to do is look at the people Christ ate with, preached to and related with — the outcasts of society, those who were not accepted,” she wrote.
    You’ve all heard the story by now.
    Four days before the end of school last year, the pastor and principal at Holy Spirit School, my parish, called a guidance counselor into an office and told her that a parent had reported that she was married to another woman.    Then they fired her.
    They were simply executing the Archdiocese of Louisville’s policy on employees who enter gay marriages.    The archdiocese has shown its hostility toward gays before, like when Archbishop Joseph Kurtz refused to allow Greg Bourke to be a leader in a Boy Scout troop at Our Lady of Lourdes.
    “I think it’s safe to say I can count on one hand (maybe one finger) the number of columns you’ve written with which I have agreed,” wrote Art Rothgerber.    “But you nailed this one.    I’m a practicing Catholic and completely confused and angry about Kurtz’s attitude about gay members and gay people in general.”
    Some of the writers were gay and lesbian, involved in long-term relationships.    Some of them married.    Most weren’t.
    Just regular old, heterosexual Catholics who grew up in the faith, went to Catholic schools and perhaps learned more about compassion, acceptance and mercy than the church’s hierarchy is willing to embrace.
    “The archdiocese is not following the teachings of Jesus in firing a good woman from her job because she is married to her life partner, also a woman.    Big deal,” wrote Cathy McLeod.    “It makes me embarrassed to be a practicing Catholic.”     Mary P. Sheridan wrote that it pains her to see gays and lesbians treated by the church – her church – this way.
    “Judgment is left for God alone.    We, His followers, on the other hand are directed to love one another as God has loved us.    So, it would seem that this directive should be our moral compass.”
    Of course, not everyone agreed with the column.
    Brynn Kohler accused me of “anti-Catholic rhetoric.”    Couldn’t be further from the truth.
    I grew up attending Mass every single week, the son of Catholics who were more devoted to the church than the church was to them.
    My father sat in the pew each Sunday saying his rosary in penance, and neither he nor my mother ever once took Holy Communion during my childhood.    All because of what the church saw as an unforgivable act – they got married years after my mother divorced her first husband when she caught him having an affair.
    The first time I ever saw my mother receive the Eucharist was at my wedding, long after my father died, when I was 37 years old.
    Papal annulments, which remove the sin of divorce and remarriage, sometimes took years and cost thousands of dollars.    They were for Kennedys, non Ernsts.    Since then, the church has come around and made annulments easier to obtain.
    I’m not as good of a Catholic as either of my parents.    I miss my share of Sunday Masses, but I never once considered leaving the faith, even when I learned that prior archbishops had put me at risk as a child by returning predator priests to parishes.
        Hunter Seitz accused me of writing a “simplistic diatribe.”
    He might be right.
    It really is a simple problem, and it warrants a simplistic solution.
    Here’s an idea.    Let’s start treating the church’s gay employees like we treat everyone else.
    Let’s just assume that they, like the rest of us, sin.    Sometimes repeatedly.    Sometimes day in and day out.
    And let’s just assume that their sins aren’t somehow worse than the rest of ours just because they’re gay.
    Treat their sins like our sins.    Catholics are demanding it.
    Joseph Gerth’s opinion column runs on most Sundays and at various times throughout the week.    He can be reached at 502-582-4702 or by email at    Subscribe today:
    “All we have to do is look at the people Christ ate with, preached to and related with — the outcasts of society, those who were not accepted.” Vonda Norris.
    In an email in response to a column about the way the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville treats gays and lesbians.
    Joseph Gerth, Columnist Louisville Courier Journal USA TODAY NETWORK
[John 8:10 "When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
    I know it is hard to believe but if you believe it is a sin and if it is written that it is a sin to God, then it is a sin and you need to stop doing it and ask God to forgive your sins and that means no longer do it again.    How hard is that to understand, unless you as the writer of the above article wants to try to justify and promote sin as okay if you say its okay so then you need to prepare with the Scarlet Woman for your punishment on God's day of judgment.]

4/10/2019 Vatican working on guidelines to report bishops in abuse cases: sources by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis leaves after the weekly general audience at the Vatican, April 10, 2019. REUTERS/Remo Casilli/File Photo
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – The Vatican is working on a papal document that would establish procedures for Catholics to report bishops suspected of sexual abuse or negligence in sexual abuse cases, according to two Vatican sources.
    The document, still in its early stages, would be the second official pronouncement by Pope Francis on the global sexual abuse crisis since he presided at a summit of senior bishops at the Vatican in February.
    The first after the summit was last month when Francis made it compulsory in law to report the sexual abuse of children within the Vatican and in its diplomatic missions worldwide [uL8N21G3DO].br>     Victims of sexual abuse and their advocates have long called for measures to make bishops more accountable and to make it easier to report the alleged role of some in cover-ups, negligence or mismanagement.
    In its current form, the document is a Motu Proprio, or a personal papal edict.    Its working title is “Moral Responsibility,” one of the sources said.
    The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the matter.
    The Church’s credibility has been badly tarnished by abuse scandals in Ireland, Chile, Australia, France, the United States, Poland, Germany and elsewhere, in which it has paid billions of dollars in damages to victims and been forced to close parishes.
    In 2016, Francis issued an edict establishing that bishops could be removed from office for negligence or omission that led even indirectly to sexual abuse of minors by clergy.
    While many national Churches have procedures for the faithful to report sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable adults by a priest, there are no clear procedures to report suspicion of abuse or negligence by a bishop.
    Victims held the late cardinal Bernard Law responsible for allowing abuse by priests when he was archbishop of Boston between 1984 to 2002.    The abuse and cover up was exposed by the Boston Globe and dramatized in the Oscar-winning film Spotlight.     After he resigned, Law moved to Rome and was never prosecuted either by the Vatican or American civil justice.    He died in Rome in 2017.
    The current draft of the document includes elements of suggestions made by bishops in the United States on setting up an accessible and user friendly reporting mechanism.
    In a speech at the February summit at the Vatican, Cardinal Blase Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago, called for the establishment of “independent reporting mechanisms” where accusations of suspected abuse or negligence by a bishop could be reported.
    Cupich said the accusations would be forwarded directly to the Vatican’s ambassador in the county, to a senior bishop in the prelate’s region, and to a board of experts that includes non-clerics.
    A preliminary investigation would follow, “if the allegation has even the semblance of truth,” Cupich said in February.
    Cupich suggested setting up a dedicated hot line or web portal to receive complaints about bishops but the current draft of the Vatican document does not specify this, according to a person familiar with it.
    The draft calls for the creation of a fund to cover the costs of reporting procedures and investigations.    If the diocese is in a poor country, the costs could be picked up by one of the Vatican departments that can investigate bishops, the current draft says, according to one of the sources said.
    The draft speaks of the inclusion of lay people in overseeing the reporting process.    Victims of sexual abuse and their advocates have demanded that non-clerics be involved, saying bishops could not police themselves.
    The sources said the type, content and title of the document could change as it develops.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Giles Elgood)

4/10/2019 Vatican tries ‘retreat diplomacy’ as South Sudan peace deal falters by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar (L) and South Sudan's President Salva Kiir sign a cease fire and
power sharing agreement in Khartoum, Sudan August 5, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/File Photo
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – The Vatican brought together South Sudanese leaders for 24 hours of prayer and preaching on Wednesday, a last ditch attempt to heal bitter divisions a month before the war-ravaged nation is due to set up a unity government.
    The retreat, which a Vatican statement called “both ecumenical and diplomatic,” will end on Thursday with an address to the leaders by Pope Francis, who has expressed a desire to visit South Sudan.
    The leaders are all Christians, including President Salva Kiir, his former deputy turned rebel leader Riek Machar, and three other vice presidents.
    Machar’s presence was in doubt until the last minute because aides said that Sudan, which is a guarantor to the September peace deal, has been restricting his movements in capital, Khartoum.
    Sudan, which is predominantly Muslim, and South Sudan, predominately Christian, fought each other for decades before the south became independent in 2011.
    Oil-rich South Sudan plunged into civil war in two years later after Kiir, a Dinka, fired Machar, from the Nuer ethnic group, from the vice presidency.
    Brutal fighting broke out, characterized by extreme sexual violence, the use of child soldiers and attacks on civilians along ethnic faultlines.    About 400,000 people died and more than a third of the country’s 12 million people were uprooted, sparking Africa’s worst refugee crisis since the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
    Machar landed in Rome about an hour before the retreat was due to start in the Pope’s Vatican guest house.    The leaders will live there and eat together during the retreat.
    Also attending are the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, the spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican communion; members of the South Sudan Council of Churches; and other African Catholic and Presbyterian Church leaders.
    Welby had proposed the retreat to the pope.
    A Vatican statement said the retreat would offer the leaders “a propitious occasion for reflection and prayer, as well as an occasion for encounter and reconciliation.”    An African Jesuit, Father Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator, will preach.
    The two sides signed a power-sharing deal in September calling on the main rival factions to assemble, screen and train their respective forces to create a national army before the formation of a unity government.
    That has not happened.    Instead, the government has dismissed U.N. investigations into war crimes and gang rape and asked for $285 million in funding to implement the deal.
    Last month, Brussels-based think-tank the International Crisis Group warned the deal risks total collapse before May 12, when the leaders are due to start sharing power.
(Additional reporting by Katharine Hourled in Nairobi; Editing by Alison Williams)

4/11/2019 Catholic Church in Peru rebukes local bishop who sued journalists
FILE PHOTO: Peruvian journalist Pedro Salinas, who exposed a web of abuse in an elite Catholic society and is being sued for
defamation by a local bishop, talks to Reuters during an interview in Lima, Peru October 16, 2018. REUTERS/Mariana Bazo/File Photo
    LIMA (Reuters) – The Catholic Church in Peru on Wednesday rebuked a local archbishop who has sued two local investigative journalists for libel after they broke a sex abuse story involving an elite Catholic society that he belongs to.
    Jose Eguren, archbishop of the coastal city of Piura, has accused the journalists, Pedro Salinas and Paola Ugaz, of slandering him by accusing him of covering up the abuse.    This week, a judge ruled in his favor and ordered Salinas to a year’s probation and $24,000 fine.    A ruling is pending for Ugaz.
    Human rights activists and journalists slammed the sentence as a blow to freedom of expression and efforts to end impunity for child sex abusers.
    In a statement about the ruling, the Peruvian Episcopal Conference, which represents the Catholic Church in the country of 32 million people and reports to the Vatican, called for solidarity with the victims of abuse in the Church and for those who expose abuse such as journalists.
    “The Holy Pope himself has praised and thanked journalists for work that has, through their investigations, contributed to the reporting of abuse, punishment for abusers and assistance for victims,” the presidency of the conference said.
    “The Pope stresses that the Church needs help in this difficult task of fighting this evil,” added the statement, which did not mention Eguren directly.
    Eguren said it was premature for the Episcopal Conference to comment on the case because the full ruling of Judge Judith Cueva had not been made public.    “Before making pronouncements, it’s prudent in these circumstances to wait for the entire sentence to be read,” Eguren said in a statement.
    Salinas and Ugaz say they accused Eguren of covering up the abuse because of accounts by victims.    They say he is trying to silence them for reporting on accounts of sexual, physical and psychological abuse by leaders in Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, a Catholic society with pontifical approval that Eguren belongs to.
    The book Salinas and Ugaz co-authored on Sodalitium in 2015, “Mitad Monjes, Mitad Soldados,” prompted investigations into former members of the society by the Peruvian prosecutors’ office and the Vatican.
    An internal report by Sodalitium in 2017 concluded the group’s founder and other high-ranking former members had abused 19 minors and 10 adults.    Last year, Pope Francis ordered the Vatican to take over the organization.
(Reporting by Mitra Taj; Editing by Peter Cooney)

4/11/2019 Sexual revolution of 1960s led to Church abuse crisis, ex-pope says by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: Pope Benedict XVI finishes his last general audience in St Peter's Square
at the Vatican February 27, 2013. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi/File Photo
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Former Pope Benedict has blamed the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandal on the effects of the sexual revolution of the 1960s and a general collapse in morality.
    Critics accused him of trying to shift blame away from the Church.
    In a rare essay, Benedict, who for 23 years headed the Vatican doctrinal office that has been widely criticized for its handling of sexual abuse cases, argues that the sexual revolution led some to believe that paedophilia and pornography were acceptable.
    The 91-year-old, who in 2013 became the first pope in six centuries to resign, also bemoaned that some Catholic seminaries had an openly gay culture and thus failed to train priests properly
    “It could be said that in the 20 years from 1960 to 1980, the previously normative standards regarding sexuality collapsed entirely, and a new normalcy arose that has by now been the subject of laborious attempts at disruption,” Benedict wrote.
    Benedict was head of the doctrinal office before he became pope in 2005.    He was in charge in 2002, when the first-wave abuse cases were exposed in Boston.
    Abuse scandals in Ireland, Chile, Australia, France, the United States, Poland, Germany and elsewhere have since led the Church to pay out billions of dollars in damages to victims and forced it to close parishes.    Many cases date back decades before the 1960s.
    Revelations that predatory priests were often moved from parish to parish rather than expelled or criminally prosecuted as bishops covered up the abuse have shaken the church globally and undermined its authority.
    Late last year, Australian Cardinal George Pell became the most senior Catholic to be convicted for child sex offences.    His role as a former top adviser to Pope Francis brought the scandal to the heart of the papal administration.
    Benedict offered his evaluations in a long essay in Klerusblatt, a monthly Church magazine in his native Bavaria region of Germany. A Vatican official confirmed it was authentic.
    The former pope, who lives secluded in a former convent on the Vatican grounds, said he wanted to “contribute one or two remarks to assist in this difficult hour.”
    The impetus for the essay, titled “The Church and the Scandal of Sexual Abuse,” was a summit of senior bishops that Francis held in February to discuss the crisis, he said.
    “Among the freedoms that the Revolution of 1968 sought to fight for was this all-out sexual freedom, one which no longer conceded any norms,” he wrote, according to an English translation published by several Catholic websites.
    He said the spread of explicit sex education for young schoolchildren and nudity in advertising had contributed to a loosening of moral bearings.
    Some theologians took to Twitter to criticize Benedict.
    “This is an embarrassing letter,” said Brian Flanagan, professor of theology at Marymount University in Virginia.
    “The idea that ecclesial abuse of children was a result of the 1960s," a supposed collapse of moral theology, and “conciliarity” (the Church after the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council) "is an embarrassingly wrong explanation for the systemic abuse of children and its cover up.”
    Massimo Faggioli, professor of theology at Villanova University, called it “a caricature” of the Church in the post-Vatican II period, “with all its ingenuities and some tragic mistakes.”
    Benedict wrote that after the Second Vatican Council there was a “far reaching breakdown” of the traditional methods of priestly formation that coincided with a dissolution of the Christian concept of morality.
    “In various seminaries homosexual cliques were established, which acted more or less openly and significantly changed the climate in the seminaries,” he writes.
    Benedict, who has appeared in public only a handful of times since his resignation, said the situation in Catholic seminaries has since “greatly improved.”
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Catherine Evans)
[That sounds like "The Devil made me do it".].

4/11/2019 Nicaraguan bishop, a vocal Ortega critic, says he was target of assassination plot by Ismael Lopez
Managua's Bishop Silvio Baez speaks during a news conference in Managua, Nicaragua April 10, 2019. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas
    MANAGUA (Reuters) – A Roman Catholic bishop in Nicaragua who has been a sharp critic of the government of President Daniel Ortega said he had been the target of an assassination plot last year and that Pope Francis had invited him to relocate to Rome.
    The cleric, Monsignor Silvio Baez, revealed details of the plot on Wednesday during a news conference.
    “It’s true, it’s true … I was in bed at 11 p.m. when I received a call from the political department of the U.S. Embassy telling me that they had full certainty of a plan to assassinate me, to be careful,” Baez said.
    The Nicaraguan government and the U.S. embassy in Managua did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
    Baez gave no indication on Wednesday as to who may have targeted him and why and said he could not recall the exact date.    He said he had been receiving threatening calls and messages to his cell phone, without giving more details.
    He said the Argentine pontiff had called him to Rome for an unspecified period.
    The bishop had been an outspoken critic of the Ortega administration’s crackdown on near-daily protests that broke out last April.    The ensuing violence led to at least 300 deaths and more than 600 arrests, according to human rights groups.
    The crisis has been the impoverished Central American country’s bloodiest and most intractable since a civil war that raged in the 1980s.
    Nicaragua’s protests first erupted when Ortega’s government tried to reduce welfare benefits, but quickly swelled into broader opposition to Ortega, a Cold War-era former Marxist guerrilla leader who has held office since 2007.
    The government said last month it would release all those arrested in the protests as part of a dialogue with the opposition.     Baez has previously told media that he had repeatedly received threats against him from government loyalists.    The bishop, local rights activists and other prominent critics of Ortega have been publicly threatened on social media.
    Baez was beaten and knifed in the arm last July, when he and other bishops visiting a southern Nicaraguan city took refuge in a church that was surrounded by armed government supporters.
    The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights denounced the threats and harassment of Baez last May, saying they were grave enough to put the bishop and his family “in a situation of seriousness and urgency” and that they came in the context of his leading role in a national dialogue between protesters and government representatives.
(Reporting by Ismael Lopez; writing by Delphine Schrank; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

4/11/2019 Pope kisses feet of South Sudan leaders, urging them to keep the peace by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis kneels to kiss feet of the President of South Sudan Salva Kiir at the end of a two day Spiritual
retreat with South Sudan leaders at the Vatican, April 11, 2019. Vatican Media/¬Handout via REUTERS
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis, in a dramatic gesture after an unprecedented retreat at the Vatican, knelt to kiss the feet of South Sudan’s previously warring leaders on Thursday as he urged them to not return to a civil war.
    He appealed to President Salva Kiir, his former deputy turned rebel leader Riek Machar, and three other vice presidents to respect an armistice they signed and commit to forming a unity government next month.
    “I am asking you as a brother to stay in peace.    I am asking you with my heart, let us go forward.    There will be many problems but they will not overcome us.    Resolve your problems,” Francis said in improvised remarks.
    The leaders appeared to be stunned as the 82-year-old pope, who suffers from chronic leg pain, was helped by aides as he knelt with difficulty to kiss the shoes of the two main opposing leaders and several other people in the room.
    His appeal was made even more pressing as anxiety grew in South Sudan that Thursday’s coup in neighboring Sudan might put at risk the fragile peace deal that ended South Sudan’s brutal five-year civil war.
    The Vatican brought together South Sudanese leaders for 24 hours of prayer and preaching inside the pope’s residence in an attempt to heal bitter divisions before the country is due to set up a unity government.
    “There will be struggles, disagreements among you but keep them within you, inside the office, so to speak,” Francis said in Italian as an aide translated into English.    “But in front of the people, hold hands united.    So, as simple citizens, you will become fathers of the nation.”
    Sudan, which is predominantly Muslim, and the mainly Christian south fought for decades before South Sudan became independent in 2011.    South Sudan plunged into civil war two years later after Kiir, a Dinka, fired Machar, from the Nuer ethnic group, from the vice presidency.
    About 400,000 people died and more than a third of the country’s 12 million people were uprooted, sparking Africa’s worst refugee crisis since the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
    The two sides signed a power-sharing deal in September calling on the main rival factions to assemble, screen and train their respective forces to create a national army before the formation of a unity government next month.
    In his prepared address earlier on Thursday, Francis said South Sudan’s people were exhausted by war and the leaders had a duty to build their young nation in justice.    He also repeated his wish to visit the country along with other religious leaders to solidify the peace.
    Others who attended the retreat were the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who is spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican community, members of the South Sudan Council of Churches, and other Catholic and Presbyterian Church leaders from Africa.    Welby had proposed the idea of the retreat to the pope.
(Additional reporting by Katharine Houreld in Nairobi and Denis Dumo in Juba; Editing by Kevin Liffey, Catherine Evans and Frances Kerry)

4/12/2019 Transgender military ban to take effect today by OAN Newsroom
    The White House’s ban on transgender troops serving in the military is set to take effect Friday.
This June 30, 2008 photo, provided in New York, Tuesday April 9, 2019, shows Lance Cpl. (U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve Photo by Capt. Paul Greenberg via AP)
    The ban will prevent all troops who have surgically changed their sex, require hormone treatment, or have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria from enlisting in the U.S. military.
    However, all enlisted troops who have already transitioned or have requested sex changes prior to Friday’s deadline will be allowed to maintain their posts.
    The Trump administration first announced its intent to ban trans troops from serving back in 2017, but was only allowed to move forward with the measure after receiving Supreme Court approval back in January this year.
[The battle for righteousness is slow and sure but thank you Trump to keep up the good work for God's creation of man and a woman, with no unnatural freaks.].

4/14/2019 On Palm Sunday, Pope says Church needs to be humble by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis holds palm branches as he leads the Palm Sunday Mass in Saint Peter's Square,
at the Vatican, April 14, 2019. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of people waved palm and olive branches in St. Peter’s Square on Palm Sunday as Pope Francis led the world’s Catholics into Holy Week commemorations ahead of Easter calling for the Church to be humble.
    Palm Sunday is when Christians mark the day the Bible says Jesus rode into Jerusalem and was hailed by the crowd as Messiah, only to be crucified days later.
    After a long procession across the square accompanied by dozens of bishops and cardinals, and following gospel readings, Francis said in his homily that it was important to resist the temptations of triumphalism and remain humble.
    “Joyful acclamations at Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem, followed by his humiliation. Festive cries, followed by brutal torture.    This twofold mystery accompanies our entrance into Holy Week each year,” he said.
    The Church itself had to resist triumphalism and spiritual worldliness, he added, calling them “the most treacherous temptation threatening the Church.”
    At the end of the two-hour service, Francis asked the crowd to pray for peace, particularly in the Holy Land and all of the Middle East.
    Palm Sunday marks the start of a hectic week of activities leading to Easter Sunday, the most important day on the Christian liturgical calendar.
    On Holy Thursday, Francis will travel to the city of Velletri, south of Rome, to wash and kiss the feet of 12 inmates in a prison there to commemorate Jesus’ gesture of humility toward his apostles on the night before he died.
    On Good Friday, Francis, marking his seventh Easter season since his election in 2013, is due lead a Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) procession around Rome’s ancient colosseum.
    The 82-year-old leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Roman Catholics leads an Easter vigil service on Saturday night and on Easter Sunday he reads the traditional “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) message.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Jan Harvey)

4/14/2019 Australian media to face court over Pell trial coverage by Tom Westbrook
FILE PHOTO - Vatican Treasurer Cardinal George Pell is surrounded by Australian police and members of the media as
he leaves the Melbourne Magistrates Court in Australia, July 26, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Dadswell/File Photo
    SYDNEY (Reuters) – Three dozen Australian journalists and publishers are to face court on Monday over their coverage of Cardinal George Pell’s trial for child sex abuse, with prosecutors seeking fines and jail terms over accusations of breached gag orders in the case.    Prosecutors in the southeastern state of Victoria have accused the 23 journalists and 13 news outlets of aiding and abetting contempt of court by overseas media and breaching suppression orders.
    Among those facing contempt charges are Nine Entertainment Co, the Age, the Australian Financial Review, Macquarie Media, and several News Corp publications.
    Although Monday’s hearing is largely procedural, media experts say the case shows not only the serious consequences of breaching rules on court reporting but also how poorly the rules rein in coverage in the era of digital news.
    “It shows that the laws themselves are out of sync with the speed and breadth of publication,” said Mark Pearson, a professor of journalism and social media at Griffith University in Queensland state.
    “But the courts can only do what is available to them.    The courts have to send a message that people deserve a fair trial and that people can’t publish what they want to when someone is facing court, if that might damage the trial.”
    Breaches of suppression orders can be punished with jail for up to five years and fines of nearly A$100,000 ($71,000) for individuals, and nearly A$500,000 for companies.
    Macquarie Media did not respond to a request for comment but it has previously declined to comment, as the accusations are subject to legal proceedings.
    Nine, which owns the Age and the Australian Financial Review, has denied the accusations and said it was surprised by the charges.    News Corp has said it will defend itself vigorously.
    Pell, who became the most senior Catholic cleric worldwide to be convicted of child sex abuse, was jailed for six years in February.
    The county court of Victoria put a suppression order on reporting of Pell’s trial last year to prevent jury prejudice in that case, as well as on a second trial on other charges set for March.
    In December, the jury in the first trial found Pell guilty of abusing two choir boys.
    After the verdict, some Australian media said an unnamed high-profile person had been convicted of a serious crime that could not be reported.
    No Australian media named Pell or the charges at the time, though some overseas media did.
    Those who published online do not have offices or staff in Australia and were not charged for ignoring the suppression order, but have lobbied against it.
    “Gag orders are futile in a case of global interest in the digital age,” said Steven Butler, an official of the Washington-based Committee to Protect Journalists.    “We urge Australian authorities to drop these proceedings and to re-examine the application of such suppression orders,” added Butler.
    The gag order, which had applied across Australia “and on any website or other electronic or broadcast format accessible within Australia,” was lifted on Feb. 26 when the charges that would have figured in the second trial were dropped.
(Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Darren Schuettler and Clarence Fernandez)

4/15/2019 Australian media charges over Cardinal Pell trial ‘chilling’ for open justice: lawyer by Melanie Burton
FILE PHOTO - Cardinal George Pell attends a news conference at the Vatican, June 29, 2017. REUTERS/Remo Casilli/File Photo
    MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Charges against dozens of journalists and publishers in Australia over the reporting of Cardinal George Pell’s child sex abuse conviction will have a chilling effect on future news reporting if they are found guilty of breaching a suppression order, a lawyer defending the press told a court on Monday.
    Prosecutors in the southern state of Victoria have accused 23 journalists and 13 news outlets of aiding and abetting contempt of court by overseas media and breaching suppression orders aimed at ensuring Pell a fair trial.
    Pell became the most senior Catholic cleric worldwide to be convicted of child sex abuse and was jailed for six years in February.    He is awaiting an appeal.
    Among those facing contempt charges are Nine Entertainment Co, the Age, the Australian Financial Review, Macquarie Media, and several News Corp publications.
    Breaches of suppression orders can be punished with jail for up to five years and fines of nearly A$100,000 ($71,000) for individuals, and nearly A$500,000 for companies.
    Monday was the first day in court for a case that at once underscores the potentially severe consequences of breaching court reporting rules and their ineffectiveness at containing coverage in the digital news era.
    A guilty verdict would have a “chilling effect” on open justice and democracy in Australia, said Matthew Collins QC, a lawyer representing all of the charged media organizations and reporters.
    The county court of Victoria last year put a suppression order on reporting of Pell’s trial, or its eventual outcome, to prevent jury prejudice ahead of a second trial, which was eventually dropped.
    In December, the jury in the first trial found Pell guilty of abusing two choir boys.    The verdict was widely reported by foreign outlets online.    Some Australian media alluded to the conviction without naming Pell directly.
    Collins pressed the prosecution for more information about how Australian journalists could have broken court rules because none mentioned Pell by name or his conviction.
    “I am at a loss to understand how they could have scandalized the court,” he said.
    “They didn’t reference the cardinal, just referred to the fact that there was a broader story that could not be told.”
    None of the accused journalists were present and Supreme Court Judge John Dixon ordered that prosecutors file an outline of their case by May 20 and that the matter return to court on June 26.
(Reporting by Melanie Burton in MELBOURNE and Tom Westbrook in SYDNEY; Editing by Michael Perry)

4/16/2019 Christianity grows in Syrian town once besieged by Islamic State by John Davison
Children play near damaged houses in Kobani, Syria April 3, 2019. REUTERS/Ali Hashisho
    KOBANI, Syria (Reuters) – A community of Syrians who converted to Christianity from Islam is growing in Kobani, a town besieged by Islamic State for months, and where the tide turned against the militants four years ago.
    The converts say the experience of war and the onslaught of a group claiming to fight for Islam pushed them toward their new faith.    After a number of families converted, the Syrian-Turkish border town’s first evangelical church opened last year.
    Islamic State militants were beaten back by U.S. air strikes and Kurdish fighters at Kobani in early 2015, in a reversal of fortune after taking over swaths of Iraq and Syria.    After years of fighting, U.S.-backed forces fully ended the group’s control over populated territory last month.
    Though Islamic State’s ultra-radical interpretation of Sunni Islam has been repudiated by the Islamic mainstream, the legacy of its violence has affected perceptions of faith.
    Many in the mostly Kurdish areas of northern Syria, whose urban centers are often secular, say agnosticism has strengthened and in the case of Kobani, Christianity.
    Christianity is one of the region’s minority faiths that was persecuted by Islamic State.
    Critics view the new converts with suspicion, accusing them of seeking personal gain such as financial help from Christian organizations working in the region, jobs and enhanced prospects of emigration to European countries.
    The newly-converted Christians of Kobani deny those accusations. They say their conversion was a matter of faith.
    “After the war with Islamic State people were looking for the right path, and distancing themselves from Islam,” said Omar Firas, the founder of Kobani’s evangelical church.    “People were scared and felt lost.”
    Firas works for a Christian aid group at a nearby camp for displaced people that helped set up the church.
    He said around 20 families, or around 80 to 100 people, in Kobani now worship there.    They have not changed their names.
    “We meet on Tuesdays and hold a service on Fridays.    It is open to anyone who wants to join,” he said.
    The church’s current pastor, Zani Bakr, 34, arrived last year from Afrin, a town in northern Syria.    He converted in 2007.
    “This was painted by IS as a religious conflict, using religious slogans.    Because of this a lot of Kurds lost trust in religion generally, not just Islam,” he said.
    Many became atheist or agnostic.    “But many others became Christian.    Scores here and more in Afrin.”
    One man, who lost an arm in an explosion in Kobani and fled to Turkey for medical treatment, said he met Kurdish and Turkish converts there and eventually decided to join them seemed happy and all talked about love.    That’s when I decided to follow Jesus’s teachings,” Maxim Ahmed, 22, said, adding that several friends and family were now interested in coming to the new church.
    Some in Kobani reject the growing Christian presence.    They say Western Christian aid groups and missionaries have exploited the chaos and trauma of war to convert people and that local newcomers to the religion see an opportunity for personal gain.
    “Many people think that they are somehow benefiting from this, maybe for material gain or because of the perception that Christians who seek asylum abroad get preferential treatment,” said Salih Naasan, a real estate worker and former Arabic teacher.
.     Thousands of Christians have fled the region over decades of sectarian strife.    From Syria they have often headed for Lebanon and European countries.
    U.S. President Donald Trump in 2017 banned entry for all Syrian refugees indefinitely and imposed a 90-day ban on travel from several other predominantly Muslim countries.
    “It might be a reaction to Daesh (Islamic State) but I don’t see the positives.    It just adds another religious and sectarian dimension which in a community like this will lead to tension,” said Naasan, a practicing Muslim.
    Naasan like the vast majority of Muslims rejects Islamic State’s narrow and brutal interpretation of Islam.    The group enslaved and killed thousands of people from all faiths, reserving particular brutality for minorities such as the Yazidis of northern Iraq.
    Most Christians preferred not to give their names or be interviewed, saying they fear reaction from conservative sectors of society.
    The population of Kobani and its surroundings has neared its original 200,000 after people returned, although only 40,000 live in the town itself, much of which lies in ruins.
(Corrects reference to U.S. policy in paragraph 21.)
(Editing by Tom Perry and Alexandra Hudson)

4/18/2019 Pope washes feet of prisoners at Holy Thursday service by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis spreads incense as he holds a Mass on Holy Thursday at Saint Peter's
Basilica at the Vatican, April 18, 2019. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
    ROME (Reuters) – Pope Francis washed and kissed the feet of 12 prisoners on Thursday at a traditional service, telling them to shun any inmate hierarchy structure or law of the strongest and to help each other instead.
    Francis’ predecessors held the traditional Holy Thursday rite in one of Rome’s great basilicas, washing the feet of 12 priests. But to emphasize its symbolism of service, Francis transferred it to places of confinement, such as prisons, immigrant centers or old age homes.
    He traveled this year to a prison in the town of Velletri, about 40 km south of Rome.
    It is the fifth time since his election in 2013 that he has held the service, which commemorates Jesus’ gesture of humility toward his apostles on the night before he died, in jail.
    Francis told the inmates that in Jesus’s time, washing the feet of visitors was the job of slaves and servants.
    “This is the rule of Jesus and the rule of the gospel. The rule of service, not of domination or of humiliating others,” he said.
    Of the male inmates whose feet Francis washed, there were nine Italians, one Brazilian, one Moroccan and one Ivorian. The Vatican did not give their religions.
    In the past, conservative Catholics criticized the pope for washing the feet of women and Muslim inmates.
    The Velletri prison, which is overcrowded like most Italian jails, mostly holds foreigners for common crimes, but one section holds turncoats who collaborated with investigators and get special protection.
    On Good Friday, Francis, marking his seventh Easter season as Roman Catholic leader, is due to lead a Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) procession around Rome’s ancient Colosseum.
    The 82-year-old leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Roman Catholics leads an Easter vigil service on Saturday night and on Easter Sunday reads the traditional “Urbi et Orbi” (To The City and The World) message.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

4/19/2019 Papal Good Friday service draws attention to world’s poor by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis leads the Good Friday Passion of the Lord service in
Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, April 19, 2019. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis listened as a preacher denounced the widespread inequality in the world at a Good Friday service on the day Christians recall Jesus’ death by crucifixion.
    During the “Passion of the Lord” service in St. Peter’s Basilica, songs in Latin recounted the last hours in Jesus’ life, from his arrest to his burial.
    The service is one of the few during the year where the pope does not give a sermon, leaving it to Father Raniero Cantalamessa, whose title is preacher of the papal household.
    Francis listened as Cantalamessa described Jesus as “the prototype and representative of all the rejected, the disinherited, and the discarded of the earth, those from whom we turn aside our faces so as not to see them.”
    He said all religions had a duty to stand with the poor.
    “A few privileged people possess more goods than they could ever consume, while for entire centuries countless masses of poor people have lived without having a piece of bread or a sip of water to give their children,” Canatalamessa said.
    “No religion can remain indifferent to this because the God of all the religions is not indifferent to all of this,” he said.
    It was the first of two services at which the pope presides on the most somber day of the Christian liturgical calendar.
    On Friday night the pope, marking his seventh Easter season as Roman Catholic leader, was due to lead a Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) procession around Rome’s ancient Colosseum.
    The 82-year-old leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Roman Catholics leads an Easter vigil service on Saturday night and on Easter Sunday reads the traditional “Urbi et Orbi” (To The City and The World) message.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Alison Williams)

4/23/2019 LGBT rights will return to Supreme Court in fall - Justices to hear 3 cases involving fired workers by Richard Wolf, USA TODAY
    WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court agreed Monday to decide the next major legal dispute over gay rights: whether the nation’s job discrimination laws apply to sexual orientation and gender identity. The justices in the fall will hear challenges from New York, Michigan and Georgia involving workers who claim they were fired because they were gay or transgender:     Each case raises the issue of job discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender workers. A decision in the challengers’ favor would mark an important step in the effort to protect the LGBT community from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations, advocates say.
    “The decisions in these cases will shape the legal landscape for LGBT people for decades to come,” said Shannon Minter, legal director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights.    “A Supreme Court decision reversing these established protections would be catastrophic for LGBT people and disruptive for businesses, who would face a patchwork of conflicting state laws.”
    The justices had been considering whether to hear any of the cases since early January – usually an indication they would refuse them, but with one or more justice penning a dissent.    Instead, they agreed to hear all three cases.
    The Justice Department under President Donald Trump supported the companies, contending that federal civil rights laws do not protect workers based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
    Stephens successfully challenged her firing before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and again at the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, both of which ruled her dismissal violated federal law.
    “The court’s decision to take this case is a historic turning point for transgender people across this country,” said Mara Keisling of the National Center for Transgender Equality.
    Appeals courts are divided over whether a federal law that bans discrimination on the basis of sex includes sexual orientation.    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, based in New York, and the 7th Circuit, based in Chicago, have ruled that sex discrimination laws protect gays and lesbians.
    The 11th Circuit, based in Atlanta, has said they do not.    And the 6th Circuit, based in Cincinnati, has said transgender people are protected.
All three LGBT-related cases the Supreme Court has agreed to hear raise
the issue of job discrimination. JACQUELYN MARTIN/AP

4/24/2019 Report: Nearly 8K Boy Scout leaders accused of sexual assault since 1944 by OAN Newsroom
    The Boy Scouts of America is continuing to grapple with sexual assault allegations within its organization.    Nearly 8,000 people have been named in the so-called “Perversion Files,” which is a massive list of names kept by the organization since the 1940’s documenting the number of volunteers kicked out of the Scouts due to sexual assault claims.
    While the existence of the “Perversion Files” was made public in 2012, neither the number of people accused of assault nor their names has never been disclosed to the public — that is until now.
    Dr. Janet Warren, who was hired by the Scouts to evaluate their handling of abuse claims, revealed staggering numbers during a January testimony against a Scout leader.    Dr. Warren’s list includes over 7,800 perpetrators and over 12,000 victims in the Scouts since 1944 — numbers which have left many people mortified.
Attorney Jeff Anderson woks pass graphics as he prepares to hold a press conference,
releasing names of more than 130 Boy Scout leaders who worked in New York and were named in Boy Scouts of America (BSA) “Perversion Files
as having allegations of sexually abusing minors, Tuesday April 23, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
    The list of names was released to the public during a New York press conference Tuesday by attorney Jeff Anderson.    He is planning to sue the Boy Scouts of America on behalf of a group of alleged victims in New York for not taking legal action or alerting local communities after blacklisting volunteers accused of sexual molestation.
    “They may have removed them from scouting, but they never alerted the community that this teacher, this coach, this scout leader is known to them as being a child molester,” stated Anderson.
    The Scouts responded to Tuesday’s conference by expressing their condolences for all victims of childhood molestation, and stating they have a strict policy of reporting all cases of sexual abuse toward minors to authorities.    However, Anderson’maintains his position that the organization has attempted to cover up these allegations by not releasing the names of the alleged offenders to the public.
    The attorney won’t be able to file suit in New York until August 14th, when the recently passed Child Victims Act becomes active in the state.    This move will practically erase the statute of limitations to report childhood sexual abuse.    Nonetheless, even as victims of these heinous crimes continue to come forward, it seems the Boy Scouts of America still has a long way to go to tackle sexual abuse within its ranks.

5/1/2019 Conservatives want Catholic bishops to denounce pope as heretic by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis greets faithful at the end of the weekly general audience at the Vatican, May 1, 2019. REUTERS/Yara Nardi
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – A group of 19 Catholic priests and academics have urged bishops to denounce Pope Francis as a heretic, in the latest ultra-conservative broadside against the pontiff over a range of topics from communion for the divorced to religious diversity.
    The most prominent of the group is Father Aidan Nichols, a 70-year-old British priest of the Dominican order who has written many books and is one of most recognized theologians in the English-speaking world. The others are less well known.
    “We take this measure as a last resort to respond to the accumulating harm caused by Pope Francis’s words and actions over several years, which have given rise to one of the worst crises in the history of the Catholic Church,” they said in a 20-page open letter.
    The letter attacks Francis for allegedly softening the Church’s stance on a range of subjects.    They say he has not been outspoken enough against abortion and has been too welcoming to homosexuals and too accommodating to Protestants and Muslims.
    It was published on Tuesday by LifeSiteNews, a conservative Catholic website that often is a platform for attacks on the pope.    Last year, it ran a document by the Vatican’s former ambassador to Washington, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, calling on the pope to resign.
    A Vatican spokesman had no comment on the letter, which includes dozens of footnotes, Bible verses, pronouncements by previous popes, and a separate bibliography.    The letter invites people to join an on-line signature drive.
    Addressing the bishops, the letter says “We therefore request that your Lordships urgently address the situation of Pope Francis’s public adherence to heresy.”
    It asks them to “publicly to admonish Pope Francis to abjure the heresies that he has professed.”
    Deciding whether a Church member is a heretic is the job of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog department.
    Massimo Faggioli, a well-known professor of historical theology at Villanova University in the United States, said the letter was an example of the extreme polarisation in the Church.
    “There is overwhelming support for Francis in the global Church on one side, and a tiny fringe of extremists trying to paint Francis as a pope who is heretic.    The problem is that there is very little legitimate, constructive critique of Francis’ pontificate and his theology,” he said in an email.
    A significant part of the letter concentrates on “Amoris Laetitia” (The Joy of Love), a 2016 papal document that is a cornerstone of Francis’ attempt to make the 1.3 billion-member Church more inclusive and less condemning.
    In it, Francis called for a Church that is less strict and more compassionate towards any “imperfect” members, such as those who divorced and later remarry in civil ceremonies.
    Under Church law they cannot receive communion unless they abstain from sex with their new partner, because their first marriage is still valid in the eyes of the Church, unless they have received an annulment.    The Church does not allow divorce.
    Francis has opened the door to some exceptions, allowing the decision whether the person can be fully re-integrated and receive communion to be made by a priest or bishop jointly with the individual on a case-by-case basis.
    After Amoris Laetitia was published, four conservative publicly challenged the pope, accusing him of sowing confusion on important moral issues.    He has thus far not responded to their demands that he clear up their doubts.
    The new letter lists pages of what it calls “Evidence for Pope Francis being guilty of the delict (crime) of heresy.”
    It attacks him for having once said that the intentions of Martin Luther, the father of the Protestant Reformation, “were not mistaken.”    It says he has not condemned abortion strongly enough and is too lenient with homosexual Catholics.
    The letter criticized Francis for signing a joint statement with Lutherans in 2016 in which the pope said Catholics were grateful for the “theological gifts” of the Reformation.
    It attacked the pope for a common statement with a prominent Muslim leader in Abu Dhabi in February which said the pluralism and diversity of religions was “willed by God.”    Conservatives say the Roman Catholic Church is the only true one and that members are called to convert others to it.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella, Editing by William Maclean)
[Is the Scarlet Woman winning this battle of this so-called Universal Church or is it riding on the back of the beast that came up out of the sea?].

5/2/2019 Pope Francis should visit Argentina to meet cleric abuse victims, rights groups say
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis greets faithful at the end of the weekly general audience at the Vatican, May 1, 2019./File Photo
    BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Pope Francis should visit Argentina to meet victims of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and intervene on their behalf, said international groups fighting clerical abuse on Thursday.
    “If Pope Francis cannot make zero tolerance (of abuse) happen in Argentina, he’s not going to be able to make it happen anywhere else,” said Peter Isely, a founding member of Ending Clergy Abuse, at a news conference in Buenos Aires.
    Representatives of website and individuals who have sued the church in Argentina alleging sexual abuse were also present.
    Pope Francis, the first Latin American pontiff, is a former archbishop of Buenos Aires but he has not visited his home country since he became pope in 2013.
    In neighboring Chile, the Catholic Church was engulfed by scandal after a visit by the pope last year that brought to the surface a string of abuse allegations now being investigated by criminal prosecutors.
    The Vatican is meanwhile working on a papal document that would establish procedures for Catholics to report bishops suspected of sexual abuse or negligence in sexual abuse cases.
(Reporting by Juan Bustamante, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

5/3/2019 Pope on sensitive trip to Orthodox Bulgaria and North Macedonia by Philip Pullella and Angel Krasimirov
Pope Francis waves after his weekly general audience at the Vatican, April 24, 2019. REUTERS/Yara Nardi
    VATICAN CITY/RAKOVSKI, BULGARIA (Reuters) – Pope Francis starts a trip on Sunday to Bulgaria and North Macedonia where he will have to tread carefully because of sensitive relations with the dominant Eastern Orthodox Church in the two Balkan countries where Catholics are a tiny minority.
    Bulgaria, a country of 7.1 million people, is home to just 58,000 Catholics, while North Macedonia, with a population of 2 million, has just 15,000 Catholics, less than some single neighborhood parishes in Rome.
    One purpose of the three-day trip is to improve relations with the Orthodox churches as part of the Vatican’s push for eventual unity between the Eastern and Western branches of Christianity that split in 1054.
    But that task is delicate because Orthodox churches in both countries are caught up in their own internal conflicts, which have spilled over into official relations with Catholics.
    Bulgarian Orthodox leaders have ordered clergy not to take part in prayers or services with the pope, saying its laws do not permit it.    But the pope will meet Orthodox Patriarch Neophyte and visit an Orthodox cathedral in Sofia.
    “Receiving the pope but not praying with him is a contradiction in terms,” said Tamara Grdzelidze, professor of Ecumenical Theology and visiting fellow at St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto.    She suggested that the choice was due to internal disputes among Bulgarians.
    A statement from the Bulgarian Orthodox Church last month explaining its position emphasized that the invitation for the pope’s visit was made by state authorities, suggesting it had been given only a secondary role in the planning.
    Bulgaria’s Orthodox community is one of the most hardline in relations with the Catholic Church.
    It is the only Orthodox community that has boycotted the most recent meetings of the official Orthodox-Catholic dialogue and also boycotted the 2016 Pan-Orthodox Council, citing differences on preparatory texts.
    The Orthodox world considers North Macedonia’s Church to be in a state of schism since it declared itself autocephalous, or independent, from the Serbian Orthodox Church.
    Apparently in an effort not to upset other Orthodox Churches, the pope will not be meeting privately with North Macedonian Orthodox Primate Stephen.
    It will be only the second visit by a pope to Bulgaria – Pope John Paul visited in 2002.
    It is the first by a pope to North Macedonia and comes just three months after its name was changed from Macedonia, ending a decades-old dispute with Greece and opening the way for the ex-Yugoslav republic to join the European Union and NATO.
    “It’s a big political gesture on the part of the pope towards countries that have struggled to open themselves up both religiously and politically after the fall of communism and the Socialist bloc,” Grdzelidze told Reuters.
    “It could also be an encouragement for the local Catholic churches, despite their size, to be more active in contributing to public life and introducing Western values while not being in contrast to the Orthodox,” said Grdzelidze, a former Georgian ambassador to the Vatican.
    Francis is most eagerly awaited in Rakovski, Bulgaria’s largest predominantly Roman Catholic town.
    “It is a great joy, a great spiritual experience, a feast of faith for the whole community here in Rakovski as well as for the whole country,” said Sister Elka Staneva, a nun who has been preparing local children to receive their first communion from the pope.
    He will spend Tuesday in the North Macedonian capital of Skopje, where the late Mother Teresa was born Anjeze Gonxhe Bojaxhiu to Albanian parents in 1910 when it was still part of the Ottoman Empire.
    Known as the “saint of the gutters” for her work among the poor in India, she died in 1997 and was officially made a saint by Pope Francis in 2016.    He is due to visit her memorial and meet poor people helped by the order of nuns founded by the Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
(Additional reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova in Sofia and Ivana Sekularac in Belgrade; Editing by Gareth Jones)

5/5/2019 Pope says emigration, low birth rates have brought ‘Ice Curtain’ on Europe by Philip Pullella and Tsvetelia Tsolova
Pope Francis leads the Regina Coeli prayer at Alexander Nevski square, in Sofia, Bulgaria May 5, 2019. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov
    SOFIA (Reuters) – Pope Francis urged European leaders on Sunday to address wealth inequality and low birth rates which he said had created an “ice curtain” between Europe’s richer and poorer states and was fuelling emigration.
    Francis was speaking during a two-day visit to Bulgaria, his first and the first by a pope in 17 years.    He also met with leaders of the Eastern Orthodox Church.    He moves to North Macedonia on Tuesday.
    Sensitive relations with the Eastern Orthodox Church means Francis will have to tread carefully in both countries, where Catholics are a tiny minority.
    Using a play on Winston Churchill’s famous phrase about an “iron curtain” falling over a divided Europe after World War Two, Francis said new divisions were lacerating the face of the continent 30 years after the fall of communism.
    “Bulgaria, like so many other countries of Europe – must deal with what can only be called a new winter: the demographic winter that has descended like an ice curtain on a large part of Europe, the consequence of a diminished confidence in the future,” he said in a speech at the presidential palace in Sofia.
    Bulgaria, which joined the European Union in 2007, remains its poorest member state.    More than two million Bulgarians have left the country since the fall of communism for better jobs and living standards in western Europe, leaving a current population of about seven million.
    Francis urged Bulgaria “to strive to create conditions that lead young people to invest their youthful energies and plan their future, as individuals and families, knowing that in their homeland they can have the possibility of leading a dignified life.”
    One purpose of the three-day trip is to improve relations with the Orthodox churches as part of the Vatican’s push for eventual unity between the Eastern and Western branches of Christianity that split in 1054.
    The Bulgarian Orthodox community is one of the most hardline in relations with the Vatican and the only one to have boycotted the recent meetings of the official Orthodox-Catholic dialogue.
(Additional reporting by Angel Kasimirov; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

5/6/2019 Pope defends migrants during trip to immigration-adverse Bulgaria by Philip Pullella and Angel Krasimirov
Pope Francis gestures as he leads the Holy Mass with First Communions at
Most Holy Heart of Jesus church in Rakovski, Bulgaria May 6, 2019. REUTERS/Yara Nardi
    RAKOVSKI, Bulgaria (Reuters) – Pope Francis said on Monday the plight of suffering immigrants and refugees was “the cross of humanity,” taking up their case for the second consecutive day during a visit to Bulgaria that has put him at odds with the government.
    Bulgaria’s center-right coalition government, which includes three nationalist anti-migrants parties, wants the European Union to close its external borders to migrants and set up refugee centers outside the bloc.
    It has built a fence along its border with Turkey and stepped up controls on its border with Greece to help block any repeat of the massive migrant influx that gripped Europe in 2015 and stoked support for far-right anti-immigrant parties.
    Francis began his second day in Bulgaria with a visit to a refugee center in Sofia, where he met with about 50 people and their children who are helped by a Catholic charity.
    “Today, the world of migrants and refugees is a bit like a cross, the cross of humanity, a cross that many people suffer,” he told them in improvised remarks after hearing some of their stories and listening to children singing.
    The center, housed in a former school building, helps migrants mostly from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
    An organizer at the refugee center told the pope that people of all faiths, including many Muslims, had volunteered to help the migrants, in a sign of inter-religious dialogue.
    Francis later flew to Rakovski in southern Bulgaria, a predominantly Roman Catholic town in the overwhelmingly Eastern Orthodox country, to say a mass.
    Shortly after his arrival in Bulgaria on Sunday, Francis, who has made the defense of migrants a key plank of his pontificate, urged government leaders directly to “not close your eyes, your hearts or your hands, in accordance with your best tradition, to those who knock at your door.”
    Bulgaria, the EU’s poorest country, has taken an anti-immigrant stance even though it has a rapidly ageing population and a low birth rate.    More than two million Bulgarians have left the country since the fall of communism in 1989 in search of better opportunities in western Europe and beyond.
    General dissatisfaction over slow economic growth, security threats posed by Islamist militants and a backlash against migration across open EU borders have boosted support for euro skeptic nationalists in many EU member states ahead of elections to the European Parliament later this month.
    One purpose of the pope’s three-day trip to Bulgaria and North Macedonia is to improve ties with the Orthodox churches as part of the Vatican’s push for eventual unity between the Eastern and Western branches of Christianity that split in 1054.
    Francis heads to North Macedonia for the final leg of the trip on Tuesday.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Gareth Jones)

5/6/2019 Brunei says it won’t enforce gay death penalty after backlash
FILE PHOTO: Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah attends the retreat session during the
APEC Summit in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea November 18, 2018. REUTERS/David Gray/File Photo
    BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN (Reuters) – Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah on Sunday extended a moratorium on the death penalty to incoming legislation prohibiting gay sex, seeking to temper a global backlash led by celebrities such as George Clooney and Elton John.
    The small Southeast Asian country sparked an outcry when it rolled out its interpretation of Islamic laws, or sharia, on April 3, punishing sodomy, adultery and rape with death, including by stoning.
    Brunei has consistently defended its right to implement the laws, elements of which were first adopted in 2014 and which have been rolled out in phases since then.
    However, in a rare response to criticism aimed at the oil-rich state, the sultan said the death penalty would not be imposed in the implementation of the Syariah Penal Code Order (SPCO).
    Some crimes already command the death penalty in Brunei, including premeditated murder and drug trafficking, but no executions have been carried out since 1957.
    “I am aware that there are many questions and misperceptions with regard to the implementation of the SPCO.
    However, we believe that once these have been cleared, the merit of the law will be evident
,” the sultan said in a speech ahead of the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
    “As evident for more than two decades, we have practiced a de facto moratorium on the execution of death penalty for cases under the common law.    This will also be applied to cases under the SPCO which provides a wider scope for remission.”
    The announcement drew a mixed response from critics.
    “Step into right direction, but definitely not enough,” tweeted Renate Künast, a former German cabinet minister and a member of the Green Party.
    Tom Knight, a columnist for Gay Times Magazine, described it as “fantastic news” but urged caution.
    “The power of activism can help create change, but the fight isn’t over.    These laws need to be repealed, not just unenforced,” Knight tweeted.
    The vastly wealthy sultan, who once piloted his own 747 airliner to meet former U.S. president Barack Obama, often faces criticism from activists who view his absolute monarchy as despotic, but it is unusual for him to respond.
    The sultan’s office released an official English translation of his speech, which is not common practice.
    “Both the common law and the Syariah law aim to ensure peace and harmony of the country,” he said.
    “They are also crucial in protecting the morality and decency of the country as well as the privacy of individuals.”
    The law’s implementation, which the United Nations condemned, prompted celebrities and rights groups to seek a boycott on hotels owned by the sultan, including the Dorchester in London and the Beverley Hills Hotel in Los Angeles.
    Several multinational companies have since put a ban on staff using the sultan’s hotels, while some travel companies have stopped promoting Brunei as a tourist destination.
(Writing by Joe Brock; Editing by Dale Hudson and Michael Perry)

5/7/2019 Pope, invoking Mother Teresa, encourages North Macedonia’s bid to join EU by Ivana Sekularac and Philip Pullella
Pope Francis arrives to lead the Holy Mass at the Macedonia square in Skopje,
North Macedonia, May 7, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES
    SKOPJE (Reuters) – Pope Francis on Tuesday implicitly blessed efforts by North Macedonia and other Balkan countries to join the European Union, saying Skopje could look to its most famous daughter, Mother Teresa, as a stimulus to build a common destiny.
    After two days in Bulgaria, Francis arrived in the North Macedonian capital for a 10-hour stop, becoming the highest profile international figure to visit since the country changed its name from Macedonia in January.
    The decision ended a decades-old dispute with neighboring Greece, whose northernmost province is also called Macedonia, and opened the way for North Macedonia, a former Yugoslav republic, to join the European Union and NATO.
    Addressing authorities in Skopje’s presidential palace, Francis praised what he called the newly named country’s “crucible of cultures and ethnic and religious identities” that could serve as an example to others.
    “These particular features are also highly significant for increased integration with the nations of Europe.    It is my hope that this integration will develop in a way that is beneficial for the entire region of the Western Balkans, with unfailing respect for diversity and for fundamental rights,” Francis said.
    Six Western Balkan states – Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia – are in various stages of accession process to join the bloc.
    But in his speech, Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov complained bitterly about delays.
    “You come at a time when Macedonian society is deeply divided, and the Macedonian (nation) is heavily wounded by broken promises, unfulfilled expectations and faltering trust in the international community,” Ivanov said.
    He said “decades of blockades on our European path” had led to diminished spiritual and political morale.
    Skopje has aspired to NATO and EU membership since the end of a 2001 uprising by the country’s ethnic Albanian minority, but was blocked by Greece, which held that the name Macedonia implied a territorial claim on its own northern province.
    Yet even after cutting the name change deal with Greece, North Macedonia has not yet received the date for starting EU accession talks, though it is expected to become NATO’s 30th member state next year.
    Nearly every event on the pope’s program in Skopje revolved around the late Mother Teresa, who was born Anjeze Gonxhe Bojaxhiu to ethnic Albanian parents in 1910 when the country was still part of the Ottoman Empire.
    Francis praised Mother Teresa for working to unify people and urged Ivanov to take her example.
    “I encourage you to persevere with confidence along the path you have taken in order to make your country a beacon of peace, acceptance and fruitful integration between cultures, religions and peoples,” Francis said.
    Mother Teresa was known as the “saint of the gutters” for her work among the poor in India.    She died in 1997 and was officially made a saint by Pope Francis in 2016.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

5/8/2019 Pope hears from married Eastern rite priest during Balkans visit
    SKOPJE, North Macedonia – An Eastern rite Catholic priest has told Pope Francis during a visit to North Macedonia that he is a better priest because he is married and has a family.    The Rev. Goce Kostov, a member of the Byzantine rite Catholic Church in Skopje, delivered one of the greetings Tuesday to Francis at the end of the pope’s Balkan pilgrimage.    Unlike Latin rite priests, Eastern rite Catholic priests are allowed to be married.    With his wife Gabriela by his side, Kostov said he was father to his family and his parish.

5/8/2019 Cuban LGBT community calls out government for canceling parade by Sarah Marsh and Anett Rios
Gay rights activists Isbel Diaz Torres (R) and Jimmy Roque Martinez, speak during an
interview in Havana, Cuba, May 7, 2019. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
    HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuban gay rights activists denounced the government’s decision to cancel this year’s parade against homophobia, accusing it of snatching away their main platform at a key moment as the Caribbean nation is set to debate legalizing same-sex marriage.
    The state-run National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX), which has spearheaded advances in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights in recent years, announced on Monday it would not hold its 12th annual conga.
    CENESEX, which is headed by Mariela Castro, the daughter of Communist Party leader Raul Castro, said international and regional tensions meant the parade could not be carried out successfully.    It did not offer further details, leaving Cubans to speculate the cause — from the country’s cash crunch to its siege by the Trump administration.
    “We thought the conga…. was already approved and consecrated – an error,” playwright and LGBT activist Norge Espinosa said in a Facebook post.    “To not permit it is a sign that compels us to return to the closet, to know we are not welcome, that hope can be undone, if we do not have what is needed to fight.”
    Cuba’s government has long tightly controlled public spaces and allowed few marches other than to express support for the government.    Havana says it faces attempts by dissidents, directed by its old Cold War foe the United States, to undermine it.
    The conga in Havana was an exception that had become a regular occurrence.
    Despite its having sent gays to work camps in the early days of Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution, Cuba has become a regional leader in LGBT rights in recent years, particularly in the Caribbean where some countries still have anti-sodomy laws.    It guarantees rights such as free sex-change operations, although it has delayed a decision on others like gay marriage.
    Some LGBT activists are seeking to organize an alternative event on Saturday, when the conga was scheduled to take place.
    “Let us march for our rights,” Yadiel Cepero wrote on a Facebook event page he created, although it seems unlikely the government would allow an unauthorized march to go ahead.
    Some activists speculated that the government canceled the conga because it did not want to allow a public forum that could be diverted to criticize it at a moment when it was facing rising political hostility from the Trump administration.
    Many believe the decision was also motivated by the popular backlash last year against the government’s proposal of including a change in the new constitution that would have opened the door to gay marriage.
    In a rare non-state Cuban campaign, evangelist churches attacked the proposal, which eventually was removed from the new constitution.
    “One of the most likely reasons is perhaps that they are once more ceding to pressure from religious fundamentalism that has shown itself to be quite active recently,” said activist Isbel Diaz Torres.
    The government deferred the decision about same-sex marriage to the update of the family code, to be decided on by referendum in the next two years.
    Activists say that means they have to work fast on changing views on the LGBT community, although that is difficult when they already cannot mobilize themselves independently of CENESEX and now cannot participate in the parade either.
(Reporting by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Leslie Adler)

5/9/2019 Pope issues sweeping decree holding bishops accountable for sex abuse or cover ups by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis holds the weekly general audience at the Vatican, May 8, 2019.
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis introduced sweeping changes in Catholic Church law on Thursday to hold bishops accountable for sexual abuse or covering it up, making reporting obligatory for clerics and allowing anyone to complain directly to the Vatican if needed.
    A papal decree, which covers abuse of both children and adults, also obliges every Catholic diocese in the world to set up simple and accessible reporting systems and encourages local churches to involve lay experts in investigations.
    The decree, whose preparation was reported first by Reuters in April, is the second such papal provision since a summit on abuse by senior Church bishops at the Vatican in February.
    It sets time limits for local investigations and the Vatican’s response to them and allows for retroactive reporting.
    It also says bishops with conflicts of interest should recuse themselves from investigations and that they can also be held accountable for abuse of power in sexual relations with adults.
    The 19-article decree, called “Vos Estis Lux Mundi” (You Are the Light of the World), raises to 18 from 16 the age of adulthood in cases of sexual abuse.    It also covers possession of child pornography.
    The decree says local Church officials cannot order those who report abuse to remain silent and that senior bishops should make provisions to prevent documents from being destroyed by subordinates if needed.
    Clerics should follow local law on whether they are obliged to report alleged sexual abuse to civil authorities
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Gareth Jones)

5/9/2019 Pews and politics: Australian leaders chase elusive Christian vote as election looms by Jonathan Barrett
Father Dave Smith leads a Sunday service at his church in Sydney, Australia May 5, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Barrett
    SYDNEY (Reuters) – It’s Thursday night training at Father Dave Smith’s boxing academy, opposite the Anglican church in inner-west Sydney he has led for almost 30 years, and he’s working off some frustration ahead of the May 18 federal election.
    On his mind is Australia’s treatment of refugees and its system of offshore processing centers, whereby asylum seekers arriving by boat are sent to facilities on remote Pacific islands.
    “For God’s sake, if we’ve reached the stage where we are talking about the danger of compassion then we’ve really lost our moral compass,” said Smith, who at 57 is also Australia’s oldest professional boxer, as he traded jabs with a sparring partner.
    “Concern for the vulnerable should surely be at the forefront of what the Christian community is about.”
    More than half of Australians call themselves Christians, according to the most recent census.
    But unlike more conservative equivalents elsewhere, Australian Christians are known to abruptly shift their vote based on wide-ranging social issues including family values, climate change policies and treatment of refugees.
    Like Smith, many Christians have expressed unease about Australia’s hardline refugee policies in recent years.    But with both the governing Liberal-National coalition and the main opposition Labor Party more or less aligned on the issue, neither side has captured churchgoers en masse ahead of this election, according to Smith and several other Christian leaders interviewed by Reuters.
    If Australia has a Bible Belt, it would be located on the suburban rims of the country’s major cities, densely populated areas which invariably determine who wins the election.
    John Black, the founder of demographic profiling company Australian Development Strategies and a former Labor senator, said while working families provide the grunt behind an election swing, religious voters can create the leverage to win battleground seats if convinced to vote as a bloc.
    “Australians do tend to be quieter about their faith than Americans and you see a lot of moderate left-type people,” said Black.
    Past leaders who have successfully tapped into that voter base have fared well.
    Former Labor leader Kevin Rudd snatched the flock, and election victory, from conservative Prime Minister John Howard in 2007, campaigning on a platform steeped in social morality during the then emerging global financial crisis.
    But political leaders have been largely unable to inspire Christians to vote as a bloc since, which might be explained by the broadness – and elusiveness – of the religious vote.
    In a statement on election priorities, the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference said climate change, caring for the vulnerable and improving the plight of the country’s indigenous population should be on the minds of cathedral-going voters.
    The conservative Australian Christian Lobby nominated keeping the Lord’s prayer in parliament among the most important issues affecting how Christians should vote – a subject not prioritized by other church groups.
    Perth pastor Rory Shiner said his congregation appeared most concerned about Australia’s treatment of refugees, and retaining a legal right to speak freely about their faith. Laws on abortion, which is legal on request in most Australian states and partly funded by the country’s universal healthcare system, had also been raised, he said.
    “I was speaking to someone who said he was leaning 60 percent one way and 40 percent the other but he had to give 100 percent of his vote to someone,” said Shiner, who leads an independent evangelical church.     Some policies that would tend to engage religious voters are not prominent this election, such as same-sex marriage, which was introduced in Australia in late 2017 after a public referendum showed widespread support.     The major parties’ climate change policies do differ, with Labor seeking a more ambitious emissions reduction target, a plan the government has said is too costly.
    Thea Ormerod, who heads the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change, said different Christian groups were increasingly engaged in climate policies, and predicted the government would lose votes to parties with more progressive plans.
    “In terms of issues that bring Christians together, the treatment of refugees has been at the forefront, but climate change is catching up,” said Ormerod, who is Roman Catholic.
    Candidates’ faith does not usually feature prominently in Australian election campaigns, but last month conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison invited cameras into his local Pentecostal church for an Easter service where he was photographed mid-worship, hands raised.
    The move attracted some criticism and ridicule on social media but Black said the coverage would play well in the suburban battlegrounds.
    “Many Australians tend to be quietly religious and respect people who aren’t embarrassed by it,” he said.
    Labor leader Bill Shorten’s proclaimed Christian beliefs have not featured prominently during the campaign.
    Back in the boxing ring, Smith uses his lead right-hand to parry his opponent’s jab, deflecting it with an open glove like someone cooking a barbecue wards off an incoming insect, before unleashing a flurry of good-natured body shots.
    Along with sweating out his frustration, Smith said he is training for his next bout which would help fund social causes including peace work in war-torn Syria and refugee advocacy campaigns at home.
    In short, he’s fighting for something he believes the major parties are not.
    “I think we’ll look back on this in days to come as a very dark part of Australian history, where we somehow lost our moral compass, we lost our compassion for people at risk.”
(Reporting by Jonathan Barrett in SYDNEY; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

5/11/2019 Farrakhan refers to ‘Satanic Jews’ in Chicago church speech
    CHICAGO – Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan referenced “Satanic Jews” in a speech denying allegations of anti-Semitism, misogyny and homophobia after Facebook banned him.    During the speech Thursday at a Roman Catholic church on Chicago’s South Side, Farrakhan asserted people shouldn’t be angry with him if “I stand on God’s word,” also saying that he knows “the truth,” and separates “the good Jews from the Satanic Jews.”    Farrakhan was invited to speak at the church by the Rev. Michael Pfleger.

5/12/2019 Cuban LGBT activists defy government, hold unprecedented indie pride parade by Sarah Marsh
Cuban LGBT activists participate in an annual demonstration against homophobia
and transphobia in Havana, Cuba May 11, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer
    HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuban gay rights activists held an unauthorized independent pride parade in Havana on Saturday despite the Communist government warning against it and calling it subversive, an unprecedented show of civil society in the one-party state.
    More than a hundred Cubans chanting “long live a diverse Cuba” and carrying rainbow flags joyfully marched nearly one kilometer (0.6 mile) from Havana’s Central Park down to the seafront boulevard before being stopped by dozens of security officials.
    At least three activists were arrested by plainclothes policemen while others were ordered to disperse given the activity did not have an official permit.
    “This moment marks a before and an after for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community but also for Cuban civil society more generally,” said independent journalist and LGBT activist Maykel Gonzalez Vivero.
    “Social media is playing its role and civil society demonstrated it has strength, and can go out onto the streets if necessary, and from now on the government will have to take that into account.”
    Activists called for the march after the state-run National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX) earlier this week abruptly canceled its 12th annual conga against homophobia – Cuba’s equivalent of gay pride.
    CENESEX, headed by Mariela Castro, the daughter of Communist Party leader Raul Castro, said in a statement that certain groups were planning to use the event to undermine the government, emboldened by the escalation of aggression by the Trump administration against Cuba and its leftist ally Venezuela.
    The United States has for decades financed often covert programs to promote democracy on the island and undermine the Communist government.
    But many LGBT activists said they felt the government was reacting more to pressure from evangelical churches, which have a growing following in Cuba and have campaigned against the expansion of gay rights.
    CENESEX denounced the alternative parade as a “provocation” and several activists say they received threats either anonymously on social media or from state security in person not to attend it – not that it stopped them.
    “This isn’t a political march, this is a celebration to give the LGBT community visibility,” said Myrna Rosa Padron Dickson.
    Activists promoted the march on social networks thanks to the expansion of the internet in Cuba in recent years that has more broadly seen increasing numbers of Cubans mobilize online over certain issues, sometimes apparently managing to influence policy.
    The government for example postponed the full implementation of a decree clamping down on the arts after an online campaign protesting the law, and stepped back on regulations governing the private sector after entrepreneurs and experts complained.
    So far, however, the government has retained tight control over physical public spaces, mostly restricting marches to expressions of support for the government, like the recent Labor Day parade.
    The conga in Havana was an exception that became a regular occurrence, and a reminder that the government, which once sent gays to work camps in the early days of Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution, had made considerable advances in LGBT rights in recent years.
    The country guarantees rights such as free sex-change operations and forbids discrimination on the basis of sexuality, in a region where some countries still have anti-sodomy laws.
    Some LGBT activists say they felt the cancellation of the conga was a sign those rights are being eroded, possibly because a recent public consultation over a new constitution revealed that there was more opposition to the community than previously thought.
    Many Cubans expressed their opposition to a change in the draft constitution that would have explicitly opened the door to gay marriage.
    Evangelical churches also ran unprecedented campaigns against the change, which was eventually watered down.
(Reporting by Sarah Marsh; Additional Reporting by Nelson Acosta; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Marguerita Choy)

5/12/2019 Poland’s Kaczynski promises harsher sentences for child abuse by Alan Charlish and Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS), delivers a speech during the
party's convention in Szczecin, Poland May 12, 2019. Agencja Gazeta/Krzysztof Hadrian via REUTERS
    WARSAW (Reuters) – The leader of Poland’s conservative ruling party promised harsher sentences for child abuse on Sunday, as the release of a documentary about pedophile priests created a fresh battleground in an election campaign marked by debate on religion and sexuality.
    The film “Just don’t tell anyone,” which features victims confronting their abusers, has reignited criticism of the Catholic Church’s handling of such cases and had over 3 million views within 22 hours of being posted on YouTube.
    “We prepared changes to the penal code meaning this crime (child abuse) will be punished very severely … there will be no suspended sentences, there will be severe penalties, maybe even up to 30 years in prison,” said the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party’s head Jaroslaw Kaczynski at a rally.
    Currently, sexual abuse of a child under 15 is punishable by up to 12 years in prison.
    Kaczynski’s words came amid tensions between liberals who feel the church wields too much power in Poland and conservatives who see the Catholic faith as a key element of national identity whose influence must be protected.
    On Monday, a woman was detained by police for posting images near a church of the Virgin Mary with her halo painted to resemble the rainbow flag of the LGBT community.
    PiS, which leads most opinion polls, has made protecting traditional values a key plank of its bid to win European elections on May 26 and parliamentary elections in the autumn.
    “Does this (stance against child abuse) mean that the crimes … of a small number of priests give the right to attack the church, to offend Catholics?    No, that is no justification,” added Kaczynski in the northern city of Szczecin.
    The film, by brothers Tomasz and Marek Sekielski, shows elderly priests, including Franciszek Cybula who was the chaplain of former president Lech Walesa, being confronted by people they abused as children.    It presents allegations that known pedophiles were shifted between parishes.
    “I am deeply disturbed by what I saw in Tomasz Sekielski’s film.    The enormous suffering of those who have been hurt gives rise to pain and shame,” Poland’s most senior archbishop Wojciech Polak said in a recorded statement.    “I am sorry for every wound inflicted by people of the church.”
    Anna Frankowska of the charity “Have no fear,” which supports abuse victims, said the Catholic Church in Poland had not taken concrete steps to bring pedophile priests to justice.
    “This is just another apology, it almost appears as if the statement was prepared before the church officials saw the movie,” she told Reuters.
(Reporting by Alan Charlish and Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

5/12/2019 Pope approves visits to contested Bosnian shrine
A Virgin Mary statue is seen in Medjugorje, south of Sarajevo, December 24, 2014. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis has approved pilgrimages to Medjugorje, a village in Bosnia that is steeped in controversy over whether the Madonna appears to local people, the Vatican said on Sunday.
    A statement by spokesman Alessandro Gisotti, said, however, that the official approval should not be interpreted as Church authentication of the alleged apparitions, because more investigation and study was needed.
    Six children first reported visions of the Virgin Mary in 1981 in a scenario reminiscent of famous apparitions in the French town of Lourdes in the 19th century and more then 100 years ago in Fatima in Portugal.
    In the following years, the Bosnian village became a major pilgrimage site, attracting hundreds of thousands each year and giving many visitors what they say is a renewed sense of spirituality.
    The pilgrimages, which include faithful from as far away from North America and Asia, took place although they were not officially authorized by the Vatican.    They also gave locals a steady source of much-needed revenue.
    Some of those involved, now adults, say they still experience apparitions regularly, and that the Madonna tells them ahead of time when she will appear to them.
    But some Catholics believe the apparitions are a hoax.
    Former Pope Benedict set up a commission of theologians and bishops to study the situation.    Its report has not been published but was given to Pope Francis in 2014.
    Speaking to reporters in 2017, Francis said investigations are continuing into the first alleged apparitions but he said at the time that he was highly skeptical about claims that they are continuing.
    Francis did acknowledge that some people who go to Medjugorje experience a spiritual renewal and “encounter God, change their lives.”
    The Vatican’s statement on Sunday said a papal delegate to Medjugorje, Polish Archbishop Henryk Hoser, would ensure that pilgrims who visit the site are aware that Church theologians are still investigating the authenticity of the claims.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Keith Weir)

5/13/2019 Poland’s Walesa urges Catholic church action on abuse after his priest accused
FILE PHOTO: 1983 Nobel Peace Prize winner, former Polish president, Lech Walesa attends European Ideas Network
Francisco Lucas Pires merit award ceremony in Riga, Latvia May 24, 2018. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins/File Photo
    WARSAW (Reuters) – Polish Nobel Peace Prize laureate Lech Walesa has urged the Catholic Church to prevent further sexual abuse of children by members of its clergy after a new documentary film showed his priest to be one of the accused.
    The film “Just don’t tell anyone,” which shows people confronting priests with accusations that they abused them as children, has attracted nearly 7 million views since it was posted on YouTube on Saturday.    It presents allegations that known pedophiles were shifted between parishes.
    One of the clergymen featured was Franciszek Cybula, who served as Walesa’s priest for 15 years – from 1980 when he co-founded the trade union Solidarnosc which helped bring about the fall of Communism, through to his becoming Poland’s first democratically elected president in 1990 and until his term ended in 1995.
    “It is sad for me that I found out that my chaplain, my confessor, was behaving so badly,” Walesa was quoted as saying by Polska The Times daily on Monday.
    Poland is one of Europe’s most devout countries and Catholic priests enjoy a high level of social prestige.    Nearly 85 percent of Poland’s 38 million-strong population identify as Roman Catholics and around 12 million attend mass every Sunday.
    But Poland has not escaped the sexual abuse scandals that have battered the Catholic Church’s reputation around the world along with accusations of senior clergy concealing or mismanaging cases.
    In March the Polish Catholic Church published a study saying that between 1990-2018, its officials received reports of sexual abuse by clergy of 625 children since 1950, over half of them aged 15 or younger.
    “The church is all of us, we should pray for priests, and the senior clergy – I repeat – must take action,” Walesa was quoted as saying.
    The documentary by director Tomasz Sekielski has reignited the debate about sexual abuse in the church just as Poland gears up for European Parliament elections on May 23-26.
    Election campaigns have been marked by a focus on religion and sexuality amid tensions between liberals who feel the church wields too much power in Poland and ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party, which considers the Catholic faith as a key element of national identity whose influence must be protected.
    PiS party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski promised harsher sentences for child abuse on Sunday.
    Walesa, 75, suggested the Church could carry out psychological tests of men wishing to enter priesthood in a bid to guard against abusers.
    Church authorities in Poland have yet to reach a consensus on how to address the issue of sexual abuse.
    An arm of the Church has filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court seeking to annul a 1 million zloty ($261,144.33) payment ordered by a lower court to a woman who, as a 13-year-old child, was repeatedly raped by her local priest.
    The case was a landmark ruling in granting compensation and an annuity to a victim of sexual abuse by a Catholic priest in Poland.
($1 = 3.8293 zlotys)
(Reporting by Marcin Goclowski; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

5/13/2019 And then there was light: Cardinal breaks law to restore power for homeless by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: Konrad Krajewski, seen in this November 15, 2013 photo at centre behind Pope Francis, has drawn the ire of
Italy's anti-immigrant interior minister by climbing down a manhole and breaking the law to restore electricity to hundreds
of homeless people living in an occupied building. He is now a cardinal and runs the Vatican office that distributes
the pope's charity funds. The picture was taken when he was an archbishop, at the Vatican. REUTERS/Tony Gentile/File Photo
    ROME (Reuters) – A close aide to Pope Francis has drawn the ire of Italy’s anti-immigrant Interior Minister Matteo Salvini by climbing down a manhole to restore electricity to hundreds of homeless people living in an occupied building.
    Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, 55, whose job is to distribute the pope’s charity funds, went to the disused state-owned building near a Rome cathedral on Saturday night and broke a police seal to re-connect electrical circuit breakers.
    To some, he was a hero of sorts by Monday morning as the news went viral. Rome’s left-leaning La Repubblica newspaper ran a banner headline calling him “The Pope’s Robin Hood” and praising him for doing the right thing under the circumstances.
    “What can I say?    It was a particularly desperate situation.    I repeat: I assume all the responsibility.    If a fine arrives, I’ll pay it,” Krajewski said in an interview in Corriere della Sera newspaper on Monday.
    The building has been occupied since 2013 by Italians who had lost their homes and migrants.    It houses some 450 people, including about 100 children.
    It had been without power since May 6 because some 300,000 euro in electricity bills had not been paid.
    “Defending illegality is never a good sign,” Salvini, who has often clashed with the pope on migration and other social issues, told reporters on Monday.
    “There are many Italians and even legal immigrants who pay their bills, even if with difficulty.    People can do what they please but as interior minister, I guarantee the rules.”
    Krajewski, who rides around Rome on a bicycle, said he would pay the building’s electricity bills from now on but that for him, the issue went beyond money.
    “There are children there.    The first thing to ask is ‘why are they there?    What is the reason?    How is it possible that families are in such a situation” he told Corriere.
    Krajewski, a Pole, was already a minor celebrity in Rome.    Since the pope named him to the Vatican charity job in 2013, he became known for dressing down into simple layman’s clothes at night and bringing food the city’s homeless in a white van.
    He was also responsible for opening shelters near the Vatican were the homeless can wash, get haircuts, and receive medical care.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

5/15/2019 Polish bishops to discuss child sex abuse as documentary spurs outrage
FILE PHOTO: A cross is seen near trees with mistletoe near the church in
Kalinowka, Poland November 25, 2018. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/File Photo
    WARSAW (Reuters) – Polish bishops will meet on May 22 to discuss steps to tackle paedophilia in Poland’s powerful Catholic Church after a documentary that showed victims confronting priests who had sexually abused them shocked the devout nation.
    The film “Just don’t tell anyone,” which has been watched by 14.8 million people since Youtube released it on Saturday, also alleges that the Polish Church moved known paedophile priests from parish to parish, as happened in other countries.
    Lawyers and journalists have called for the police to launch criminal investigations and the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, which has close links to the Church, announced plans on Tuesday to tighten sentences for child sex abuse.
    “The head of the Episcopate, Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, called yesterday an extraordinary meeting of top bishops – the meeting of the permanent council – to set out further actions aimed at protecting minors,” an Episcopate spokesman said.
    “This is connected with the (recent) paedophilia issue,” priest Pawel Rytel-Andrianik told Reuters.
    Primate Wojciech Polak, the most senior clergyman in Poland, told private Radio Zet on Wednesday he saw no need for any bishops to resign over the scandal but added that more had to be done to protect minors.
    The leftist opposition party Wiosna (Spring) accused the Church of trying to cover up sex abuse cases and said secular authorities should get directly involved.
    “We can’t expect the Church to clean up its own act, as if this were just its own affair… A number of bishops took part in this conspiracy of silence, in hiding these crimes,” Wiosna leader Robert Biedron told Radio Zet.
    “The state should guard the safety of children, youths, and the state has failed,” said Biedron, one of Poland’s first openly gay politicians.
    Biedron has called unsuccessfully for Polish state television to broadcast the documentary.    When his party tried to project the documentary onto a building next door to a church on Monday, police seized the projector and blocked the event.
    Child abuse scandals, some dating back many decades, have rocked the Catholic Church globally, eroding its authority in once devout nations from Ireland to Chile.    It has had to pay out billions of dollars in damages to victims and close parishes.
    The Church in Poland, where 85 percent of people identify themselves as Catholic and where a third of the population attends mass every week, has yet to reach a consensus on how to address the abuse issue.
    An arm of the Church has filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court seeking to annul a 1 million zloty ($260,000) payment ordered by a lower court to a woman who, as a 13-year-old child, was repeatedly raped by her local priest.
    The abuse scandals in the Church are a challenge to PiS as it gears up for European elections this month and national polls later this year.    PiS sees Catholicism as a key element of Polish identity while liberals say the Church wields too much power.
(Reporting by Marcin Goclowski; Editing by Gareth Jones)

5/15/2019 Ala. passes restrictive abortion bill by OAN Newsroom
    Lawmakers in Alabama recently voted to ban virtually all abortions in the state, setting up a likely challenge to Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court.    The decision permits abortions only when it’s necessary to save the mother’s life. There is no exception given to victims of rape or incest, which is putting it at odds with federal law.     This marks the most restrictive abortion bill passed in the U.S. The move was headed by Republican Governor Kay Ivey, who is expected to sign the bill.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
    Nonetheless, Democrats in the state are outraged with the state’s Senate minority leader, Bobby Singleton, voicing his displeasure with the legislation.
    “Well, you don’t care nothing about mothers of the state of Alabama, we don’t care nothing about whether men take advantage of women and rape them…and you still want them to have a child of that bad act…you just aborted the state of Alabama,” stated Singleton.
    Those who backed the law said they don’t expect the measure to go into effect.    Instead, they see it as a broader strategy to convince the Supreme Court to reconsider the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion nationwide.
[God will be watching this and hopefully Christians will pursue it in an anti-Christian world.].

5/15/2019 Texas state Senate to consider ‘Chick-fil-A bill’ by OAN Newsroom
    The Texas state Senate can still save the day for Chick-fil-A.    Republican state lawmakers are trying to protect the First Amendment rights of religious people, including religious businesses like Chick-fil-A.
    The state Senate is considering a bill, nicknamed the “Save Chick-fil-A” bill, this week after its sponsor, Senator Bryan Hughes, was able to promote it in the Committee on State Affairs Monday.
    “There have been disturbing stories that we’ve read about how folks are being punished just because they choose to contribute to a religious organization or an organization that shares their values and their beliefs,” Hughes explained.
    He introduced the measure back in March.    Since then, San Antonio’s City Council has voted to ban Chick-fil-A from the airport, and a university in Texas is trying to get it removed from campus.
A Chick-fil-A restaurant is pictured in NY. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
    Chick-fil-A is a restaurant that closes on Sundays, so its employees can have a day off to go to church or spend time with their families.    It is also open to which charities it donates to and is clear about its values.
    The state Senate version would not let governments, like city councils, use religion as a reason to deny anything from grants and contracts to jobs or scholarships.
    Over in the state House, however, the same bill got sent back to its Committee on State Affairs during its second reading.    This happened after a Democrat interrupted the bill’s sponsor before he could explain the measure.    She argued the measure had new language to include people who might not hold sincere religious beliefs.    The speaker overruled her after several minutes, but it did not end there.    She successfully objected to an analysis of the measure, saying it was not accurate.
    It is now up to the state Senate.    If the senators pass their bill, the House would have until May 21st to pass it and send it on to the desk of Governor Greg Abbott.    If the bill gets two-thirds of the votes from both the House and Senate, it could go into effect right away.    Otherwise, it would take effect on September 1st.

5/17/2019 Missouri Senate passes abortion bill by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri’s Republican-led Senate has passed a bill to ban abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy, acting only hours after Alabama’s governor signed a near-total abortion ban into law.
    The Missouri bill needs another vote of approval in the GOP-led House before it can go to Republican Gov. Mike Parson, who voiced support for an earlier version Wednesday.
    The legislation includes exceptions for medical emergencies, but not for pregnancies caused by rape or incest.    Doctors would face five to 15 years in prison for violating the eight-week cutoff.    Women who receive abortions wouldn’t be prosecuted.
    Republican Sen. Andrew Koenig described it on Thursday as “one of the strongest” abortion bills yet passed in the U.S.
    Missouri joins a movement of GOP dominated state legislatures emboldened by the possibility that a more conservative Supreme Court could overturn its landmark ruling legalizing the procedure.    Its senators voted only hours after Alabama’s governor signed the most stringent abortion ban in the nation on Wednesday.

5/17/2019 In first for Asia, Taiwan lawmakers back same-sex marriage by Yimou Lee
A same-sex marriage supporter holds rose to mourn those who committed suicide due to discrimination during a parliament vote on
three draft bills of a same-sex marriage law, outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei, Taiwan May 17, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan became the first place in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage on Friday, as thousands of demonstrators outside parliament cheered and waved rainbow flags, despite deep divisions over marriage equality.
    Lawmakers of the majority Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) backed the bill, which passed 66 to 27, although the measure could complicate President Tsai Ing-wen’s bid to win a second term in presidential elections next>     Demonstrators braved heavy rain outside parliament in Taipei, the capital, with some embracing tearfully as others hailed the vote with chants of “Asia’s first,” and “Way to go, Taiwan!
    The bill, which offers same-sex couples similar legal protections for marriage as heterosexuals, takes effect on May 24 after Tsai signs it into law.
    “Today is a proud day for Taiwan. We demonstrate the value of kindness and inclusiveness from this land to the world,” Tsai told reporters after the measure passed.
    “Through legalization, (we) ensure that everyone’s love is equal and everyone is treated equally,” added Tsai, who campaigned on a promise of marriage equality in the 2016 presidential election.
    The law, however, allows same-sex marriages only between Taiwanese, or with foreigners whose countries recognize same-sex marriage.    It permits adoption of children biologically related to at least one of the same-sex pair.
    The vote followed a years-long tussle over marriage equality that culminated in a 2017 declaration by the democratic island’s constitutional court giving same-sex couples the right to marry, and setting a deadline of May 24 for legislation.
    Taipei’s colorful gay pride parade, one of Asia’s largest, puts on display every year the vibrancy of the island’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
    “After 30 years of fighting, homosexuals can finally get married,” said 32-year-old musician Ken Chen, who was outside parliament watching the vote broadcast live.    “Many of us were in tears.”
    Rights group Amnesty International welcomed the end of a “long and arduous campaign.”
    “We hope this landmark vote will generate waves across Asia and offer a much-needed boost in the struggle for equality for LGBTI people in the region,” said Annie Huang, acting director of Amnesty International Taiwan.
    However, Friday’s measure could prove a hurdle for Tsai’s effort to seek a second term in a January election, after a DPP poll defeat last year was blamed partly on criticism of her reform agenda, including marriage equality.
    Late last year, Taiwan voters opposed same-sex marriage in a series of referendums, defining marriage as being between a man and a woman in civil law, though seeking a special law for same-sex unions.
    Conservative groups that oppose same-sex marriage said the legislation disrespected the people’s will.
    The will of some seven million people in the referendum has been trampled,” one group, the Coalition for the Happiness of Our Next Generation said in a statement.    “The massive public will strike back in 2020.”
    Australia passed laws allowing same-sex marriage in 2017, but such unions are not recognized by Hong Kong and neighboring China, which regards Taiwan as a wayward province to be returned to the fold by force, if necessary.
(Reporting by Yimou Lee, I-Hwa Cheng and Taipei newsroom; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and James Pomfret)

5/17/2019 Christians seek refuge after deadly Burkina attacks by Thiam Ndiaga
Catholic nuns attend a church service at the cathedral of Our Lady of Kaya in the city of Kaya, Burkina Faso May 16, 2019. REUTERS/Anne Mimault
    KAYA, Burkina Faso (Reuters) – Concerned about a rise in violence against Christians in Burkina Faso, Pastor Jacques Ouedraogo changed the time of his Sunday service as a precaution. He believes this is what saved his life.
    Later, his church was one of two targeted by gunmen on May 12 in the town of Dablo in a series of deadly attacks on churches and a religious procession in the last two weeks in Burkina’s formerly peaceful Central North region.I could have been one of the martyrs who fell on Sunday,” said the priest.
    “We’ve told ourselves our turn will come.    Today Christians are potential targets.    We’re all scared.”
    In the wake of Sunday’s bloodshed, he and hundreds of residents fled Dablo.    The town had previously served as a safe haven for some of the thousands displaced by violence in the country’s northern Sahel region, which has become a stronghold for militant groups with links to Islamic State and al Qaeda.
    Around 90 kilometers south of Dablo, the city of Kaya has become a refuge for those newly displaced, including a farmer, who asked to be identified by the name Te Wende.    Along with his wife, mother, grandmother and two children, he was warned by neighbors to flee.
    “When the shooting started, they called us straight away and told us to run far away,” he said.
    “We don’t know where they came from or what they really wanted,” he said.
    On Thursday, the United Nations warned that the Central North region had become the new epicenter for attacks.
    The recent targeting of churches threatens to upend traditionally peaceful relations between the Muslim majority and Christians, who make up a quarter of Burkinabes.
    “I call on Christians not to panic and not to yield to the temptation of vengeance, because that could be blind,” the Bishop of Kaya, Theophile Nare, said at a meeting of bishops in the capital on Friday.
    The first church attack occurred in late April, when gunmen killed a Protestant pastor and five congregants.
    Subsequently, a Catholic priest and five parishioners were killed in the Dablo attack and a further four Catholics died in an attack on Tuesday.
    No one has claimed responsibility, but the Burkinabe government has blamed “terrorist groups … attacking religion with the macabre aim of dividing us.”     Violent attacks linked to the strengthening jihadist insurgency have surged this year in Burkina as well as across the broader Sahel region, an arid expanse of scrubland just south of the Sahara desert.
    Militants have also worked to sow ethnic tensions between farming and herding communities in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger in order to boost recruitment among marginalized communities.
    On Thursday, Islamic State’s West African branch claimed responsibility for an ambush that killed 28 soldiers this week in Niger, one of the deadliest attacks against the military in Niger’s west in recent years.
(Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Toby Chopra)

5/18/2019 Pope pays tribute journalists killed; says press freedom vital by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis attends a meeting with the members of Italian Foreign Press Association at Clementine Hall
at the Vatican, May 18, 2019. Vatican Media/¬Handout via REUTERS
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis paid tribute on Saturday to journalists killed while doing their jobs, saying media freedom is a key indicator of a country’s health.
    In an address to the Foreign Press Association in Italy, he urged journalists to shun fake news and continue reporting on the plight of people who no longer make headlines but are still suffering, specifically mentioning the Rohingya and Yazidi.
    “I listened in pain to the statistics about your colleagues killed while carrying out their work with courage and dedication in so many countries to report on what is happening in wars and other dramatic situations in which so many of our brothers and sisters in the world live,” he said.
    Francis had just heard the association’s president, Patricia Thomas of Associated Press Television, talk about journalists killed, imprisoned, wounded or threatened in their line of work.
    She mentioned Lyra Mckee, who was shot dead while covering a riot in Northern Ireland, Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who died in a car bomb in 2017, and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last year.
    “Freedom of the press and of expression is an important indicator of the state of a country’s health,” the pope said.    “Let’s not forget that one of the first things dictatorships do is remove freedom of the press or mask it, not leaving it free.”
    Francis did not mention any countries in his address to about 400 members of the foreign media and their families.
    “We need journalists who are on the side of victims, on the side of those who are persecuted, on the side of who is excluded, cast aside, discriminated against,” he said.
    In an apparent reference to the media’s role in investigating the Roman Catholic Church’s sexual abuse crisis, Francis said: “The Church holds you in esteem, also when you put your finger in a wound, even if the wound is in the Church community.”
    Francis urged the media to not lose interest in tragedies even when they no longer make headlines.
    “Who is talking about the Rohingya today?    Who is talking about the Yazidi today?    They have been forgotten and they continue to suffer,” he said.
    Nearly one million Rohingya Muslims from mostly Buddhist Myanmar have fled to Bangladesh, most following a Myanmar military-led crackdown in 2017 that U.N. investigators have said was conducted with “genocidal intent.”    Myanmar has denied almost all allegations of atrocities.
    Two Reuters journalists jailed in Myanmar after they were convicted of breaking the Official Secrets Act walked free from prison earlier this month after more than 500 days behind bars.
    Reuters has said the two men did not commit any crime and had called for their release.    They were released under a presidential amnesty for 6,520 prisoners.
    Islamic State militants in Iraq shot, beheaded, burned alive or kidnapped more than 9,000 members of the minority Yazidi religion, in what the United Nations has called a genocidal campaign against them.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian)

5/21/2019 Polish towns go ‘LGBT free’ ahead of bitter European election campaign by Marcin Goclowski and Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk
FILE PHOTO: Supporters take part in a "Poland in Europe" march organised by European Coalition parties, ahead of EU parliament election,
in Warsaw, Poland May 18, 2019. A placard reads: "Marriages, adoption, rights LGBT+." REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/File Photo
    SWIDNIK, Poland (Reuters) – Teresa Drzewiecka grew up during World War Two, when German and Soviet troops battled for control of her town of Swidnik in eastern Poland.
    Now 83, she sees another threat to her country’s survival: lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.     “Let children have a father and a mother, not such deviations,” said Drzewiecka, resting on a bench in a Swidnik park.    “Otherwise there will be fewer and fewer children, and Poland will shrink.”
    In March, her local council in Swidnik passed a motion to reject what it viewed as the spread of “LGBT ideology” in homes, schools and workplaces.    A handful of other areas, mostly in conservative rural Poland, have issued similar statements.
    Views that are offensive or illegal in many European countries have been widely aired in Poland ahead of the European Parliament elections, where LGBT rights are a hot-button issue.
    In a bitter campaign, the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party has depicted such rights as dangerous foreign ideas that undermine traditional values in Poland, a staunchly Catholic country.
    Another PiS target has been a new sex education program, based on World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, due to be introduced to schools in the capital Warsaw, a bastion of liberalism run by the opposition Civic Platform party.
    Some PiS politicians have publicly denounced the program, claiming it will sexualize children.
    PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski has urged Poles to vote for what he calls “the only party that gives a 100% guarantee that our values will be protected.”
    LGBT rights and WHO standards constitute foreign values that pose “a real threat to our identity, to our nation,” he has said.
    Analysts say that PiS hopes to re-energize its mainly rural base by vowing to push back against Western liberalism.
    With turnout in European elections typically lowest in PiS’s rural strongholds, the party needs to persuade more people to vote, especially as some polls show it running neck and neck with a rival pro-European coalition.
    While divisive, the campaign seems to have got voters’ attention.
Marcin Duma, CEO of Warsaw-based pollster IBRIS, said its survey published on May 19 suggested the turnout could be around 40% – unprecedented in a country where barely a quarter of the electorate usually vote in European elections.
    The result of the upcoming polls matter because PiS and Civic Platform see it impacting on a general election due in October or November.
    PiS took power in 2015 and remains popular, thanks to generous welfare payouts, low unemployment and nationalist rhetoric.
    Some observers see parallels with the party’s 2015 campaign, when it deployed anti-immigrant rhetoric.
    PiS needs an enemy, someone to fight against, someone they can use to raise fear,” said Bartosz Staszewski, an LGBT activist.    “Before, it was immigrants.    This time it’s LGBT people.”
    Staszewski said anti-LGBT declarations by Swidnik and other councils were not legally binding, but nevertheless had a chilling effect.
    “How are LGBT people, particularly the young, supposed to feel … when they hear that the regional council or local government are against them?” he said.
    Last year, Staszewski organized an “equality” march in the nearby city of Lublin.        Participants were hounded by hundreds of aggressive men who were dispersed by riot police firing tear gas.
    In February, Warsaw mayor Rafal Trzaskowski signed a pro-LGBT declaration that included a promise to launch a school education program along WHO guidelines.
    Swidnik councillor Radoslaw Brzozka said his town issued its anti-LGBT statement in response to Warsaw’s declaration, which he said was “against good moral values.”
    A survey by CBOS, Poland’s state polling agency, in April suggested that a majority of Poles disapprove of Warsaw’s stance on LGBT rights.    Most of those polled said sex education should start at age 10 or later.
    But other CBOS polls show that people in Poland are slowly growing more tolerant.    In a 2017 survey, 24 percent of respondents said being gay wasn’t normal and shouldn’t be tolerated compared to 41 percent in 2001; and 16 percent said in 2017 that being gay was normal compared to 5 percent in 2001.
    Even in Swidnik, not everyone approves of the council’s hard line stance.
    “There’s no need to introduce such an anti-LGBT resolution,” said Franciszek Mosakowski, 71.    “There should be a place for everyone here.”
(Writing by Andrew RC Marshall; Editing by Carmel Crimmins)

5/21/2019 Suspicious financial activity at Vatican reaches six-year low: watchdog by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis delivers his "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world) message from the balcony
overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican December 25, 2016. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi/File Photo
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Reports of suspicious financial activity in the Vatican reached a six-year low in 2018, an internal watchdog report showed on Tuesday, continuing a trend officials said showed reforms were fully embedded.
    The annual report by the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority (AIF) also showed that Vatican’s cooperation with international financial regulators to fight fraud and money laundering had increased nearly six-fold in the same period.
.     “I think it’s fair to say that a fully functioning system has been implemented and achieved,” Rene Bruelhart, a Swiss lawyer and anti-money laundering expert who has headed the AIF since 2014, told a news conference.
    The report showed that 56 Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) were filed with the authority in 2018, down from a peak of 544 in 2015.
    Eleven were passed on to the Vatican’s investigating magistrate.    They involved suspicion of international fraud, fiscal fraud or market abuse.
    The trial of a former head of the Vatican bank and an Italian lawyer on charges of money laundering and embezzlement began last year and is still in progress.
    For decades before reforms were implemented, the bank, officially known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), was embroiled in numerous financial scandals as Italians with no right to have accounts opened them with the complicity of corrupt insiders.
    Pope Francis, who has made cleaning up Vatican finances a priority and given Bruelhart wide powers, considered closing the IOR when he was elected in 2013.
    Hundreds of accounts have been closed at the IOR, whose stated purpose is to manage funds for the Church, Vatican employees, religious institutes, or Catholic charities.
    Asked about resistance to change, Bruelhart, in an apparent reference to the pope’s backing, said: “The support on the political level from superiors has been tremendous, otherwise it would not have been possible to bring these reforms forward in such a short period of time, especially from a Vatican perspective.”
    The AIF carried out an on-site inspection of IOR in 2018 to see it was complying with anti-money laundering legislation and the outcome was “substantially positive,” the report said.
    In 2017, Italy put the Vatican on its “white list” of states with cooperative financial institutions, ending years of mistrust.    The same year, Moneyval, a monitoring body of the Council of Europe, gave Vatican reforms a mostly positive evaluation.
    Not everything is rosy in the Vatican’s financial departments, however.
    Its economy minister, Cardinal George Pell, was found guilty of sexual abuse of minors in his native Australia in February and the post is vacant.    Pell denies all wrongdoing.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella, editing by Ed Osmond)

5/22/2019 Pope denounces ‘hardships and trials’ facing Catholics in China by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis greets people as he arrives for the general audience in the Vatican, May 22, 2019. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis paid tribute on Wednesday to Chinese Catholics for holding on to their faith despite “hardships and trials,” an apparent reference to Beijing’s restrictions on religion.
    His comments to tens of thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly general audience came as the Vatican and China are still in the implementation phase of a landmark deal, signed last September, on the appointment of bishops.
    The deal has split Catholics in China and around the world, with some critics of the pope saying he has caved in to the Communist government.    The deal’s most outspoken critic has been Cardinal Joseph Zen, the former archbishop of Hong Kong.
    Francis noted that this Friday would mark a feast day particularly celebrated by Catholics at the shrine of Our Lady of Sheshan, near Shanghai.
    “This happy occasion allows me to express special closeness and affection to all the Catholics in China, who, among daily hardships and trials, continue to believe, to hope and to love,” he said.
    Francis also urged Catholics in China to “always remain united in communion with the universal Church.”
    China’s constitution guarantees religious freedom, but since President Xi Jinping took office six years ago, the government has tightened restrictions on religions seen as a challenge to the authority of the ruling Communist Party.
    The government has cracked down on underground churches, both Protestant and Catholic, even as it seeks to improve relations with the Vatican.
    China has been following a policy it calls the “Sinicisation” of religion, trying to root out foreign influences and enforce obedience to the Communist Party.
    Restrictions on religion in China have attracted particular concern in the United States.    In March, during a visit to Hong Kong, the U.S. ambassador for religious freedom called on Beijing to end religious persecution.
    Also in March, a senior Chinese official accused Western forces of trying to use Christianity to influence China’s society and even “subvert” the government, warning that Chinese Christians needed to follow a Chinese model of the religion.
    The pope has defended the Vatican deal with China on the appointment of bishops, saying he, and not the Beijing government, will have the final say on who is named.
    China’s approximately 12 million Catholics have been split between an underground church swearing loyalty to the Vatican and the state-supervised Catholic Patriotic Association.
    The Vatican has said the absence of a deal could have led to a schism between Chinese Catholics that would have been difficult to heal.
(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Gareth Jones)

5/22/2019 Calif. using abortion to sway filmmakers away from states passing pro-life measures by OAN Newsroom
    Lawmakers in California’s capitol appear to be using the political issue of abortion rights to hand out tax breaks to the film industry.    They are trying to reward production companies that abandon states they are filming in if that state is considering or passed pro-life legislation.
    Their bill titled “Share Our Values Tax Credit” is moving forward after it was passed by the State Assembly at the end of April. On Monday, it was sent to the state Senate’s Transportation Committee.
Demonstrators gather on a freeway overpass during a rally in support of abortion rights,
Tuesday, May 21, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
    States that could be affected include Georgia and Alabama among others.    Some actors and production companies have already threatened to boycott Georgia for its ‘heartbeat bill,’ which was signed into law by Governor Brian Kemp.    Alabama’s bill was criticized for not having exceptions for rape or incest.
    Actress Andie MacDowell, who is from Alabama, was asked about the legislation in an interview Monday.    The actress said while she tries to avoid the subject, she does believe there should be an exception for underage rape victims.
    “I think it’s okay to believe what you believe and if it’s religious related…then you shouldn’t do it, but you should not force parents to make that decision for their child,” she stated.
    Other celebrities took to Twitter to protest, including Lady Gaga, Reese Witherspoon and Barbara Streisand, after Alabama’s Governor Kay Ivey signed the bill banning almost all abortions.
    If California passes its bill, the tax breaks would go into effect in January.

5/24/2019 Taiwan celebrates Asia’s first same-sex marriages as couples tie knot by Yimou Lee
Gay newlyweds walk on a giant rainbow flag at a pro same-sex marriage party after
registering their marriage in Taipei, Taiwan May 24, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    TAIPEI (Reuters) – Same-sex couples tied the knot in emotional scenes in Taiwan on Friday, the first legal marriages in Asia hailed by activists as a social revolution for the region.
    Taiwan’s parliament passed a bill last week that endorsed same-sex marriage, although the measure could complicate President Tsai Ing-wen’s bid for re-election next year.
    More than 360 same-sex couples married on Friday, according to government data, after years of heated debate over marriage equality that has divided the self-ruled and democratic island.
    Twenty couples queued at a marriage registration office in downtown Taipei, where rainbow flags were on display alongside stacks of government-issued, rainbow-themed registration forms.
    “I feel very lucky that I can say this out loud to everyone: I am gay and I am getting married,” said Shane Lin, a 31-year-old baker who with his partner were the first couple to register in the Taipei office.
    “I am extremely proud of my country Taiwan,” said a tearful Lin.
    The euphoria and emotion within the island’s gay community was on display as newly-wed couples walked down a rainbow-colored carpet in a nearby park, watched by families and friends as well as diplomats and reporters.
    Chi Chia-wei, an activist who brought a case to Taiwan’s constitutional court that led to a landmark court ruling on same-sex marriage in 2017, congratulated the couples.
    “This is the right that we deserved from a long time ago,” he said, draped in a giant rainbow flag that symbolizes the colors of the international gay movement.
    “As a beacon in Asia, I hope Taiwan’s democracy and human rights could have a ripple effect on other countries in Asia,” he added.
    Supporters also celebrated on social media, sharing posts with rainbow colors.
    Friday’s celebration followed a years-long tussle over marriage equality that culminated in the 2017 declaration by the constitutional court giving same-sex couples the right to marry, and setting a deadline of May 24 for legislation.
    Marriage equality was backed by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), but the measure could complicate President Tsai’s bid for a second term in elections next year.
    Conservative groups that oppose same-sex marriage said the legislation disrespected the people’s will.
    America’s de facto embassy in Taiwan called the island’s quest for equality “an inspiring journey and an example for the entire world.”
    “Only in a democracy such as Taiwan’s can human rights and civil rights be protected and nurtured,” the American Institute in Taiwan wrote on its Facebook page.
    Same-sex marriage is not recognized by Hong Kong and neighboring China, which regards Taiwan as a wayward province to be returned to the fold by force, if necessary.
    It marks another milestone in Taiwan’s development as one of the region’s more liberal societies, in contrast with China’s strongly autocratic government.
    Across the strait, many Chinese congratulated Taiwan’s newlywed same-sex couples on platforms such as Weibo, China’s version of Twitter.
    “For once I thought the legalization of same-sex marriage in Taiwan would impact on the Chinese government, making them heed our appeals,” one Weibo user said.
    “But then I found the shock actually makes the government more scared, stepping up their crackdown on us.”
(Reporting By Yimou Lee; additional reporting by Lusha Zhang in BEIJING; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree and Darren Schuettler)

5/24/2019 Pope names women to key Vatican department for first time by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis leads the opening of the Italian Episcopal Conference at the Vatican, May 20, 2019. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis appointed women on Friday to a key Vatican department for the first time since it was founded more than 50 years ago, a move welcomed by Catholic women’s groups as a significant advance.
    Three nuns and one lay woman were appointed councillors in the office of synods, which prepares major meetings of world bishops held every few years on a different topic.
    Pope Paul VI founded the Synod of Bishops in 1965 as a body to advise popes.    A Vatican spokesman said they were the first women members in its history.
    Two of the four are Italian – Sister Alessandra Smerilli, an economics professor, and Cecilia Costa, a sociology professor.    The others are Sister Maria Luisa Berzosa Gonzalez of Spain and Sister Nathalie Becquart of France.
    “It is great news because until now there were no structures for women to have an influence on synods while they are being prepared,” said Zuzanna Fliosowska, general manager of Voices of Faith, an international advocacy group that promotes a greater role for women in the Church.
    More than half of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics are women and the membership of female religious orders is about three times larger than that of male orders.
    Women’s rights was a recurring theme at a month-long synod of bishops at the Vatican last October on the topic of young Christians.
    As in all synods so far, only “synod fathers,” including bishops and specially appointed or elected male representatives, could vote on final documents sent to the pope.
    Two “brothers” – lay men who are not ordained – voted in their capacity as superiors general of their religious orders but an American nun with the same rank could not.
    More than 10,000 people signed a petition demanding that women get the vote at future synods.
    “We hope this is a first step toward women delegates getting the vote in the next synod,” Fliosowska told Reuters.
    The International Union of Superiors General (UISG), an umbrella group of Catholic nuns whose leaders have been pushing for women’s vote, also welcomed the surprise appointments.
    “With these positions, they will be able to help make decisions and not just be invited observers at meetings,” USIG spokeswoman Patrizia Morgante said.
    The next synod, scheduled for Oct. 6-27, will discuss the needs of the Church in the vast Amazon region, including how to deal with an extreme shortage of priests.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Susan Fenton)
[I am sure that the Pope has his pet projects to restore the Catholic religion image, but all around him the world is promoting what the Bible called Sodom and Gomorrah, which the God of Abram destroyed for what has been going on all around the Pope and even inside his walls, and on the news, and not a word from him of what God's word says.    So who is the Scarlet Woman that has gave in to the world's new wave and will continue riding on the beast for protection until the day when its time is up?].

5/24/2019 Far-right Vox challenges Spain’s acceptance of LGBT rights by Belén Carreño
FILE PHOTO: Santiago Abascal, leader of far-right party VOX, attends the first session of parliament
following a general election in Madrid, Spain, May 21, 2019. Bernat Armangue/File Photo
    MADRID (Reuters) – Attacks by the far-right Vox party on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights are testing years of political consensus on the issue in Spain, which in 2005 became only the third country in the world to allow same-sex marriage.
    In the campaign for this Sunday’s local, regional and EU elections, Vox has pledged to curtail gay pride parades, heaped ridicule on diversity lessons it wants to scrap in schools and has even drawn parallels between homosexuality and bestiality.
    The nationalist, anti-immigration Vox won about 10 percent of the votes in a national election last month to become the first far-right party with a significant number of lawmakers since the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.
    It now hopes to enhance its clout in Sunday’s new batch of elections, and in its hunt for votes has shifted the focus of its attacks away from Catalonia’s independence drive and on to the LGBT community.
    Since the 2005 approval of the same-sex marriage bill by the parties of the left, center-left and center-right, even the main conservative People’s Party (PP) which vehemently opposed it has changed tack, approving various bills in defense of LGBT rights.    Some of its politicians have come out as gay and married their partners.
    “Vox has broken the consensus,” said Ruben Lopez, head of the Observatory for anti-LGBTphobia in Madrid.    “Those intolerant (of the LGBT community) had lacked a voice that would represent them.    Vox is seizing those votes.”
    Vox leader Santiago Abascal has said it supports same-sex civil unions but not marriage, and is against LGBT activism even though he said it has “many gays and lesbians” in its ranks.    Vox’s one senator made his debut in the upper house of parliament in February by blocking a motion against homophobia in sport.
    The Vox candidate for the Madrid regional leadership Rocio Monasterio said on Wednesday that school children as young as eight were being encouraged in class in publicly-funded schools “for boys to try being girls … and talk about zoophilia,” or a sexual interest in animals.
    “Certain laws of ideological nature are … imposing gender ideology on our kids,” she said.
    Regional authorities said no classes of the sort described by Monasterio existed.    LGBT rights group Arcopolis, which holds workshops at the region’s schools, said its brochures and classes are aimed at preventing hatred of LGBT people and suppression of one’s sexual orientation by schools and families.
    A strong result for Vox at a regional level could place a question mark over educational programs such as Madrid’s that have been run by various regions over the past few years.
    The Vox candidate for the Madrid city mayorship, Javier Ortega Smith, said earlier this month he would move the Madrid Gay Pride Parade to a park in the suburbs from the center “because they cause problems and traffic jams,” and make organizers pay to clean up afterwards.
    LGBT activists called the comments insulting.
    Its anti-LGBT and anti-feminism rhetoric puts Vox closer to the ruling right-wing parties in Poland than to most western European countries, such as France or Holland, where rightist populists have courted LGBT voters by saying they want to protect them from any threats from radical Islamists.
    Whether Vox’s tactic pays off remains to be seen.    But some have joined the party because of it.
    Vicente Robisco, the mayor of a small village, says he left People’s Party for Vox. “Hearing in the news that PP supported kids studying the LGBT community at school made me take the decision right away,” Robisco, 79, told Reuters when asked why he had switched parties.
    But some potential voters were less impressed.
    “On this, I’m a little against it because I believe that you have to respect gays, lesbians and all this, everyone has the right to be free and decide how they want to be,” said Alejandra Parres, 35, who works in an investment firm, adding that the Gay Pride parade in central Madrid was good for tourism.
(Writing By Andrei Khalip, Editing by Ingrid Melander and William Maclean)

5/24/2019 Kenya’s high court unanimously upholds ban on gay sex by John Ndiso
LGBT activists gather for the ruling on whether to uphold or nullify law banning gay sex,
outside the Milimani high Court in Nairobi, Kenya May 24, 2019. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
    NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenya’s high court on Friday upheld a law banning gay sex, keeping same sex relations punishable by 14 years in jail in the East African nation and drawing strong criticism from the United Nations and rights activists.
    Same-sex relationships are a crime in more than 70 countries around the world, almost half of them in Africa.    Neighboring Uganda once enacted a law imposing a life sentence for certain acts of gay sex although it was later nullified by court.
    South Africa is the only African nation to have legalized gay marriage.
    “We hereby decline the relief sought and dismiss the combined petition,” Justice Roselyn Aburili told a packed courtroom in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, relaying the unanimous opinion of the three-justice panel.
    “We find that the impugned sections are not unconstitutional, accordingly the combined petitions have no merit.”
    Some gay rights activists wept outside the courtroom after the verdict while supporters of the ban clapped, congratulated each other and yelled “thank you” at the judges’ bench.
    Other people backing the ban held placards outside the court with messages, including “homosexuality is an abomination.”
    Campaigners who filed the petition to decriminalize gay sex argued that the law violated Kenya’s 2010 constitution, which guarantees equality, dignity and privacy for all citizens.
    “We will appeal. We expect that the court of appeal will overturn this erroneous decision which in our view is very biased,” said Eric Gitari, one of the petitioners.
    The justices, who began hearing the case last year, threw out the petition on the grounds that gay sex clashed with broader, traditional moral values encapsulated in Kenya’s constitution.
    Aburili said the constitution still outlaws same-sex marriage but that allowing gay sex would “open the door for same sex unions.”     We cannot be another Sodom and Gomorrah,” Alfred Rotich, a Catholic bishop, told Reuters at the court after the verdict.
    In September last year, India’s top court scrapped a similar colonial-era law that punished gay sex with up to 10 years in jail, raising hopes among activists worldwide, including in Africa, for similar reforms.
    New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW)’s senior LGBT rights researcher, Neela Ghoshal, said the Nairobi court verdict reduced Kenya’s gay people to “second-class citizenship.”
    “Rights cannot be trampled upon in the name of social disapproval.    The Court of Appeal should revisit this ruling urgently,” she said.
    U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said the ruling “encourages hostility and even violence against LGBT individuals.”
    Due to a lack of legal protection, rights campaigners in Kenya say sexual minorities are routinely abused, assaulted by mobs, raped by vigilantes or enslaved by criminals.
    Kenya arrested 534 people for same-sex relationships between 2013 and 2017, according to the government.
    The National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, one of the petitioners against the law, has recorded more than 1,500 such attacks against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Kenyans since 2014.
    Christian and Muslim groups support the law and the attorney general has argued that decriminalizing gay sex could lead to legalizing same-sex marriage.
    President Uhuru Kenyatta has said “gay rights is really a non-issue,” while Deputy President William Ruto said Kenya had “no room” for gays.    Legislator Aden Duale once told parliament that homosexuality was “as serious as terrorism.”
(Reporting by John Ndiso; Writing by Elias Biryabarema and Maggie Fick; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

5/25/2019 Transgender health protections targeted - Move fits with previous
administration actions by Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar ASSOCIATED PRESS
    WASHINGTON – The Trump administration proposed revoking Obama-era discrimination protections for transgender people in health care on Friday, a move LGBT groups fear will result in some Americans being denied needed medical treatment.
    The Health and Human Services Department released a proposed regulation that in effect says “gender identity” is not protected under federal laws that prohibit sex discrimination in health care.     “The actions today are part and parcel of this administration’s efforts to erase LGBTQ people from federal regulations and to undermine nondiscrimination protections across the board,” said Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, a senior attorney on health care at Lambda Legal, a civil rights organization representing LGBT people.
    But the HHS official overseeing the writing of the new regulation said transgender patients would continue to be protected by other federal laws that bar discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age and disability.
    “Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect,” said Roger Severino, who heads the HHS Office for Civil Rights.    “We intend to fully enforce federal laws that prohibit discrimination.”
    Asked about the charge that the administration has opened the door to discrimination against transgender people seeking medical care Severino responded, “I don’t want to see that happen.”
    The Trump administration’s proposed rule reverses the Obama administration, which concluded that the Affordable Care Act’s anti-discrimination section does indeed protect transgender people seeking health care services.
    Friday’s action had been expected by activists on both sides of the nation’s social issues divide.    Trump’s religious conservative base has argued that the Obama administration stretched the meaning of “sex discrimination” when it included gender identity as a protected class.    Civil rights and LGBT groups say that view is logically and legally flawed.
    The proposed rule change is unlikely to have immediate consequences beyond the realm of political and legal debate.    It faces a 60-day comment period and another layer of review before it can be finalized.    Court challenges are expected.
    “Despite the goals of this White House … courts have been clear for decades that prohibitions on sex discrimination encompass discrimination against transgender individuals,” said Louise Melling, deputy legal director with the American Civil Liberties Union.    Her organization, she added, will challenge the proposal in court.
President Donald Trump’s administration’s proposed rule reverses Obama-era
protections for transgender people in health care. ANDREW HARNIK/AP

5/25/2019 Missouri governor signs abortion bill by Summer Ballentine, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri Gov. Mike Parson on Friday signed a bill that bans abortions at or beyond the eighth week of pregnancy without exceptions for cases of rape or incest, making it among the most restrictive abortion policies in the nation.
    Under the law that comes into force Aug. 28, doctors who violate the eight week cutoff could face five to 15 years in prison. Women who terminate their pregnancies cannot be prosecuted. A legal challenge is expected, although it’s unclear when that might occur.
    The measure includes exceptions for medical emergencies, such as when there is a risk of death or permanent physical injuries to “a major bodily function of the pregnant woman.”    But the lack of exceptions for women who find themselves pregnant after being raped or subjected to incest has drawn criticism, including from GOP donor David Humphreys, a Missouri businessman, who had urged the Republican governor to veto the bill.
    The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri said it was exploring “all options, including litigation, to block the law from going into effect.”

5/26/2019 Pope says abortion is never OK, equates it to ‘hiring a hitman’
    VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis said Saturday that abortion can never be condoned, even when the fetus is gravely sick or likely to die.    Speaking to a Vatican- sponsored anti-abortion conference, Francis said the opposition to abortion isn’t a religious issue but a human one.    “Is it licit to throw away a life to resolve a problem?” he asked.    “Is it licit to hire a hitman to resolve a problem?” Francis denounced decisions to abort based on prenatal testing, saying a human being is “never incompatible with life.”
[I have no proof that the Pope is against abortion since he classified it as a human issue not a religious one, as well as all the Sodom and Gommorah LBGT, etc., and Christians being killed as going on in the world and the Scarlet Woman influx.].

5/28/2019 Pope denies prior knowledge of now expelled U.S. cardinal McCarrick’s sexual misconduct by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick arrives for a meeting at the Synod Hall in the
Vatican March 4, 2013. Picture taken March 4, 2013. REUTERS/Max Rossi/File Photo
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis has denied he knew about sexual misconduct by former U.S. cardinal Theodore McCarrick before the start of Church investigations that found him guilty.
    McCarrick, once one of the most powerful men in the U.S. Catholic hierarchy, was expelled from the Roman Catholic priesthood in February after he was found guilty of sexual crimes against minors and adults.
    “I knew nothing about McCarrick, naturally nothing,” Francis said in an interview with Mexico’s Televisa broadcaster which was published in Vatican media on Tuesday.    “Otherwise, I would not have remained silent.”
    Last August, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano issued a bombshell statement accusing a long list of current and past Vatican and Church officials in the United States of covering up for McCarrick, 88, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C.
    Vigano, a former Vatican ambassador in Washington, said he told Francis shortly after his election in 2013 that McCarrick had preyed on adult seminarians for years.
    Vigano claimed that Francis disregarded the information and effectively rehabilitated McCarrick, who had been quietly sanctioned by Francis predecessor, former Pope Benedict XVI, five years before Francis’ election in 2013.
    Francis says he “does not remember” Vigano ever telling him.
    The interview with the pope was published on the same day that Monsignor Anthony Figueiredo, McCarrick’s former priest-secretary, posted a document on the internet with excerpts of emails and letters between him and McCarrick.
    They showed that the Vatican never made the sanctions public and that high-ranking Vatican officials looked the other way as McCarrick openly flouted restrictions that had ordered him to keep a low profile.
    Figueiredo’s document was first reported by the Crux website and CBS.
    McCarrick has said he has no recollection of abusing minors decades ago but has not commented publicly on the allegations of misconduct with adults by coercing them to share his bed, which was an open secret in the U.S. Church.
    Francis ordered a “thorough study” last year of all documents in Holy See offices concerning McCarrick and four U.S. dioceses where he served have launched independent investigations.
    In the excerpts of emails published by Figueiredo, currently a priest in Newark, New Jersey, McCarrick acknowledges “an unfortunate lack of judgment” with adult seminarians in their 20s and 30s but denies that there was any sex involved.
    “I have never had sexual relations with anyone, man, woman or child, nor have I ever sought such acts,” McCarrick says in a 2008 letter to a Vatican official.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; editing by Grant McCool)

. 5/28/2019 Pope says he would confront Trump directly on border wall by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis conducts a mass at Santa Marta chapel at the Vatican May 28, 2019. Vatican Media/Handout via REUTERS
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis said he was willing to tell U.S. President Donald Trump in person that it is wrong to build border walls and appeared to warn him not to resume a policy of separating families.
    In a wide-ranging television interview with Mexico’s Televisa aired on Tuesday, the pope also shrugged off criticism from ultra-conservative Roman Catholics who call him a heretic.
    Francis, who has clashed with Trump before on migration issues, discussed the situation at the U.S.-Mexican border with veteran Vatican reporter Valentina Alazraki, who is Mexican.
    “I don’t know what’s happening with this new culture of defending territories by building walls.    We already knew one, that (one) in Berlin, which brought so many headaches and so much suffering,” he said.
    “Separating children from their parents goes against natural law, and those Christians … you can’t do it.    It is cruel.    It is among the greatest of cruelties.    And to defend what?    Territory, or the economy of a country or who knows what,” he said, adding that such policies were “very sad.”
    Asked if he would tell Trump the same thing to his face if the president were sitting opposite him instead of the reporter, Francis said: “The same.    The same because I say it publicly … I have even said that those who build walls end up being prisoners of the walls they build.”
    Trump, who met the pope at the Vatican in 2017, has said the wall is needed to address a crisis of drugs and crime flowing across the border into the United States and has clashed with the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives and some judges on how to fund it.
    Last year, Pope Francis criticized the Trump administration policy of separating children from parents who had illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border, a policy Trump later reversed after a widespread outcry.
    Last month, Trump denied media reports that his administration was considering reinstating the policy.
    No further meeting between Trump and the pope is planned.
    Francis was also asked about a group of ultra-conservatives who earlier this month began a signature campaign urging bishops to denounce him as a heretic over a range of topics from communion for the divorced to religious diversity.
    Francis said he did not feel hurt and took it “with a sense of humor,” adding, “I pray for them because they are wrong, and, poor people, some of them are being manipulated.”
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

5/29/2019 Supreme Court OKs Indiana law on fetal remains - Justices turn back abortion ban tied to sex, race, disability by Richard Wolf, USA TODAY
    WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court upheld an Indiana law Tuesday that requires the burial or cremation of fetal remains after an abortion, but the justices refused to consider the state’s effort to ban abortions based on sex, race or disability.
    Both parts of the abortion law, hailed by Gov. Mike Pence in 2016 before he became vice president as a “comprehensive pro-life measure that affirms the value of all human life,” had been challenged successfully in federal appeals court by Planned Parenthood.    The Indiana law is among many challenging the timing, methods and providers of abortion that are headed toward the high court as Chief Justice John Roberts and his colleagues seek a lower profile.    The justices sidestepped hearing Indiana’s appeal by issuing a split decision on the law without holding oral argument.    The vote appeared to be 7-2 for the unsigned opinion.    Associate Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor said they would have denied the fetal remains provision as well.
    Associate Justice Clarence Thomas agreed with the split decision but decried what he called a trend toward abortion as “a tool of modern-day eugenics.”
    “The court will soon need to confront the constitutionality of laws like Indiana’s,” Thomas wrote in a 20-page concurrence.    “Enshrining a constitutional right to an abortion based solely on the race, sex or disability of an unborn child, as Planned Parenthood advocates, would constitutionalize the views of the 20th-century eugenics movement.”
    Pence heralded the ruling on fetal remains but echoed Thomas’ lament that the court did not ban abortions chosen for specific reasons.    Noting that the justices have barred discrimination based on sex, race and disability, the vice president tweeted, “Hopeful someday soon SCOTUS will recognize the same protections for the unborn.”
    Less likely to win the justices’ consideration are laws in Alabama, Georgia, Ohio, Missouri, Kentucky and Mississippi that ban most abortions.    Those laws are likely to be struck down by lower courts as imposing an undue burden on abortion rights.

5/29/2019 China signals won’t follow Taiwan in allowing same-sex marriage
Same-sex marriage supporters celebrate after Taiwan became the first place in Asia to legalize
same-sex marriage, outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei, Taiwan May 17, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    BEIJING (Reuters) – The Chinese government signaled on Wednesday that it would not follow Taiwan’s example on same-sex marriage after the first legal unions in Asia were hailed by activists as a social revolution for the region.
    Taiwan’s parliament passed a bill this month that endorsed same-sex marriage.    More than 360 same-sex couples married on Friday after years of heated debate over marriage equality that has divided the self-ruled and democratic island.
    China, which claims Taiwan as its own sacred territory, has a thriving gay scene in major cities, but there has been little sign that the ruling Communist Party will legalize same sex marriage, despite activists pushing for it.
    Speaking at a regular news briefing, An Fengshan, spokesman for China’s policy-making Taiwan Affairs Office, said they had “noted reports on the island” about same-sex marriage.
    “The mainland has a marriage system of one man, one woman,” he added, without further elaboration.
Individual legislators have occasionally in recent years proposed legislation during China’s annual meeting of parliament in March to legalize same-sex marriage, without success.
    There are no laws against same-sex relations in China and despite growing awareness of LGBT issues, the community has been the target of Chinese censors in recent months.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Gao Liangping; editing by Darren Schuettler)

5/30/2019 La. lawmakers approve heartbeat bill by OAN Newsroom
    A bill that would outlawing abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected has been sent to the Louisiana governor’s desk.    The state’s legislature approved the measure Wednesday, which does not provide exceptions for rape or incest.
    Democrat Governor John Bel Edwards previously said he would break with his party and approve it because he ran as a pro-life candidate.
Sen. John Milkovich, D-Shreveport, and Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, right, embrace after speaking to the media outside the
State Capitol, Wednesday, May 29, 2019, in Baton Rouge, La., after the House passed Milkovich’s ‘fetal heartbeat’ bill that would ban
abortions at about six weeks of pregnancy, if upheld by the courts, sending it to the governor’s desk without exceptions for victims
of rape and incest. Hodges handled the bill on the House side for its passage there. (Travis Spradling/The Advocate via AP)
    “And in Louisiana we have a culture of a love of life, a love of family, and love of God. Nothing is more precious to any of us than the heartbeat.    Our heartbeat is the most important organ that we have, and the heartbeat is the biggest indication of life that there is.” — State Representative Valarie Hodges, (R) Louisiana.
    A similar bill in Mississippi was blocked by a federal judge last week.    That means the law in Louisiana would not go into effect unless that bill is upheld in court.

5/31/2019 Pope urges Romanian leaders to shun personal interests, seek common good by Philip Pullella and Radu-Sorin Marinas
Pope Francis meets with Romania's President Klaus Johannis, in Bucharest, Romania May 31, 2019. Vatican Media/Handout via REUTERS
    BUCHAREST (Reuters) – Pope Francis urged Romania’s leaders on Friday to shun personal interests and work together for the common good, arriving in the former communist country amid political upheaval caused by a corruption scandal.
    Francis arrived to a low-key welcome in the overwhelmingly Orthodox Christian country where Catholics, who suffered persecution in the communist era, make up little more than five percent of the population.
    The trip comes just days after the country’s most powerful politician, Liviu Dragnea, was jailed for corruption.    The scandal has shaken the stability of the government of Prime Minister Viorica Dancila, a protege of Dragnea.
    In a speech at the 19th century presidential palace, Francis praised achievements in the 30 years since the fall of communism but said problems of social stability and governance remained.
    “It is necessary to move forward together with conviction in following the highest calling to which every state must aspire: that of responsibility for the common good of its people,” he said.
    Romania joined the EU in 2007 but corruption has kept it from admission in the borderless Schengen area and the European Commission has warned the government to clean up its act.
    When Pope John Paul visited Romania in 1999, the visit was restricted to the capital Bucharest because that trip was part of a larger Vatican project to mend ties with the Orthodox Church, which split with Rome in the Great Schism of 1054.
    But Francis will use planes and helicopters to visit Catholics in the remote region of Moldova, close to the border with the former Soviet satellite, the Republic of Moldova.    He will also visit a Catholic shrine in Transylvania, where there is a large ethnic Hungarian population.
    One of the main religious purposes of his trip is to beatify seven communist-era bishops of the Eastern Rite Catholic Church who died in prison or as a result of harsh conditions during incarceration.    They were declared martyrs this year, putting them on the road to sainthood.
    Eastern Rite Catholics worship in a Byzantine rite as Orthodox Christians do.    But unlike the Orthodox, they recognize the pope’s authority and remain part of the Catholic Church.
    After World War Two, Romania’s communist authorities confiscated properties of the Eastern Rite Catholic Church and ordered its members to join the majority Orthodox Church.
    Catholics who refused faced imprisonment or death, and many worshipped underground.
    Many Catholic properties taken by the communists or given by the government to the Orthodox Church have yet to be returned 30 years after the fall of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.
    While restitution of properties is still what Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti called “a wound of the past that is still there,” relations are generally good.
    Francis later met Romanian Orthodox Church leader, Patriarch Daniel, and in a gesture of respect, kissed a holy medallion worn by the patriarch.
(Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Ros Russell)

6/1/2019 Pope urges Hungarians, Romanians to put troubles behind them by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis participates in a joint prayer at the Romanian Orthodox "People's Salvation"
Cathedral in Bucharest, Romania May 31, 2019. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
    MIERCUREA-CIUC, Romania (Reuters) – Pope Francis urged ethnic Hungarians and Romanians to put their troubled past behind them on Saturday as bad weather disrupted his visit to Transylvania, forcing him to be driven for hours on winding mountain roads.
    More than 80,000 people gathered on muddy slopes around one of Romania’s most popular Catholic shrines to see the pope on the second day of his trip to the country.
    Transylvania, which was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until the end of the First World War, has a large ethnic Hungarian population and there have been tensions sometimes between ethnic Hungarians and Romanians.
    Ethnic Hungarians, many of whom are Catholic in a predominantly Orthodox Christian nation, are the largest minority in Romania, around six percent of the population.
    This has often caused friction between the two European Union neighbors with tensions flaring occasionally over the public use of ethnic minority flags.
    In his homily to the rain-soaked crowd, which included Hungarian President Janos Ader, the pope suggested past troubles should not be a barrier to co-existence.
    “Complicated and sorrow-filled situations from the past must not be forgotten or denied, yet neither must they be an obstacle or an excuse standing in the way of our desire to live together as brothers and sisters,” he said.
    In his homily, Francis said God wanted “that we not let ourselves be robbed of our fraternal love by those voices and hurts that provoke division and fragmentation.”
    Francis was to have flown by plane from Bucharest to the city of Bacau and then by helicopter to the Sumuleu-Ciuc shrine in this town nestled in the mountains.
    But thunderstorms, low clouds and rain forced him to fly to the city of Targu Mures, on the other side of the Carpathian mountains, and be driven for to the site.
    From there, Francis was due to continue by helicopter to the city of Iasi to visit Catholics in the remote region of Moldova, close to the border with the former Soviet Union’s satellite Republic of Moldova.
    But Vatican officials said he would drive back to Targu Mures and fly by plane to Iasi before returning to Bucharest.
    Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has visited Transylvania many times privately to meet local Hungarian leaders and outline his policy views.
    In 2015, Romania rebuked him for posting on his Facebook page symbols it said suggested Budapest favors autonomy for Romanian territory populated mainly by ethnic Hungarians, calling such “revisionism” unacceptable.
(Additionial reporting by Radu-Sorin Marinas in Bucharest, Editing by William Maclean)
[The Pope not a word about the sins of abortion, homosexuality, LGBT, and here is against nations that do not want Islamic terror in their countries as it has occurred in some EU nations already.    So tear down the Vatican walls and let them in from Italy Pope and show them how it is done.].

6/2/2019 Pope warns of divisive ideologies in homage to Communist-era martyrs by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis waves as he arrives to attend the celebration of the Divine Liturgy and the beatification ceremony
of seven Greek Catholic martyr bishops at the Liberty Field in Blaj, Romania June 2, 2019. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
    BLAJ, Romania (Reuters) – Pope Francis warned against any new ideological attempt to sow fear or division in society on Sunday as he paid tribute to Christians in Romania killed or persecuted under Communism.     Francis traveled to the central city of Blaj to beatify seven Communist-era bishops of the Eastern Rite Catholic Church who died in prison or as a result of their harsh treatment.
    After World War Two, Romania’s Communist authorities confiscated properties of the Eastern Rite Catholic Church and ordered its members to join the majority Orthodox Church, which was easier for the party to control.
    The pope, who appeared tired on the last day of his trip to Romania, beatified the bishops as martyrs at an open-air Mass said in the Byzantine rite used by Eastern Rite Catholics, moving them one step closer to sainthood.
    Eastern Rite Catholics worship in a Byzantine rite as Orthodox Christians do.    But unlike the Orthodox, they are in communion with Rome and the pope.
    Historians say about half a million Romanians including politicians, priests, doctors, officers, land owners and merchants were sentenced and jailed in the 1950s and early 1960s and a fifth of them perished in prisons and labor camps.
    “With great courage and interior fortitude, they accepted harsh imprisonment and every kind of mistreatment, in order not to deny their fidelity to their beloved Church,” Francis said in his homily before some 80,000 people in a field.
    Many Catholic properties taken by the Communist dictatorship or given by the government to the Orthodox have yet to be returned 30 years after the fall of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.
    “(The bishops) endured suffering and gave their lives to oppose an illiberal ideological system that oppressed the fundamental rights of the human person,” Francis said.
    He warned against “new ideologies springing up” that targeted young people and were as atheistic as those of the past because they try to uproot cultural and religious traditions.
    “(There are) forms of ideological colonization that devalue the person, life, marriage and the family,” he said.
    When he has used the term “ideological colonisation” in the past it was in reference to attempts by rich countries to link aid or economic assistance to acceptance of such things as birth control, abortion and homosexuality. (Additional reporting by Radu-Sorin Marinas in Bucharest; Editing by Alexander Smith)
[Is the pope against birth control, abortion and homosexuality?].

6/2/2019 Pope pleas for European unity, says ideologies threaten its existence by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis arrives at Blaj, Romania, June 2, 2019. Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea via REUTERS
    ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (Reuters) – Pope Francis made an impassioned plea for Europe to stick together and revive the ideals of its founders on Sunday, saying ideologies and fear-mongering politicians were threatening its very existence as a bloc.
    His comments to journalists on the plane while returning from a three-day trip to Romania, one of the more recent European Union members, were his first since European elections last month.
    Francis, who was asked about the elections, Italian far-right leader Matteo Salvini and other European topics, urged believers to pray for European unity and non-believers to hope for it “from the bottom of your hearts.”
    The far-right and nationalists in Italy, Britain, France and Poland came out on top in their national votes, shaking up politics at home but failing to dramatically alter the balance of pro-European power in EU assembly.
    “If Europe does not look carefully to future challenges, Europe will dry up.    Europe is ceasing to be ‘Mother Europe’ and is becoming ‘Grandmother Europe’.    It has aged.    It has lost the goal of working together,” he said.
    “Someone could ask under their breath ‘Is this perhaps the end of a 70-year adventure?’,” he said.
    Francis avoided directly criticizing Salvini, leader of the right-wing League party who has often spared with him on migration issues, saying the reason they had not yet met was because Salvini had not asked for an audience.
    Francis also stressed that his comments should be taken generally about Europe and were not specific to Italy, saying it was near impossible for him to understand Italian politics.
    “We have to help politicians to be honest.    They should not carry out (political) campaigns under dishonest banners, with calumny, defamation, scandals,” he said, without naming any countries or giving examples.
    “Many times they sow hate and fear.    A politician should never sow hate and fear, only hope – just and demanding – but always hope,” he said.
    He said Europe had to again “take up the mysticism” of its founding fathers and overcome divisions and borders.
    “Please let’s not let Europe be overcome by pessimism or by ideologies, because Europe is not being attacked by canons or bombs in this moment, but by ideologies – ideologies that are not European, that come either from outside or which stem from small groups in Europe,” he said.
    Francis urged Europeans to remember how the continent was divided and belligerent in the years leading up to both world wars in the 20th century.
    “Please, let’s not return to this.    Let’s learn from history.    Let’s not fall in the same hole.”
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; editing by David Evans)
[Pope where have you been it has already changed and will never return and you are approving their actions by not letting them know what the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob says in the bible.].

6/3/2019 Pope apologizes for history of discrimination against Roma
    BLAJ, Romania – Pope Francis apologized Sunday to the Roma ethnic minority for their history of discrimination in Europe and paid homage to Romanian Catholics persecuted during communist rule as he wrapped up his final day with a message of forgiveness.    Francis reached out to the minorities of Transylvania.    He apologized for the “many experiences of discrimination, segregation and mistreatment experienced by your communities,” a reference to the second-class status of the Roma minority in Romania and throughout Europe.

6/3/2019 Bishop faces backlash after tweet about Pride Month
    PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Rhode Island’s Roman Catholic bishop is facing backlash after tweeting that Catholics should not support or attend LGBTQ Pride Month events.    Diocese of Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin tweeted Saturday that Pride Month events in June “promote a culture and encourage activities that are contrary to Catholic faith and morals.”    He also wrote the events “are especially harmful for children.”    Actress Mia Farrow was among 60,000 people who replied, calling the comments “pure ignorance & bigotry.”
[I am glad to see that there are Catholics that believe the Bible and God's word and not the Leftist godless.].

6/3/2019 Jailed Australian cardinal to appeal against child sex abuse convictions
FILE PHOTO: Vatican Treasurer Cardinal George Pell is surrounded by Australian police as he leaves
the Melbourne Magistrates Court in Australia, October 6, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Dadswell
    MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Jailed former Vatican treasurer George Pell will appeal on Wednesday against his convictions for sexually abusing two choir boys in the 1990s and if an Australian court rules in his favor could be released or face a>     Pell, 77, the highest ranking Catholic cleric worldwide to be convicted of child sex offences, was jailed for six years in March after being found guilty of five charges of abusing two 13-year-old boys at St Patrick’s Cathedral while he was Archbishop of Melbourne more than 20 years ago.
    The trial judge said that Pell, a former top adviser to Pope Francis, could die in jail.    He is eligible for parole in late 2022.
    He is appealing against his conviction on three grounds: the jury’s verdicts were “unreasonable” based on the evidence, the judge erred by blocking the defense from showing a video graphic in its closing argument, and there was a “fundamental irregularity” as Pell did not make his plea in the presence of the jury panel.
    The appeal will be heard by three judges and will be live-streamed on the Supreme Court of Victoria’s web site.    The appeals court is part of the state’s Supreme Court.
    If the judges grant the appeal on the first ground, the conviction would be thrown out.    If the appeal is granted on the second or third, then Pell could face a fresh trial.
    Pell, who turns 78 on Saturday, was found guilty of all five charges by a jury in December, following two trials.    The first ended with the jury unable to reach a unanimous verdict or an 11-1 decision.
    The outcome was only made public in Australia in February after further charges of historical sexual offences, which had been set for trial this year, were dropped.
    Pell was the highest-profile conviction in a scandal over pedophile priests that has rocked the Roman Catholic Church in the United States, Chile, Australia and elsewhere over the last three decades.
    Pell’s lawyer declined to comment on how Pell has fared in prison.
    American theologian George Weigel wrote in May in the conservative religious journal ‘First Things’ that friends who had visited Pell had been “cheered and consoled” by the cardinal, who described his incarceration as a “retreat.”
    Pell was hand-picked by the Pope in 2014 to oversee the Vatican’s vast finances, but no longer has any position in the Vatican.
    He remains a cardinal and could only be dismissed from the priesthood if the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith found him guilty following a separate canonical trial or a shortened procedure called an “administrative process.”
    The Vatican launched its own investigation into the allegations against Pell after his conviction was made public.
(Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Nick Macfie)

6/3/2019 Poll: Most oppose ‘fetal heartbeat’ abortion laws - Issue rallying Democratic voters for 2020 election by Susan Page, USA TODAY
    WASHINGTON – Most Americans are dismayed by efforts across the country to limit abortions, a USA TODAY/Ipsos poll said, and the issue is energizing Democrats for the 2020 election.
    By 55%-45%, those surveyed oppose the so-called fetal heartbeat laws passed in five states that bar abortions after the pulsing of an embryo can be detected, which can happen as early as the sixth week of pregnancy.    By nearly three to one, 73%-27%, they oppose seeing all abortion facilities in their states closed, a possibility in Missouri.
    There is broad support among those on both sides of the debate for the Supreme Court to hear cases involving the new state laws.    Half said the high court should uphold the right to abortion established in the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, and another 30% said Roe v. Wade should be upheld but with strict limits allowed.
Which voters are energized?
    The limits on abortion have been driven in large part by Republican-controlled legislatures, but their success in passing laws is energizing Democratic voters.    A 52% majority of Democrats said the renewed abortion debate makes them more likely to vote in the 2020 elections.    In contrast, 55% of Republicans said the debate will have no effect on their likelihood to vote.
Public’s attitude quite nuanced
    The public’s attitude toward abortion is more complicated and shaded than the black-and-white divide in the political world.
    Although the GOP platform opposes abortion without citing any exceptions, Republicans are particularly fractured on the issue. One-third of Republicans (34%) said Roe v. Wade should be overturned.    A third (32%) said Roe v. Wade should be upheld, and another third (34%) said the basic legality of abortion should be upheld but with strict limits allowed.
    Among Democrats, 67% support upholding Roe v. Wade; 22% said the basic legality should be upheld but strict limits allowed; 10% said it should be overturned.
Legal challenges expected
    In the survey, 26% said abortion should be legal in all cases and 28% said it should be legal in most cases.    Thirteen percent said it should be illegal and 24% said it should be illegal in most cases.
    Some states have passed restrictions in hopes of provoking a Supreme Court decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade or erode its protections for abortion rights.
    None of the laws have taken effect, and virtually all of them are likely to face legal challenges.
    The USA TODAY/Ipsos poll surveyed 400 Democrats, with a credibility interval of 5.8 points, and 348 Republicans, with a credibility interval of 6 points.
Abortion-rights supporters protest in St. Louis on Thursday as a judge heard arguments on keeping Missouri’s only abortion clinic open. JEFF ROBERSON/AP

6/5/2019 Former Vatican treasurer appeals against abuse convictions by Sonali Paul
Cardinal George Pell arrives at the Supreme Court of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, June 5, 2019. AAP Image/Julian Smith/via REUTERS
    MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Former Vatican treasurer Cardinal George Pell appeared in an Australian court on Wednesday for an appeal hearing to overturn convictions for sexually abusing two choir boys in the 1990s.
    Pell, who has maintained his innocence throughout, wore a black suit with a clerical collar in his first public appearance since March, shortly after becoming the most senior Catholic worldwide to be convicted for child sex offences.
    The 77-year-old was jailed for six years after he was found guilty on five charges of abusing two 13-year-old boys at St Patrick’s Cathedral while he was archbishop of Melbourne more than 20 years ago.
    The appeal is being held over two days in the state of Victoria’s Supreme Court, although a ruling could take several weeks.    Pell could be released or face a retrial if the court rules in his favor.
    The court was packed with lawyers, journalists and members of the public while a few protesters outside the building carried placards denouncing the Catholic Church.
    Pell’s original trial judge in March said that because of his age, the former Vatican treasurer could die in jail.
    His fate now rests in the hands of three judges presiding over the appeal.
    Pell is appealing his conviction on three grounds: the jury verdicts were “unreasonablefundamental irregularity” as Pell did not make his plea physically in the presence of the jury panel, but rather by a video-link.
    Pell’s appeal claim said the whole case rested on the account of one of the two victims, and there were “at least thirteen solid obstacles in the path of a conviction.”
    “No matter what view was taken of the complainant as a witness, it was simply not open to the jury to accept his word beyond reasonable doubt,” the appeal claim to the court said.
    Pell’s barrister, Bret Walker, told the court his client could not have been in the priests’ sacristy at the time of the events as he would have been out on the front steps of the cathedral after mass, a point that went unchallenged at the trial.
    The claimant said the first assault took place in the priests’ sacristy after mass in late 1996.
    “You have to destroy the alibi, otherwise there is a reasonable doubt,” Walker told the court.
    He said the victim who testified at the trial gave differing accounts about the timing of the abuse, which also should have raised a reasonable doubt.
    The Crown will lay out its response to the appeal on Thursday.
    While awaiting the outcome of his appeal, Pell remains a cardinal and could only be dismissed from the priesthood if the Vatican’s     Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith found him guilty following a separate canonical trial or a shortened procedure called an “administrative process.”
    Pell was chosen in 2014 to oversee the Vatican’s vast finances, but no longer has any position in the Vatican.
(Reporting by Sonali Paul in MELBOURNE and Colin Packham in SYDNEY; Writing by Jonathan Barrett; Editing by Paul Tait and Darren Schuettler)

6/5/2019 Ala. bill requires child sex offenders to be castrated before release by OAN Newsroom
    An Alabama bill, which would require castration for certain child sex offenders, is awaiting signature by the governor.
    The decision is up to Republican Governor Kay Ivey on whether criminals convicted of sex crimes against a minor under the age of 13 should be required to be chemically castrated in order to be released from prison.
FILE- In this Jan. 9, 2018, file photo, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey delivers the annual State of the State address at the Capitol in Montgomery, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)
    The criminal would even be required to pay for the procedure, and their refusal would constitute a violation of parole.
    The bill’s sponsor argues this will make criminals think twice, and could lead to a reduction in child sex crimes.
    However, it will likely be challenged under the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.

6/6/2019 Feds cut off research using fetal tissue by Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Lauran Neergaard, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    WASHINGTON – In a victory for abortion opponents, the Trump administration said Wednesday it is ending medical research by government scientists using human fetal tissue, overriding the advice of scientists who say there’s no other way to tackle some health problems.
    The Health and Human Services Department said in a statement that government-funded research by universities that involves fetal tissue can continue, subject to more scrutiny.
    The policy changes will not affect privately funded research, officials said.
    Fetal tissue is used in research on HIV and childhood cancers, treatments that enlist the body’s immune system to battle cancer, and the hunt for a vaccine against the Zika virus, a cause of birth defects.    The tissue from elective abortions would otherwise be discarded.
    Ending the use of fetal tissue by the National Institutes of Health has been a priority for anti-abortion activists, a core element of President Donald Trump’s political base.

6/6/2019 Putin July visit to pope could pave way for Russia trip by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) meets Pope Francis during a private meeting at Vatican City, June 10, 2015.
The United States urged the Vatican on Wednesday to criticise Russia's involvement in the Ukraine conflict more forcefully,
hours before Pope Francis was due to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin. REUTERS/Gregorio Borgia/Pool/File Photo
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet Pope Francis next month, the Vatican said on Thursday, an encounter that could help pave the way for an historic papal trip to Russia.
    The Vatican said Putin, who will be on a state visit to Italy, will hold talks with the Argentinian-born pope on July 4.
    The meeting, their third since Francis was elected in 2013, comes at a time of improving relations between the Vatican and the world’s Orthodox Churches.
    It also will be their first since Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill met in 2016, a landmark step in healing the 1,000-year-old rift between the Western and Eastern branches of Christianity.
    Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, and Boris Yeltsin, the first president of post-Soviet Russia, had invited the late Pope John Paul to visit.
    But a trip was not possible because of tensions between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church, the largest and most influential in world Orthodoxy, with 165 million of the world’s 250 million Orthodox Christians.
    Apart from his meeting three years ago with Kirill, which was the first in history between a Roman Catholic pope and a Russian Orthodox patriarch, Francis has made a number of visits to countries with predominantly Orthodox populations.
    The latest were to Romania last week and to Bulgaria and North Macedonia last month.
    Ukraine remains a difficult issue in relations between the Vatican and Russia.
    At their last meeting in 2015, the pope urged Putin to make a “sincere and great effort” to achieve peace in Ukraine and help bring an end to fighting between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatist rebels.
    Putin has aligned himself closely with the Russian Orthodox Church and has accused the government in Kiev of flagrantly meddling in the life of Orthodoxy in Ukraine, a former Soviet republic where a new national church has broken away from Moscow’s orbit.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Gareth Jones)

6/6/2019 Ex-Vatican treasurer’s child sex offence conviction should stand: prosecutor by Sonali Paul
Cardinal George Pell arrives at the Supreme Court of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, June 6, 2019. AAP Image/Julian Smith/via REUTERS
    MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Jailed former Vatican treasurer George Pell will find out within weeks whether his conviction on child sex offences stands, is overturned or he has to face another trial after prosecutors on Thursday urged an Australian court to reject his appeal.
    Pell was sentenced in March to six years in jail after a jury found him guilty of five sexual offences against two 13-year-old choirboys at St Patrick’s Cathedral in the late 1990s, when he was archbishop of Melbourne.
    The 77-year-old, the highest ranking Catholic cleric worldwide to be convicted of child sex offences, is mainly appealing on the grounds that the verdicts were unreasonable based on the evidence, including the account of one of the victims.
    His lawyers also argue that the trial judge erred in blocking the defense from showing a video animation depicting where people were in the cathedral after Mass.
    The claimant said the first assault took place in the priests’ sacristy after Mass in late 1996.
    Pell’s lawyers say he could not have been in the sacristy at the time as he would have been on the front steps of the cathedral after Mass, a point that went unchallenged at the trial.
    They also said there was a “fundamental irregularity” as Pell did not make his plea physically in the presence of the jury panel, but rather by a video-link.
    If the court overturns the verdict, Pell will be released.
    If the court finds the judge should have allowed the video animation or the arraignment was improper, Pell could face a retrial.
    Responding to the appeal, prosecutors said the jury believed the complainant’s account of what happened in two separate incidents in late 1996 and early 1997, and rejected the evidence of other key witnesses, including the priest who assisted Pell most closely at the cathedral where the incidents took place.
    “The complainant was a very compelling witness.    He was clearly not a liar.    He was not a fantasist.    He was a witness of truth,” said Christopher Boyce, lawyer for the Crown, told the court on Thursday in his opening remarks.
    The three appeal judges focused their questions on why they should believe the complainant and disregard a range of evidence around church practices which suggested it would be implausible for Pell to have sexually assaulted two boys shortly after Mass in places where there might have been witnesses.
    Boyce highlighted inconsistencies in the evidence of church staff and Pell’s master of ceremonies and said the “visceral nature” of the victim’s testimony made his account compelling.
    Justice Mark Weinberg said juries “don’t just look at a witness and say, his demeanor is impressive and therefore I accept what he says…You test against what other witnesses say.”
    While he questioned the prosecution’s arguments, Weinberg said in previous judgments he had noted that “juries nearly always get it right, emphasis on the nearly always.”
    The judges also said there could be uncertainties in the witnesses’ evidence, given that 22 years had passed since the events occurred.
    “The question of uncertainty seems to me to be a feature inevitably about events decades earlier,” Maxwell said.
    The two-day appeal hearing ended on Thursday, with the judges planning to hand down their decision at a later date, which a legal expert said might be in four to eight weeks.
    Pell was hand-picked by the Pope in 2014 to oversee the Vatican’s vast finances, but no longer has any position in the Vatican.
    He remains a cardinal and can only be dismissed from the priesthood if the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith found him guilty following a separate canonical trial or a shortened procedure called an administrative process.
(Reporting by Sonali Paul; editing by Darren Schuettler and Nick Macfie)

6/6/2019 Report: Catholic Church paid lobbyists $10.6M to help with sex abuse cover up by OAN Newsroom
    New data has revealed the Catholic Church spent over $10 million to battle laws, which give victims more time to sue over decades-old abuse.    A report released this week shows the Catholic church paid out $10.6 millions between 2011 and 2018 to lobby against laws, which seek to extend the statute of limitations in several northeastern states.
    This comes a month after the Pope issued a law requiring members of the church to report sex abuse to church authorities in an effort for transparency.    However, critics believe this is not enough to fix a system notorious for decades of abuse.
    “Everything that they’re saying are excuses.    They already know which bishops have covered up abuse, they already know which bishops have abused.    In any other organization or a corporation, when you have a critical incident or you need to make a significant corporate change you move key players out and you move key players in… done.” — Carol Midboe, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
Gold crosses and statues adorn confessional rooms at St. Michael Archangel Catholic Church,
one of Houston’s wealthiest parishes, on April 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
    The church has admitted to receiving credible allegations against at least 6,000 priests, and the new report leads to accusations the church has made a concerted effort to cover them up.
    According to the numbers, the Catholic Church spent nearly three million dollars in New York to keep the Child Victims Act from passing.    The bill, which was signed into law earlier this year, allows survivors of child sexual abuse to sue their alleged abusers up until the age of 55.    The state’s previous law only allowed civil suits until the age of 23.
    However, several states away in Pennsylvania, church lobbyists appeared to succeed in suppressing similar legislation.    They reportedly spent over $5 million to keep the state’s current statute of limitations in place.    A spokesman for the state’s catholic lobbying organization side-stepped questions about the report, claiming the church lobbies for a myriad of issues which include poverty, homelessness and pro-life issues.

6/7/2019 Pope tweaks temptation phrase in Lord’s Prayer by Ryan W. Miller, USA TODAY
    Get ready for a few stumbles at Christmas Mass during the Our Father.
    Pope Francis reportedly approved changes to the wording of the Lord’s Prayer, also known as the Our Father.
    Instead of saying, “Lead us not into temptation,” Catholics will say, “Do not let us fall into temptation,” The Guardian and Fox News reported.
    The pope said he thought the English translation of the prayer was not correct.
    “It is not a good translation because it speaks of a God who induces temptation,” he told Italy’s TV2000 channel in 2017, per The Guardian.    “I am the one who falls.    It’s not him pushing me into temptation to then see how I have fallen."
    “A father doesn’t do that; a father helps you to get up immediately.    It’s Satan who leads us into temptation, that’s his department.”
    The Lord’s Prayer comes from the Gospels in which Jesus taught his disciples the prayer.    It is among the most sacred prayers in both Catholicism and Christianity overall, though there are other translations across denominations.
    Francis also reportedly approved changes to The Gloria from “peace on Earth to people of good will” to “peace on Earth to people beloved by God.”
Pope Francis approved changes to the wording of the Lord’s Prayer. VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

6/8/2019 Warsaw pride parade attracts large crowd amid heated political debate by Pawel Florkiewicz
People take part in the annual "Equality Parade" rally in support of the LGBT community
in Warsaw, Poland, June 8, 2019. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
    WARSAW (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of people joined a pride march in Warsaw on Saturday as gay rights continue to become a major issue in Poland’s election campaign.
    The parade, which was expected to be the biggest of its kind in the city, came as the ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party ramped up its opposition to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, saying opposition support for LGBT issues threatens Polish culture.
    PiS made alleged threats related to LGBT movements a big part of its campaign in last month’s European Parliament elections and the theme is likely to remain a major topic ahead of a national vote expected in October or November.
    Analysts say PiS hopes to re-energize its mainly rural base by vowing to push back against Western liberalism and benefit from the deepening divisions in society over policies toward minority groups, the environment, abortion and migration.
    Warsaw is more liberal and broad-minded than the more conservative rural parts of the country where PiS finds much of its support.
    The parade attracted mostly young people dressed in colorful clothes, who made their way through the streets dancing, singing and carrying rainbow flags.
    “I am here for my son, who is gay, and for his friends,” said Tatiana Pawlowa, an 83-year-old pensioner who joined the march.    “I want to show I am with them.”
    A Warsaw town hall spokesman said around 50,000 people were expected to take part in the parade, compared with 45,000 estimated to have taken part in a similar event in 2018.
    “This parade undoubtedly breaks records in terms of attendance,” the spokesman said in a text message.
    Rafal Trzaskowski, the mayor of Warsaw, who won an election in the capital last year against a PiS candidate, was criticized by the ruling party this year for plans to introduce a sexual education program meant to teach students about sexual orientation, discrimination and reproductive health.
    “Not everyone has to march in an equality parade, but everyone should respect the rights of minority groups,” said Trzaskowski, who joined the parade.    “This has nothing to with whether one is leftist or liberal or conservative.”
    PiS was not immediately available to comment on Saturday.    In April, party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski called the LGBT movement “a threat to our identity, a threat to our nation and its long-term existence.”
(Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko and Joanna Plucinska; editing by Mike Harrison)
[Poland and Hungary are the few countries left in the EU trying to stop the craziness before God comes to judge all to the surprise of the sinners.].

6/9/2019 Pope appeals for peace, dialogue in Sudan
Pope Francis walks as he celebrates the Pentecost Mass in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican, June 9, 2019. REUTERS/Yara Nardi
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis on Sunday appealed for peace in Sudan following a bloody crackdown by security forces on pro-democracy protesters in Khartoum last week.
    “The news coming from Sudan is giving rise to pain and concern.    We pray for these people, so that the violence ceases and the common good is sought in the dialogue,” the pope said in his weekly address to crowds in St Peter’s Square.
    Opposition medics say 113 people were killed in this week’s violence in the Sudanese capital, while the government has put the death toll at 61, including three members of the security services.
    Sudan’s main alliance of opposition groups and protesters have urged workers and employees to stay home on Sunday, launching what it called a campaign of civil disobedience to force military rulers to hand over power to civilians.
(Reporting by Crispian Balmer; editing by Jason Neely)

6/10/2019 Southern Baptists focus on addressing sex abuse by Holly Meyer, Nashville Tennessean USA TODAY NETWORK – TENNESSEE
    NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Leaders of the largest Protestant denomination in the USA have spent the past year trying to figure out how the Southern Baptist network of evangelical churches can do a better job of addressing and preventing sexual abuse.    In the wake of revelations illustrating how widespread the problem is, Southern Baptists will soon have a chance to enact changes that would make it easier to hold churches accountable and keep people in their pews safe.
    Sexual abuse in the church is likely to be front and center when thousands of representatives from the more than 50,000 Southern Baptist congregations gather Tuesday and Wednesday in Birmingham, Alabama, for their big annual meeting.
    That focus is intentional, Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear said.
    Victim revelations have made it clear that Southern Baptists need to create systems that protect the vulnerable, he said.
    “God gave his life for them,” Greear said.    “How dare we not provide protection for them, so when they’re in the house of God, they know that they’re safe and that they’re cared for?
    Up for consideration are two changes to core Southern Baptist Convention governing documents:
  • The first is an amendment to the SBC’s constitution that would explicitly state that addressing sexual abuse and racism is a part of what it means to be a Southern Baptist church.
  • The second is a proposed bylaw change that would create a committee to assess misconduct claims, including sexual abuse, against churches.
    Critics, including sexual abuse victims and advocates, said Southern Baptists are not moving quickly enough to kick out problem churches and implement safeguards.
    The Rev. Ashley Easter, a survivor advocate helping to organize a protest outside this year’s meeting, said Southern Baptists hide behind the SBC’s decentralized structure.    Southern Baptists believe in local church control.
    “We hoped that we would see big changes.    We really don’t see big changes between this year and last year,” said Easter, who is ordained through the Progressive Christian Alliance.
    Greear, elected convention president at last year’s annual meeting, said he understands that reaction.
    He said he made addressing sexual abuse in the church one of his first priorities as convention president, including launching a sexual abuse advisory study and spending the year listening to victims, advocates and experts.    But the convention meets only once a year, he said.
    “We want our churches to be as safe as possible as soon as possible,” Greear said.    “We want to know that pastors know how to follow up immediately. We also know that when you’re dealing with an organization as large as the SBC that we’ve got a lot of layers that we’re trying to work through.”
    As victims came forward last year, Southern Baptists became embroiled in months of controversy over a prominent church leader’s treatment of women and how he handled years-old allegations of sexual misconduct at Southern Baptist seminaries.
    Media reports since then have laid out how widespread the sexual abuse crisis is in Southern Baptist churches and the mission field.
    In February, a report from the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News found sexual misconduct allegations against 380 Southern Baptists who held formal church roles.    Many were convicted of sex crimes and some are still in prison, but others continued to work in churches, according to the report.
    Greear laid out a list of 10 recommendations – the first to come from his sexual abuse advisory study – that included the possible expulsion of churches that do not take sexual abuse prevention seriously.
    Soon after, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, which handles day-to-day operations of the denomination when the convention is not in session, supported amending the constitution to make that consequence clear.    A revised version of this proposal is likely to be considered in Alabama.    Critics such as Easter said an outside entity is best suited to evaluate sexual abuse in the church, not internal denominational ones.
    “What we’re calling for is concrete actions,” Easter said.
    Greear said change is coming.    Southern Baptists will leave Birmingham well aware of how important sexual abuse prevention and response is in their denomination, he said.
    “It’s going to take ongoing reform, and that’s the case at the local church level as well.    Congregations have to not only have good policies and procedures in place, but they have to constantly be evaluating, reevaluating, updating those policies and procedures as well,” said Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention.
    “This has to be at least a 20-year project that’s constantly reevaluated,” Moore said.    “I hope that 20 years from now that we can look back and see sexual abuse in churches as something unthinkable and a long-buried horror of the past.    We’re a long way from that.”
We want our churches to be as safe as possible as soon as possible,” says
Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear. MARK HUMPHREY/AP

6/10/2019 Francis wants first papal visit to Iraq
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis walks as he celebrates the Pentecost Mass in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican, June 9, 2019. REUTERS/Yara Nardi
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis said on Monday he wants to travel to Iraq next year, which would be the first ever papal trip there.
    Francis made the improvised remark in an address to members of a group of charities that help Christians in the Middle East and other areas.
    “A constant thought accompanies me when I think of Iraq,” he said in prepared remarks, then adding: “Where I have the will to go next year.”
    Wars and conflicts have led to an exodus of Christians in Iraq and some other countries in the Middle East.
    Iraq’s small Christian population of several hundred thousand suffered particular hardships when Islamic State controlled large parts of the country, but have recovered freedoms since the jihadists were pushed out.
    Iraq is home to many different eastern rite churches, both Catholic and Orthodox.
    In 2000, the late Pope John Paul wanted to visit the ancient Iraqi city of Ur, traditionally held to be the birthplace of Abraham.    It was to have been the first leg of a three-step pilgrimage to Iraq, Egypt and Israel.
    But negotiations with the government of then Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein broke down and he was unable to go.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

6/10/2019 Vatican condemns gender theory as bid to destroy nature by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: Members of a gay activist group hold signs in front of St. Peter's square in the Vatican December 16, 2012
protesting against the Roman Catholic Church's rejection of homosexuality and gay marriage. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi/File Photo
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – The Vatican condemned gender theory on Monday as part of a “confused concept of freedom,” saying in a new document that the idea of gender being determined by personal feeling rather than biology was an attempt to “annihilate nature.”
    LGBT rights advocates denounced the 30-page document, called “Male and Female He Created Them,” as harmful and confusing, saying it would encourage hatred and bigotry.
    The document, the Vatican’s first on gender theory, was written by the Congregation for Catholic Education as an “instruction” to Catholic educators on how to address the topic of gender theory in line with Church teaching.
    It was released as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people around the world have been celebrating “Pride Month” amid a surge in demands for acceptance of the idea that gender is more complex and fluid than the binary categories of male and female, and depends on more than visible sex characteristics.
    “The concept of gender is seen as dependent upon the subjective mindset of each person, who can choose a gender not corresponding to his or her biological sex, and therefore with the way others see that person,” the Vatican booklet says.
    It says gender theories are “often founded on nothing more than a confused concept of freedom in the realm of feelings and wants, or momentary desires provoked by emotional impulses and the will of the individual, as opposed to anything based on the truths of existence
    Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, which seeks to reconcile LGBT Catholics and the institutional Church, called the booklet “a gross misrepresentation” of the lives of LGBT people that could encourage violence against them. “The misinformation the document contains will cause families to reject their children, and it will increase alienation of LGBT people from the Church,” he said in a statement.     While the document is not signed by Pope Francis, it several times quotes from his speeches and teachings and those of previous popes.    It was issued with little advance notice to reporters and without the customary news conference.
    It denounced theories that attempted to “annihilate the concept of nature” and “educational programs and legislative trends that … make a radical break with the actual biological difference between male and female.”
    A prominent American Jesuit writer, Father James Martin, tweeted: “The document is mainly a dialogue with philosophers and theologians, and with other church documents; but not with scientists and biologists, not with psychologists, and certainly not with LGBT people, whose experiences are given little if any weight.”
    DeBernardo added: "People do not choose their gender, as the Vatican claims: they discover it through their lived experiences.    The Church should respect and encourage this process of discovery, because it is a process by which individuals discover the wonderful way that God has created them.”
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Kevin Liffey)
[As you could see above the document was not signed by Pope Francis, and they mentioned that the Pope speeches, of previous popes, which to me is a cope out, and this is just another example that the Scarlet Women in riding on the back of the Beast for protection from who, and why does it matter if it is advance notice to reporters or news conference.    Pope Francis you need to declare rejection of homosexuality and gay marriage.    If not you will live to see your fate in Revelation, and the ones stating above will see that event occur standing on the right side.].

6/11/2019 Ala. passes chemical castration bill by OAN Newsroom
    Sex offenders in Alabama will now be chemically castrated prior to their release.    Governor Kay Ivey signed a bill Monday, requiring the process to be administered to anyone convicted of a sex offense against a child under 13-years-old.
    Chemical castration is done through medication, either tablets or injection, and takes away the sexual drive of the person taking it.    Both chambers of Alabama’s legislature approved the bill last month. However, the use of chemical castration is internationally controversial.
This photograph released by the state shows Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signing a bill that virtually outlaws
abortion in the state on Wednesday, May 15, 2019, in Montgomery, Ala. (Hal Yeager/Alabama Governor’s Office via AP)
    Even some members of the Alabama legislature have come out against the measure, saying it violates human rights.
    “I argued and debated this particular bill because I felt that it was far-reaching to the extreme,” said State Rep. Juandalynn Givan, (D) Birmingham.    'You have to deal with the mind of a predator, you don’t worry about the physical body parts, you have to deal with what makes them do what they do when they do it.”
    If a person stops taking the drug, the effects can be reversed. However, according to the law, if an offender stops taking the medication they will be considered to be in violation of parole and will be returned to custody.

6/12/2019 VP confirms embassy ban on pride flags by Nicolas Wu, USA TODAY
    WASHINGTON – In a television interview Monday evening, Vice President Mike Pence confirmed reports that American embassies had been banned from flying the pride flag on their flagpoles.
    In an interview with NBC News, Pence said, “I’m aware that the State Department indicated that on the flagpole of our American embassies that one flag should fly, and that’s the American flag, and I support that.”
    The Trump administration came under fire at the beginning of June for allegedly banning U.S. embassies from flying the pride flag.     American diplomats told NBC News that some embassies had requested to fly the pride flag alongside the American flag on their flagpoles and were denied.    June is Pride Month, a celebration of the LGBTQ community.
    Multiple embassies still flew the pride flag or held their own observations of Pride Month, according to The Washington Post.
    Pence noted that the Trump administration placed no restrictions on the display of other flags or other pride memorabilia elsewhere in embassies.
[V.P. Pence, a true Christian is right.    We live in the U.S.A., not Gayland.].

6/12/2019 Pope puts first African-American priest, an ex-slave, on path to sainthood by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis leaves the weekly general audience at the Vatican, June 12, 2019. REUTERS/Remo Casilli/File Photo
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis on Wednesday put Father Augustine Tolton, the first African-American Catholic priest who started life as a slave in the 19th century U.S. South, on the path to sainthood.
    The Vatican said Francis approved a decree recognizing Tolton’s “heroic virtues,” an early step in the sainthood process, after a five-year investigation in Chicago.     His father escaped bondage by serving in the Union army during the American Civil War and the rest of the family gained freedom in 1862 by crossing the Mississippi River into Illinois, a free state.
    Although tutored by Catholics who recognized his intellectual prowess, he had to study for the priesthood at a papal university in Rome because no seminary in the United States would take him.
    He was ordained in 1886, becoming the first African-American Catholic priest, and returned to Illinois to serve in black parishes in that state until his death in 1897.
    Following investigations by Church historical and theological commissions, the pope on Wednesday granted Tolton the title “Venerable,” meaning that Catholics can pray to him for intercession with God.
    One miracle would have to be attributed to Tolton for him to be beatified, the next step in the process, and a second miracle after beatification would be needed in order for him to be declared a saint.
    The Church teaches that only God performs miracles but that saints who are believed to be with God in heaven intercede on behalf of people who pray to them.    A miracle is usually the medically inexplicable healing of a person.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

6/13/2019 After scandals, Pope orders his diplomats to toe the line by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis leaves the weekly general audience at the Vatican, June 12, 2019. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis on Thursday told his ambassadors around the world, some of whom have been involved in sexual and financial scandals, to live humble, exemplary lives and be closer to the poor than to the elite.     In a document handed to more than 100 ambassadors in Rome for meetings with top Vatican officials, Francis told the envoys that they had to “live for the things of God and not for those of the world”.     The Vatican is a sovereign state as well as the headquarters of the 1.3-billion-member Roman Catholic Church, and it has diplomatic relations with more than 180 countries. Its ambassadors, known as nuncios, are often the highest ranking and most visible diplomats in a given country.
    In recent years, some nuncios or other Vatican diplomats have been mired in scandal.
    The nuncio in France, Archbishop Luigi Ventura, is under investigation in Paris over accusations of sexual molestation.
    In 2013, Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, the ambassador in the Dominican Republic, was charged with paying boys for sex.    He was recalled, kept in detention in the Vatican and dismissed from the priesthood, but died in 2015 before his trial.
    Last year, a Vatican court sentenced an Italian priest, Carlo Alberto Capella, to five years in jail for possessing child pornography while he was a diplomat in Washington.
    “A man of God does not deceive or defraud others, does not give in to gossip or bad-mouthing others.    He conserves a pure mind and heart, not allowing his eyes and ears to be contaminated by the filth of the world,” the pope said.
    Nuncios who “go off the rails damage even the Church,” he told them.
    Some Vatican ambassadors have also come under fire for lavish lifestyles.
    “It is ugly to see a nuncio looking for luxury, for designer clothes, in the midst of people who are deprived of life’s necessities,” Francis said.
    He instructed them to reject gifts by the powerful who wanted to influence them, and to spend time with the poor and others on the margins of society.
    As the Church under Francis has become more polarized, some nuncios have taken to social media to criticize directly some of the pope’s decisions or draw attention to criticism by conservative groups.
    Francis pointedly told the envoys that it was incompatible with their role to “criticize the pope behind his back.”
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

6/14/2019 FLAGS FLYING - As LGBTQ acceptance grows, gay pride spreads in Kentucky and Indiana amid lingering prejudice by Chris Kenning, Louisville Courier Journal USA TODAY NETWORK
    For Kyle May, growing up gay in his conservative Appalachian town in Eastern Kentucky meant hiding his identity, overhearing slurs and driving 150 miles to a bigger city for LGBTQ events.
    But last year his hometown of Pikeville, tucked in the mountains of coal country, drew more than 400 people to its first LGBTQ pride festival — a public celebration he thought he’d never see.
    “There was a drag show right out in the open, in the middle of Pikeville City Park — in broad daylight,” said May, who helped organize what he called “the most meaningful pride festival I’d ever been to.”
    While the state’s largest cities of Louisville and Lexington have held pride festivals for at least a decade, the events have been absent in small-town Kentucky, where more conservative attitudes have held sway.
    But that is changing, with pride festivals, picnics and events springing up in a growing number of smaller communities such as Harlan, Owensboro, Madisonville, Berea, Shelbyville and Corbin.
    Pride movement gains momentumbr>     In all, they have expanded to nearly 20 towns across the state, said Chris Hartman, Louisville’s Fairness Campaign director.
    There are also now festivals in Southern Indiana towns including Jeffersonville and some farther north in Spencer, Indiana.
    Advocates say it’s a hopeful sign of shifting public attitudes toward gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender residents in Kentucky and other parts of rural America, where more than 2.9 million LGBTQ residents live.
    It’s particularly notable in Kentucky, a historically arch-conservative state where voters in 2004 banned same-sex marriage, and where former Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis drew international headlines when she was jailed for refusing to comply with the landmark 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage.
    “It’s undeniable that the progress for LGBTQ rights has created stronger visibility and is emboldening folks who live in communities where they might not have felt safe previously to come out and celebrate pride,” Hartman said.
    Discrimination and prejudice still flourishes, and LGBTQ residents of rural areas tend to have fewer alternatives if doctors or employers deny them services.    They also are less likely to be protected by explicit nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people.
    Ten Kentucky cities have such “fairness” laws.
    And a recent Pew Research Center report showed sharp increases in support for LGBTQ people and issues since 2004 among many groups.
    And nationally, about 52% of rural residents support same-sex marriage (compared with 64% of urban residents), while 62% support nondiscrimination measures protecting LGBTQ people (compared with 72% of urban residents), according to a 2017 Public Religion Research Institute survey.
    “There’s more support for LGBT people in rural areas than we might believe,” said Logan Casey, a policy researcher with the Movement Advancement Project, an LGBTQ think tank.
    Meghan Kissell of the Human Rights Campaign, which advocates for LGBTQ rights, said the growth of smaller-town pride events is a significant marker.
    “A major part of life in rural communities, especially those in the South, is a strong sense of community.    As we see more and more LGBTQ Pride celebrations in these areas, it demonstrates a slow but steady understanding that the LGBTQ community is our community, our family, neighbors and our friends,” she said.
    Pride history dates back decades.
    Pride parades and events date to the 1970s.    Louisville held picnics before a fuller pride festival began developing in the 1990s.
    Lexington held one in 2008, with Northern Kentucky following a year later.    But it wasn’t until the past few years that they’ve spread to smaller cities and towns.
    Coltt Vance, 23, a photographer from Paintsville, in Eastern Kentucky, said he drove hours to Lexington to his first pride festival in 2015, after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling legalizing same-sex marriage.
    Last year, he attended the festival in Pikesville, a town of 7,000 in an area he called “one of the most anti-gay parts of the state.”    Social media comments on news stories suggested there would be protesters.
    But May, the organizer, said “only two showed up: One lady had a sign and another had a Bible and suit.    We just ignored them.”
    “I was flabbergasted,” Vance said.    “There was no pushback.    There was no big protest.    No resistance to pride.    I think I maybe saw one person” protesting.
    Across the state in Madisonville, a town of about 20,000 more than two hours west of Louisville, Cody Lander had familiar struggles growing up.    When he graduated about a decade ago, “there were instances where people found out I was gay, and I was denied a job because of that.”
    After moving back to town after college, he helped organize a pride festival in 2016 and was surprised when nearly 500 people showed up.     While some balked at closing streets for the festival, he said, “The attitudes have completely changed, we had a dozen businesses support us.”
    He said the event has helped draw LGBTQ people to take jobs there.    “I’ve talked to a lot of people who had to move to Western Kentucky for a job” and they choose places with an LGBTQ pride group or festival or fairness ordinance, he said.
    In 2,200-resident Spencer, Indiana, 115 miles north of Louisville, LGBTQ residents had seen instances of discrimination and harassment in years past, such as a realtor who refused to show properties, or rainbow flags being vandalized, said Spencer Pride co-founder Judi Epp.
    The tiny town held its first pride picnic more than a decade ago on the courthouse square, and the event has since been critical for building support and acceptance.
    It now draws nearly twice the population of the town.    And it’s helped Spencer Pride create one of the only LGBTQ community centers in Southern Indiana, offering youth activities and other resources.
    It’s one of about 255 LGBTQ centers across the United States, which are growing at an average of 25% a year, according to CenterLink, a network of LGBTQ resource centers.
    “In this area, things have changed,” Epp said.    “It’s not that the LGBT community hasn’t been in rural areas, there was just never the shared community.”
    Reporter Chris Kenning can be reached at or 502-582-4307.
Ellen Evans, right, and her son Egan Evans, 12, attend the raising of the gay pride flag ceremony in front of Metro Hall as part of the Pride Week festivities. PHOTOS BY SAM UPSHAW JR./COURIER JOURNAL
Aiden Labisch wears a “Straight Outta the Closet” T-shirt at the ceremony Monday. Advocates say the growth of pride festivals is a hopeful sign of shifting public attitudes in the region.
Erica Fields of Civitas, the regional LGBT chamber of commerce, embraces Mayor Greg Fischer before speaking Monday at the pride flag-raising ceremony, part of Louisville’s Pride Week festivities. PHOTOS BY SAM UPSHAW JR./COURIER JOURNAL
The gay pride flag flies in front of Metro Hall. Pride festivals have expanded to nearly 20 towns across Kentucky, and others in Southern Indiana.

6/14/2019 Poland’s bishops exhorted to do more against pedophilia by Wojciech Zurawski
FILE PHOTO: Archbishop Charles Scicluna, special Vatican envoy, speaks during a news conference
in Santiago, Chile June 12, 2018. REUTERS/Rodrigo Garrido/File Photo
    WALBRZYCH, Poland (Reuters) – The Vatican’s leading sexual abuse investigator on Friday urged stronger action from Poland’s Catholic bishops who are under growing public pressure over a pedophilia scandal.
    In an 85 percent Catholic nation where priests have long had a high social standing, the issue came to the fore last month with a new documentary on pedophilia in Poland’s church, which is closely allied to the ruling party.
    “I have a great hope that Polish bishops will do what is needed … I hope this situation can be repaired,” Archbishop Charles Scicluna said on Friday during a two-day trip to train senior clergy on tackling pedophilia.
    The Polish bishops approved earlier this year a document setting out procedures for reporting and tackling abuse, but critics say some clergy still lack empathy with victims.
    “My very strong message to the bishops of Poland this morning was – we need to pass from very good documents to an example of best practice,” Scicluna, from Malta, told reporters.
    Pope Francis has promised an “all-out battle” to root out pedophilia in the Catholic Church, which has seen its reputation battered by sexual abuse scandals worldwide.
    It has faced accusations of hushing up scandals and moving known abusers from parish-to-parish.
    The church in Poland, which is close to the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, has yet to reach consensus on handling the issue.    PiS, a nationalist, socially conservative party, sees Catholicism as a key element of national identity, while Polish liberals say bishops wield too much power.
    Victims have sometimes struggled to be believed.
    The Catholic Church has long held a powerful political role in Poland, notably as a counterweight to communist rule during the Cold War-era papacy of Polish Pope John Paul II.
    In March, the Polish church published a study saying that between 1990 and 2018 its officials had received reports of sexual abuse by clergy of 625 children since 1950, over half of them aged 15 or younger.
        One arm of the church has filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court seeking to annul a 1 million zloty ($264,221.73) payment ordered by a lower court to a woman who, as a 13-year-old child, was repeatedly raped by her local priest.
(Reporting by Wojciech Zurawski; Writing by Marcin Goclowski; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

6/15/2019 Catholic bishops OK anti-abuse steps by David Crary and Regina Garcia Cano, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    BALTIMORE – Under intense public pressure, the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops approved new steps this week to deal more strongly with the clergy sex-abuse crisis.    But activists and others said the moves leave the bishops in charge of policing themselves and potentially keep law enforcement at arm’s length.
    As their national meeting in Baltimore concluded Thursday, leaders of the U.S. bishops conference stopped short of mandating that lay experts such as lawyers and criminal justice professionals take part in investigating clergy accused of child molestation or other misconduct.    They also did not specify a procedure for informing police of abuse allegations that come in over a newly proposed hotline.
    “Even the bishops themselves recognize they have lost their credibility in monitoring this dreadful crisis,” said Thomas Groome, a professor at Boston College’s School of Theology.    “Without strong oversight by competent lay people, it won’t be seen as credible.”
    Groome said the bishops should have no hesitation in declaring that credible allegations should be reported to police.
    They’re not dealing simply with a sin, they’re dealing with a crime,” he said.    “They do not have the power to forgive crimes.”
    The Baltimore meeting followed a string of abuse-related developments that have presented the bishops and the 76 million-member U.S. church with unprecedented challenges.    Many dioceses across the country have been targeted by prosecutors demanding secret files, and a number of high-ranking church officials have become entangled in cases of alleged abuse or cover-ups.
    Of the anti-abuse measures approved by the bishops during three days of deliberations, the most tangible was the planned creation of a national hotline – to be operated by a yet-to-be-chosen independent entity – to field allegations of abuse and cover-ups by bishops.
    Another measure specifies that the bishops will now be governed by the same code of conduct that has applied to priests since 2002.    It outlines a variety of procedures for combating child sexual abuse and said even a single act of abuse should lead to a priest’s permanent removal from the ministry.     Catholic leaders said the charter has helped greatly to reduce clergy sex abuse.
    During Thursday’s debate, Bishop Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City, Missouri, urged that lay involvement in investigations be made mandatory, “to make darn sure we bishops do not harm the church.”
    The bishops did not go quite that far, instead stipulating that archbishops “should identify a qualified lay person to receive reports.”     However, SNAP, a national advocacy group for victims of clergy abuse, expressed dismay that the bishops did not mandate lay involvement or spell out a policy for notifying law enforcement.
    SNAP also called on Catholic leaders to strengthen the network of lay review boards that help Catholic dioceses across the country investigate abuse cases.    SNAP said these boards should be fully independent of diocesan control and include at least one abuse victim, as well as experts recommended by the attorney general’s office in the diocese’s state.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, reads the
liturgical celebration during the spring meeting in Baltimore. JOSE LUIS MAGANA/AP

6/16/2019 Worshippers in safety hats attend Notre-Dame’s first mass since fire by Dominique Vidalon
The Archbishop of Paris Michel Aupetit leads the first mass in a side chapel two months to the day after a devastating fire
engulfed the Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral, in Paris, France June 15, 2019. Karine Perret/Pool via REUTERS
    PARIS (Reuters) – A small congregation in white hard hats attended mass at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on Saturday, the first service since fire devastated the Gothic landmark two months ago.
    Church leaders are keen to show life goes on at the cathedral as donations for rebuilding trickle in.
    Less than 10% of the 850 million euros ($953 million) pledged by billionaires, business leaders and others has been received so far, the French government said.
    The mass, which commemorates the cathedral’s consecration as a place of worship, was held in a side-chapel left undamaged by the April 15 fire, with attendance limited to about 30 people wearing protective headgear.
    Priests in ceremonial garb of white robes and yellow stoles briefly parted with their hard hats during the communion.
    “It is with much emotion that we are here to celebrate the consecration of the cathedral,” said Paris’s archbishop Michel Aupetit, who led the service.
    “It is a message of hope and thanks to all those who were moved by what happened to this cathedral,” he added, acknowledging afterwards it was “a bit strange” to celebrate mass with a helmet.
    The service was broadcast live on a religious TV channel that showed poignant images of the blue sky through the collapsed roof and the black rubble still clogging the building.
    On Friday, France’s Culture Minister Franck Riester said the cathedral was still in a fragile state, especially the vault.
    The blaze caused the roof and spire of the architectural masterpiece to collapse, triggering worldwide sadness.
    Among those who promised to donate to the rebuilding effort were luxury goods tycoons Bernard Arnault and François-Henri Pinault.
    “There could be people who promised to donate then in the end did not,” Riester told France 2 television, without giving further details.    “But more importantly, and this is normal, the donations will be paid as restoration work progresses.”
    President Emmanuel Macron has set a target of five years for restoring the cathedral, though Riester was more cautious.
    “The president was right to give a target, an ambition,” he said.    “But obviously what matters in the end is the quality of the work.    So it does not mean that work will be totally finished in exactly five years.”
($1 = 0.8923 euros)
(Editing by Helen Popper and Mike Harrison)

6/17/2019 In historic shift, Vatican to consider married priests for Amazon region by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: Roman Catholic pilgrims display a banner with an image depicting Jesus Christ as they travel in a boat while accompanying
the statue of Our Lady of Conception (not seen) during an annual river procession and pilgrimage along the Caraparu River in Santa
Izabel do Para, in the Amazon jungle December 8, 2012. Picture taken December 8, 2012. REUTERS/Paulo Santos/File Photo
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – A Vatican document on Monday said the Church should consider ordaining older married men as priests in remote areas of the Amazon, a historic shift which some say could pave the way for their use in other areas where clergy are scarce.
    The recommendation, contained in a working document prepared by the Vatican for a synod of bishops from the Amazon scheduled for October, also called for some kind of “official ministry” for women in the area, although it did not elaborate.
    It was the most direct mention ever in a Vatican document of the possibility of a married priesthood, albeit limited, and a greater ministerial role for women in one area of the world.
    The document spoke of the possibility of ordaining what are known as “viri probati” – Latin for men of proven character – to deal with the shortage of priests.    Such men would be elderly, outstanding members of the local Catholic community and with grown-up families.
    “While affirming that celibacy is a gift for the Church, there have been requests that, for the most remote areas of the region, (the Church) studies the possibility of conferring priestly ordination on elderly men, preferably indigenous, respected and accepted members of their communities,” the document said.
    It said such men could be ordained “even if they already have an established and stable family, in order to guarantee the sacraments that accompany and sustain Christian life.”
    Only priests can say Mass or hear confessions, meaning that Catholics in isolated communities in the Amazon can go for many months without participating in either of the sacraments.
    Some Catholic scholars have said the approval of ‘viri probati’ in the Amazon may eventually pave the way for their use elsewhere in the world as a response to the shortage of priests.
    Pope Francis, in an interview with a German newspaper in 2017, said he was willing to consider ordaining “viri probati” men as priests in isolated communities.
    But he ruled out a general opening the priesthood to all married men or watering down the Catholic Church’s commitment to celibacy, seen as a virtue that frees priests to devote their lives fully to serve God.
    The synod on Oct 6-27 at the Vatican will include bishops and other representatives, including indigenous peoples, from Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guyana.
    At the end of their conference, participants will vote on various articles in a final document, which will then go to the pope, who will decide whether to make it an official Apostolic Exhortation based on the synod meetings.
    The document also issues a strong defense for the protection of the environment in the Amazon, deforestation, illegal mining and development projects that threaten native cultures and the delicate ecosystem vital for the planet.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

6/21/2019 ‘LGBTQ+ Pride’ event scorned by some in ‘Christian’ Kentucky town by Billy Kobin, Louisville Courier Journal USA TODAY NETWORK
    After a public library in Central Kentucky hosted an “LGBTQ+ Pride Panel” on Tuesday night, some critics and local officials called on the library to face punishment for the event.
    The Taylor County Public Library in Campbellsville hosted the panel that featured discussions with five openly gay people from across Kentucky as part of Pride Month.
    A flyer advertising the event said it was “designed to encourage conversation through questions and stories in hopes of breaking stereotypes and becoming familiar with the LGBTQ+ community.”
    Spencer Jenkins of Louisville, who was one of the panelists, said the LGBTQ panel was also the first of its kind in Campbellsville, which has roughly 11,000 residents and is about 90 miles south of Louisville.
    Jenkins is the founder and editor in-chief of Queer Kentucky, an online news site that covers issues important to the LGBTQ community.
    He said the library event featured a standing-room-only crowd of all ages and offered some people “who have never had the opportunity to talk to openly queer people” the chance to ask questions and learn about topics such as coming out to family and friends and how drug abuse can impact those who are rejected by family for their sexual orientation.
    “People genuinely wanted to be there,” Jenkins said.    “The conversation was open.    It was a lot of fun.”
    But while organizers and participants in the panel thought it was meaningful and successful, speakers at a Taylor County government meeting Tuesday night thought otherwise.
    A video of the Fiscal Court meeting showed one woman telling the six county magistrates and Judge-Executive Barry Smith she thought the LGBTQ panel set a “terrible precedent” and opens “a Pandora’s box of similar controversial events.”
    “When you’re in a small Christian community like Campbellsville, it is a big deal,” the woman said.    “... For years, our public library has been a safe zone, free from the political agendas. ... This decision has put our Christian community on perilous ground.”
    She asked if officials would ever allow tax dollars to go toward supporting events held by groups such as the Ku Klux Klan or pro-pedophilia organizations.
    As an imperfect yet outspoken Christian, I’ve heard comments to not shove my Jesus down the throats of others,” she said.    “Yet in one fell swoop, I’ve found others are now allowed to shove their ideology down mine.    I do not find that acceptable.”
    The woman added that she and “many others” believe a local tax supporting the Taylor County Public Library should be repealed if the library becomes a “political soapbox.”
    After she finished speaking, one county magistrate raised his hand and said, “I’d like to say I agree with her 100%.”
    A man in the audience then asked, “Will there be a drag queen story hour like they do in other cities?
    “I sure hope not,” Smith, the judge executive, can be heard replying.
    In May, the Louisville Free Public Library hosted its first Drag Queen Storytime, which was met with both appreciation and protest.
    One board member then told Smith he would like to see him remove library board members who approved the LGBTQ panel.    The board of trustees for the Taylor County Public Library includes five members appointed by city and county government officials.
    “I can’t do that,” Smith responded.
    The county attorney, citing statutes, replied that appointed members can be removed.    The meeting was then adjourned.    Smith told the Courier Journal in an email that no action has been taken since Tuesday’s meeting.    “Nor do I anticipate any further action being taken.”
    In a since-deleted Facebook post, Smith wrote that he “personally disagree( s) with our library’s decision to host an LGBTQ pride event.”
    While it is my sworn duty as your County Judge Executive to represent all Taylor Countians, regardless of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation, my religious beliefs as a Christian teach me that homosexuality is both immoral and a sin.”

6/21/2019 High court allows cross on state land by Richard Wolf, USA TODAY
    WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court got religion Thursday, ruling that a gigantic Latin cross on government land in Maryland does not have to be moved or altered in the name of church-state separation.
    The justices reasoned that the 40foot cross was erected nearly a century ago as a World War I memorial, not an endorsement of Christianity.    But while their verdict could extend to other existing monuments, it does not offer a blank check to new ones.
    The opinion by Associate Justice Samuel Alito concluded that the display does not violate the Constitution’s establishment clause because of its longevity and multiple messages.    The vote was 7-2, with Associate Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissenting.
    “The cross is undoubtedly a Christian symbol, but that fact should not blind us to everything else that the Bladensburg Cross has come to represent,” Alito said.    For many people, he said, “destroying or defacing the cross that has stood undisturbed for nearly a century would not be neutral and would not further the ideals of respect and tolerance embodied in the First Amendment.”
    Ginsburg dissented from the bench and in writing.    “Just as a Star of David is not suitable to honor Christians who died serving their country, so a cross is not suitable to honor those of other faiths who died defending their nation,” she wrote.
    The question before the court was: Does the 93-year-old “Peace Cross” in Bladensburg, Maryland, violate the First Amendment, which prohibits government establishment of religion?
    Even if the answer was yes, few of the justices who heard the case in February wanted to see it moved, altered or demolished.    Conceived in 1919 by bereaved mothers of the fallen and completed by the American Legion six years later, the war memorial has become part of the town’s landscape.
    A federal district court judge ruled in 2015 that the monument did not violate the Constitution’s ban on government establishment of religion.    In 2017, an appeals court panel reversed that decision, calling the cross the “preeminent symbol of Christianity.”
    Even if that’s so, Alito ruled, crosses are commonplace as grave markers.    “If you look today online at pictures of American cemeteries in Europe, what would strike you is this row after row of plain white crosses,” he said from the bench.
    Ginsburg disputed that rationale for maintaining the cross, which she said “is a common marker for the graves of Christian soldiers precisely because it symbolizes the foundational tenets of Christianity.”
    Several other justices wrote separately to justify other reasons for allowing the cross to stand.    Associate Justice Clarence Thomas called it “clearly constitutional” despite any and all religious connotations.    Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh said it should survive based on “history, tradition and precedent.”
    By contrast, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer said the cross essentially was being grandfathered in, but “a newer memorial, erected under different circumstances, would not necessarily be permissible.”
The Supreme Court says the World War I memorial in Bladensburg, Md., can continue to stand on public land. KEVIN WOLF/AP

6/21/2019 Ukrainian gay couple hope Danish wedding will change mindsets at home by Margaryta Chornokondratenko and Max Hunder
A wedding ring is seen on a hand of Anton Pozdnyakov, a 32-year-old event manager, married to Roman Ivasiy,
a 27-year-old doctor, in their flat in Kiev, Ukraine June 19, 2019. Picture taken June 19, 2019. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
    KIEV (Reuters) – Before Kiev celebrates Pride on Sunday, Roman Ivasiy and Anton Pozdnyakov want to speak publicly about their wedding in the hope it will help change hostile attitudes toward same-sex couples in Ukraine and give courage to those “struck dumb with fear.”
    Same-sex unions are not legally recognized in Ukraine and Pozdnyakov, 32, and Ivasiy, 27, wed in a ceremony attended by their friends in Copenhagen’s city hall in May.
    Under Western-backed leadership, Ukraine’s parliament passed legislation in 2015 to ban discrimination in the workplace as part of a series of laws Ukraine needed to pass to qualify for an European Union visa-free travel agreement.
    But activists say homophobia remains widespread.
    “There are people who are afraid to even think about (marrying a same-sex partner).    And because of this way of thinking, they are unable find a soul mate, because they are struck dumb with fear, pure fear, and they are unhappy,” Pozdnyakov said.
    Sunday’s march in Kiev – part of “Pride Month” celebrated by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people around the world – regularly attracts counter protests by right-wing and religious activists.
    Earlier this week people attending a film screening held as part of Pride Month were attacked in the street, prompting the U.S. Embassy to call on law enforcement to help ensure Ukrainians could attend the march safely and without fear.
    Human rights groups last year wrote an open letter to the authorities criticizing police inaction in response to violence against ethnic minorities, women’s rights activists and LGBT people.
    For Ivasiy, a doctor, getting married to Pozdynakov, an event manager, was the second most important step for the couple behind gaining their families’ approval for the relationship.
    He did not tell his family about his sexuality until he and Pozdnyakov had been dating for two years.    When he told his mother, Ivasiy says she had two questions:
    “If this would ever change, and I said ‘no’.    (The second thing) she asked was if I understood that this would be difficult for me.    I said ‘yes’.    And that’s it.    She said that everything was fine, and that she loved me as she did before.”
    Pozdnyakov found coming out to his mother much easier.    She raised him on her own and they had always been close.    It was she who asked whether he was gay when he was still a teenager.
    The lack of legal recognition for Ivasiy and Pozdnyakov’s marriage in Ukraine posed another potential problem, though one which the couple hope will never occur: “We can’t get divorced,” said Ivasiy.
    “There is no divorce procedure in Denmark … the only way will be when Ukrainian authorities recognize our marriage, and can divorce us.    Therefore, our country is the biggest guarantor of our marriage, no matter how paradoxical that sounds.”
(Editing by Matthias Williams and Raissa Kasolowsky)
[I am amused that they created a symptom for those who do not believe that homosexuality is proper:
    Homophobia, encompasses a range of negative attitudes and feelings toward homosexuality or people who are identified or perceived as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT).    It has been defined as contempt, prejudice, aversion, hatred or antipathy, may be based on irrational fear, and is often related to religious beliefs.
    Homophobia is observable in critical and hostile behavior such as discrimination and violence on the basis of sexual orientations that are non-heterosexual.    Recognized types of homophobia include institutionalized homophobia, e.g. religious homophobia and state-sponsored homophobia, and internalized homophobia, experienced by people who have same-sex attractions, regardless of how they identify.
    Negative attitudes toward identifiable LGBT groups have similar yet specific names: lesbophobia is the intersection of homophobia and sexism directed against lesbians, biphobia targets bisexuality and bisexual people, and transphobia targets transgender and transsexual people and gender variance or gender role nonconformity.    According to 2010 Hate Crimes Statistics released by the FBI National Press Office, 19.3 percent of hate crimes across the United States "were motivated by a sexual orientation bias."    Moreover, in a Southern Poverty Law Center 2010 Intelligence Report extrapolating data from fourteen years (1995–2008), which had complete data available at the time, of the FBI's national hate crime statistics found that LGBT people were "far more likely than any other minority group in the United States to be victimized by violent hate crime."
    The term homophobia and its usage have been criticized by several sources as unwarrantedly pejorative.
    I disagree and it is a crime in the eyes of God, it is sinful and all should be aware that Sodomy is generally anal or oral sex between people or sexual activity between a person and a non-human animal, but it may also means any non-procreative sexual activity.
    Originally, the term sodomy, which is derived from the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Book of Genesis, was commonly restricted to anal sex.    Decriminalize homosexuality does not make it right to do as it is a transgression against divine law or a crime against nature.
    God will judge them and it is not my place to punish them.
    Hopefully they will let them have their time to research God's word as seen below.
You shall not lie with a male, as with a woman; it is an abomination” Leviticus 18:22.
Do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of God?    Be not deceived, neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate (transgender man to woman), nor abusers of themselves with mankind (homosexuals)” 1 Corinthians 6:9."
    I pray to God everyday, "Thank you Lord for another day, forgive me of my sins, lead me from temptation, guide me in the ways of righteousness."

6/22/2019 Thousands march in Romanian capital’s pride parade
Supporters and activists of the LGBT movement take part in Bucharest Pride 2019, in
Bucharest, Romania, June 22 2019. Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea via REUTERS
    BUCHAREST (Reuters) – Thousands of people joined a LGBT pride march in Bucharest on Saturday, nearly a year after Romania held a failed referendum to ban same sex marriage.
    Socially conservative Romania, which decriminalized homosexuality in 2001, decades after its neighbors, bars marriage and civil partnerships for same sex couples.
    On Saturday, roughly 10,000 people braved rain showers and marched the length of Bucharest’s iconic Calea Victoriei, dancing and waving rainbow flags.    Organisers said the march was larger than last year’s pride parade.
    “I am here for equality, I want to be allowed to live my life,” said Alina, 23.
    Smaller pride marches were held in other cities this year.
    Last year, a civil society group secured signatures for a vote aimed at preventing gay couples from winning the right to marry in the future.    The referendum was backed by the Orthodox Church and all parliamentary parties but one.
    Romanians boycotted the vote, with dozens of human rights groups warning a successful referendum would have emboldened further attempts to chip away at the rights of minority groups and push Romania onto a populist track.
    Immediately after the failed referendum, the ruling Social Democrats said they would introduce legislation to legalize civil unions for same-sex couples, but there has been little progress in parliament.
    Romania ranks near the bottom of EU states based on legislation, hate speech and discrimination against LGBT people, according to an annual study by ILGA-Europe, an umbrella organization advocating equality.
    As in previous years, there was a counter-march in Bucharest in support of traditional family values, but the event was poorly attended.
(Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Ros Russell)

6/23/2019 Thousands in Costa Rica celebrate in first pride march since gay marriage ruling by Álvaro Murillo
Thousands take part in the annual Gay Pride parade along a Central Avenue,
in San Jose, Costa Rica June 23, 2019. REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate
    SAN JOSE (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of Costa Ricans celebrated gay pride on Sunday in the capital, San Jose, in the first such march since the country’s constitutional court promised same-sex couples the right to marry starting next year.
    The court voted last August to legalize gay marriage and said later the ruling would take effect in May 2020, making Costa Rica the first country in socially conservative Central America to recognize that right.
    “Ten years ago, there were about 20 people who received insults and now we are more than 100,000 proud of what we are and what we have achieved,” said Nisa Sanz, who got married in Spain to a Swiss woman with whom she has three children.    “I never imagined it that way.”
    Members of the Lutheran Church of Costa Rica, including Bishop Gilberto Quesada, also attended the march organized by March for Diversity, as did activists from neighboring Nicaragua who hoped their government would follow suit.
    Legalizing gay marriage was a major campaign promise by President Carlos Alvarado Quesada, who took office in May 2018, and also attended the march.
    “This is progress,” said Luis Salazar, government representative for sexually diverse community affairs.    “But nothing is more valuable than seeing more people from the community here with their friends and family.”
(Reporting by Alvaro Murillo in San Jose; Writing by Diego Ore and Stefanie Eschenbacher; Editing by Peter Cooney)

6/23/2019 Ukraine hosts biggest ever gay pride parade by Natalia Zinets
Police officers guard participants of the Equality March, organized by the LGBT community, in Kiev, Ukraine June 23, 2019. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
    KIEV (Reuters) – Ukrainian politicians and foreign diplomats joined thousands marching in a gay pride parade in Kiev on Sunday, the biggest and most peaceful ever in the former Soviet country.
    Crowds of people, many dressed in bright colors, paraded along streets in the center of the Ukrainian capital, holding up banners saying “Diversity is beautiful” “Human rights = happy country,” “No violence – yes rights!
    They were flanked by a thick cordon of police in helmets but there was no sign of violence despite the presence of a few hundred protesters.
    Sunday’s march in Kiev was part of “Pride Month” celebrated by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people around the world.
    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a former comedian who took office last month, has promoted a tolerant culture, saying he stands for all people’s equality and freedom.
    “Our desire is to convey to a majority of people that LGBT is normality,” Eduard, a 17-year-old tattoo artist, told Reuters.
    “I am taking part for the fifth time. Ukraine is making significant progress compared to previous years, security and organization are much better.”
    Zelenskiy’s office urged the police to prevent violence and guarantee the safety of participants in the March of Equality.
    “Ukraine’s Constitution states that citizens have equal constitutional rights and freedoms,” it said in a post on its Facebook page on Sunday morning.
    Ruslana Panukhnyk, one of the organizers of the capital’s annual gay pride march, told journalists after the event that about 8,000 people had attended it far more than 5,000 last year.
    “We are satisfied with the cooperation with the police.    There were some small incidents, but no injuries,” she said.
    “The most important (thing) for us is human rights.”
    Under Western-backed leadership, Ukraine’s parliament passed legislation in 2015 to ban discrimination in the workplace as part of a series of laws Ukraine needed to pass to qualify for a visa-free travel agreement with the European Union.
    “Thank you to the police and other law enforcement agencies for protecting today’s Pride event in Kiev,” Judith Gough, the British ambassador to Ukraine who joined the march, wrote in a tweet.
    She posted pictures of herself and other Western ambassadors who participated in the event.
    William B. Taylor, charge d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, wrote in a tweet: “We stand with all Ukrainians striving for equality and non-discrimination.”
    The government has increased support for LGBT rights since a Western-backed leadership came to power in 2014, but critics say homophobic attitudes remain relatively widespread.
    Almost 47% of Ukrainians think that rights of sexual minorities should be limited while 37.5% are against restrictions, and 15.6% do not have an opinion, according to a survey published by independent think-tank Democratic Initiatives last December.    It interviewed 1,998 people.
    Sunday’s march was a far cry from violent clashes witnessed at the same event in 2015, but protesters also made their voices heard.
    “We are for God and Ukraine… For us it is important that people, who have a sexual sin, do not make propaganda out of it,” Oksana Korchynska, a member of the opposition Radical Party which says it promotes family values, told Reuters.    She joined a few hundred protesters at the event.
    Police detained nine men on Saturday, who allegedly were planning protests but police said they had seen no reason to detain anyone on Sunday. (Story refiled to correct format, add byline)
(Reporting by Natalia Zinets; Editing by Susan Fenton)

6/24/2019 Thousands march for LGBT rights through Ukrainian capital
    MOSCOW – Thousands of supporters of LGBT rights marched through the center of Kiev while police kept them separated from opponents.
    Police said Sunday that nine people were arrested on suspicion of preparing provocations against participants in the Kiev Pride event.    Ukrainian news reports estimated the number of marchers at about 2,500.    Opponents of gay rights say homosexuality is contrary to Ukraine’s traditional culture.    In turn, a large banner at the head of the march declared that “our tradition is freedom.”

6/26/2019 Conservative Vatican cardinal withdraws support for Steve Bannon by Philip Pullella
Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon sits on the stage during the Nordic Media Festival
in Bergen, Norway, May 9, 2019. Terje Pedersen/ NTB Scanpix via REUTERS
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Conservative Cardinal Raymond Burke, for years a strong backer of Steve Bannon, has yanked his support for the former Trump White House adviser and his plan to set up a right-wing Catholic academy in Italy.
    Burke said he was withdrawing his backing after Bannon was quoted as saying he supported making a film from a recent book alleging widespread homosexuality in Vatican.
    The book, “In the Closet of the Vatican,” by French author Frederic Martel, contains several pages about Burke but does not say he is homosexual.
    “I do not, in any way, agree with Mr. Bannon’s assessment of the book in question,” Burke says in a letter posted on his Twitter account on Tuesday.     “I disagree completely with a number of Mr. Bannon’s statements regarding the doctrine and discipline of the Roman Catholic Church,” Burke said.
    The American cardinal, who is one of Pope Francis’s fiercest critics and a point of reference for Catholic conservatives worldwide, said he was immediately terminating his relationship with the Dignitatis Humanae Institute think-tank.
    Bannon, a Catholic, was helping to craft the curriculum for a leadership course aimed at right-wing Catholic activists as part of a program for a new academy which would be part of the institute but based in an 800-year-old monastery south of Rome.
    Burke had been president of the institute’s board of advisers since 2013 and was recently made an honorary president.
    Asked for comment on Burke’s letter, Bannon said in an email to Reuters that he was on the U.S.-Mexico border, and had bad communications.
    In an email to Reuters for a story on the institute last year, Burke praised Bannon as “a well-recognized strategic thinker” and said he was “pleased that he is taking a leading role in the development of this academy.”
    In that email, Burke said he was looking forward to working with Bannon and the institute’s founder, Benjamin Harnwell, “to promote a number of projects that should make a decisive contribution to the defense of what used to be called Christendom
    Bannon, who has launched a campaign to build a populist movement across Europe, had been raising funds for the institute and its plan for the academy at the monastery, according to Harnwell.
    The letter from Burke was the latest setback for the institute and the academy plan.
    Last month, Italy’s Culture Ministry, which owns the mountaintop property, withdrew the lease, citing violations of various contractual obligations.    Harnwell told Reuters he would challenge the decision in court.
    In January, another honorary president of the institute, Cardinal Renato Martino, an Italian, also stepped down.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball in London; Editing by Alison Williams)

6/27/2019 GETTY IMAGES - Young show less LGBTQ tolerance - Survey’s findings contradict image of accepting generation by Susan Miller, USA TODAY
    Young people are growing less tolerant of LGBTQ individuals, a jarring turn for a generation traditionally considered embracing and open, a survey released this week shows.
    The number of Americans 18 to 34 who are comfortable interacting with LGBTQ people slipped from 53% in 2017 to 45% in 2018 – the only age group to show a decline, according to the annual Accelerating Acceptance report released Monday.    That is down from 63% in 2016.
    Driving the dilution of acceptance are young women whose overall comfort levels plunged from 64% in 2017 to 52% in 2018, says the survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD.
    “We count on the narrative that young people are more progressive and tolerant,” John Gerzema, CEO of The Harris Poll, told USA TODAY.    “These numbers are very alarming and signal a looming social crisis in discrimination.”
Among the findings
  • 36% of young people say they were uncomfortable learning a family member is LGBTQ, compared with 29% in 2017.
  • 34% were uncomfortable learning their doctor is LGBTQ vs. 27% a year earlier.
  • 39% were uncomfortable learning their child had a school lesson on LGBTQ history vs. 30% in 2017.
    The negative shift for the young is surprising, said Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD president and CEO. When GLAAD delved into the numbers, the group found that the younger generation was coming in contact with more LBGTQ people, particularly individuals who are nonbinary and don’t identify simply as lesbian or gay.
    “This newness they are experiencing could be leading to this erosion.    It’s a newness that takes time for people to understand.    Our job is to educate about nonconformity,” she said.
‘Toxic culture’
    The survey results were released during Pride 2019 and ahead of Friday’s 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, which sparked the LGBTQ rights movement.
    They also land at a dark hour politically and culturally for the LGBTQ community amid a rise in inflammatory rhetoric and dozens of policy setbacks, such as a ban on transgender people in the military and religious exemption laws that can lead to discrimination, Ellis and Gerzema said.    Both are a likely force behind the young’s pushback on tolerance, they said.
    The young are bombarded by hate speech on social platforms from viral videos to “mean tweets,” Gerzema said.
    “Our toxic culture is enveloping young people,” he said.    “It instills fear, alienation but also permissibility” that could sway “impressionable” young minds on what is acceptable.
    There is a more menacing side, Ellis said: “We are seeing a stark increase in violence in the community.”
    GLAAD has documented more than 40 incidents of LGBTQ hate violence since Jan. 1.
    Two recent high-profile incidents: On June 16, a young gay couple were assaulted outside a popular strip of bars in Washington, in what police are investigating as a hate crime.
    A few weeks earlier, a Detroit man was charged in a triple homicide in which two gay men and one transgender woman were deliberately targeted, police said.
    The FBI released statistics in November showing a 17% increase in overall reports of hate crimes in 2017.    Of 7,175 reported crimes, more than 1,200 were based on sexual orientation or gender identity bias.
    The transgender community has been especially hard hit. In 2018, there were at least 26 deaths of transgender individuals in the USA because of violence, mostly black transgender women, according to the Human Rights Campaign, which has tracked 10 deaths this year.
    The situation is so grim that the American Medical Association warned this month of “an epidemic of violence” against transgender people, particularly those of color.
‘Tolerance parsed out’
    The increase in violence and discrimination mirrors the trajectory of the acceptance survey.    The report, first commissioned in 2014, reflected positive momentum from gains for LGBTQ rights – such as the same-sex marriage ruling – in its first three years.    That shifted in 2017 amid fallout from the presidential election, advocates said.
    Still, there is cause for optimism this year, Ellis said.    Nearly half of all non-LGBTQ adults, or 49%, are classified in the survey as “allies” with high levels of tolerance.    That is the same number as 2017, and “that is a big deal,” she said.
    Support for equal rights is stable: Eight out of 10 back equality for LGBTQ people for the third consecutive year.
    Ellis is confident the younger generation can rise again as beacons of unbiased values.    When numbers dipped a year ago for young males, GLAAD went to where male audiences consume content: video games.    The advocacy group worked with the industry to introduce diverse characters and help shape attitudes.    The group has similar outreach plans for targeting young women in a popular female venue, country music concerts, Ellis said.
    It’s crucial LGBTQ advocates stay vigilant, Gerzema said. “In this toxic age, tolerance – even among youths – now seems to be parsed out.    Nothing today should be taken for granted.”
    The situation is so grim that the American Medical Association warned this month of “an epidemic of violence” against transgender people, particularly those of color.

6/27/2019 North Macedonia to host its first Gay Pride march, in test of rights record
Bobi, who escaped his hometown due to sexual orientation discrimination, talks during an
interview with Reuters at a safe house in Skopje, North Macedonia June 26, 2019. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski
    SKOPJE (Reuters) – North Macedonia will host its first Gay Pride march on Saturday, in a test of the conservative Balkan country’s record on respecting minority rights as it seeks to join the European Union.
    Gay men, lesbians and other members of the LGBT community continue to face discrimination and hate attacks across the Balkans, though North Macedonia is one of the few countries in the region that has yet to hold a Pride event.
    “Discrimination (is present) on the street… I have experienced physical threats.    It is an everyday situation,” Kristina Mitrovska, 30, told Reuters as she strolled through the capital Skopje with her 21-year-old partner Irina Gesovska.
    “It depends on who you run into,” Gesovska added.
    Bobi, a gay man originally from a small town in North Macedonia, echoed that view, saying he had to move to a safe house in Skopje to escape persistent abuse.
    “Work, freedom and peace of mind are the main things,” said Bobi, who declined to give his full name and only agreed to give an interview to camera with his face obscured for fear of possible reprisals.
    North Macedonia, which is hoping to secure a date to start membership talks with the EU, must improve human and minority rights before it can join the bloc.
    Antonio Mihajlov of the rights group Subversive Front said the situation of LGBT people in North Macedonia had improved since the pro-EU     Social Democrats and their ethnic Albanian coalition partners replaced the conservative VMRO DPMNE party in 2017 but there was still plenty more to do.
    LGBT people in North Macedonia face in particular discrimination in the areas of education, health and welfare protection and hate speech, he said.
    Saturday’s march comes on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York which kicked off the modern gay rights movement.
    Many Balkan countries including Serbia and Kosovo have already held Pride marches.    Bosnia, another former Yugoslav republic, is due to hold its first such march in September.
    Although a number of government officials, including the Minister of Social Policy Mila Carovska, said they would join Saturday’s march, right-wing organizations have scheduled a rally at the same time in central Skopje.
    In posts of social networks, several such groups branded LGBT people as the “spawn of Satan.”
    North Macedonia earlier this year changed its official name from Macedonia after reaching an agreement with neighboring Greece that ended a decades-old dispute and opened its path to NATO and EU membership talks.
(Reporting by Fedja Grulovic; Writing by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Gareth Jones)

6/28/2019 Boston OKs parade for ‘Straight Pride’; permits still needed by Ryan W. Miller, USA TODAY
    A planned “Straight Pride” parade received approval from the city of Boston, clearing another hurdle to allow the contentious event to move forward.
    The city approved the event application for the group Super Happy Fun America to host the parade Aug. 31, the Boston Globe and WBUR reported.
    The event still needs approval from the city’s police department and licensing board, according to WBUR.
    The group said its application to hoist a “Straight Pride flag” on the city’s flagpole was denied.
    Mayor Marty Walsh, a Democrat who has been critical of the event, will not attend the parade, the Boston Globe reported.
    Walsh said permits to host a public event are granted based on “operational feasibility, not based on values or endorsements of beliefs,” and the city “cannot deny a permit based on an organization’s values.”    “Whatever outside groups may try do, our values won’t change.    I invite each and every person to stand with us, and show that love will always prevail,” the mayor tweeted this month.
    Super Happy Fun America said the event aims to celebrate “the diverse history, culture and contributions of the straight community.”
    When the event was announced, it was met with criticism as many called it a clear dig against LGTBQ pride parades.
    WBUR reported that several of Super Happy Fun America’s leaders are connected to far-right groups and that its vice president, Mark Sahady, has ties to the Proud Boys, a group the FBI has labeled as extremist.
Contributing: Joey Garrison and N’dea Yancey-Bragg
LGBTQ pride events have been held worldwide this month. EPA

6/28/2019 Vatican says China intimidating Catholics loyal to pope by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: A believer prays outside St. Joseph's Church, a government-sanctioned Catholic
church, in Beijing, China, October 1, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – The Vatican asked China’s communist government on Friday to stop intimidating Catholic clergy who want to remain unequivocally loyal to the pope and refuse to sign ambiguous official registration forms.
    The request, contained in Vatican guidelines to clergy in mainland China, was the latest hiccup in relations between the Holy See and Beijing since the two sides signed a historic and disputed pact on the naming of bishops last September.
    Under Chinese law, priests and bishops must register with the state.    They also must sign a form accepting the principle of independence, autonomy and self-administration of the Church in China.
    Some have refused, fearing that it could jeopardize their fidelity to the pope as their religious leader and the independence of the local Church on doctrinal matters.
    Catholics in China are emerging from more than half a century of division which saw them split between a state-backed “official” Church and a “non-official” underground Church that remained loyal to Rome.
    Some divisions have begun to dissipate slowly since the September agreement, which gives the pope final say in the appointment of bishops.    But the registration process has caused difficulties for those emerging from the non-official Church.
    In the guidelines, the Vatican called for a registration procedure “that is more respectful of Catholic doctrine, and thus of the consciences of those involved.”
    It added: “The Holy See asks that no intimidatory pressures be applied to the ‘non official’ Catholic communities, as, unfortunately, has already happened.”
    The guidelines, requested by some Chinese bishops, said clergy should demand to include a sentence affirming that Catholic doctrine would be respected.
    If authorities do not permit that, the priest or bishop, before signing, should take a stand orally before a government authority, preferably with a witness present.
    September’s landmark deal between the Vatican and China has split Catholics there and around the world, with some critics of the pope saying he has caved in to the Communist government.
    The deal’s most outspoken critic has been Cardinal Joseph Zen, the former archbishop of Hong Kong.
    China’s constitution guarantees religious freedom, but since President Xi Jinping took office six years ago, the government has tightened restrictions on religions seen as a challenge to the authority of the ruling Communist Party.
    China has been following a policy it calls the “Sinicisation” of religion, trying to root out foreign influences and enforce obedience to the Communist Party.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

6/28/2019 Elton John blasts Putin for calling liberal values ‘obsolete’
FILE PHOTO: Elton John listens in the courtyard of the presidential Elysee Palace
in Paris, France June 21, 2019. Lewis Joly/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    (Reuters) – British singer Elton John said on Friday he was deeply upset by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s comment that liberal values were “obsolete” and had been rejected by the majority of people in Western nations.
    In an interview with the Financial Times newspaper, Putin said German Chancellor Angela Merkel had erred by adopting a liberal policy toward immigration from the Middle East.
    “The liberal idea presupposes that nothing needs to be done.    The migrants can kill, plunder and rape with impunity because their rights as migrants must be protected.    What rights are these? Every crime must have its punishment,” Putin said in the interview.
    “So, the liberal idea has become obsolete. It has come into conflict with the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population,” Putin said.
    John, in a statement released on Friday and addressed to Putin, said he was upset by the comments in the interview.
    “I strongly disagree with your view that pursuing policies that embrace multicultural and sexual diversity are obsolete in our societies,” the singer said.
    John, who is gay, also accused Putin of hypocrisy for saying in the same interview that he wanted LGBT people to be happy. Russia has reportedly censored gay scenes in the movie “Rocketman” based on John’s life.
    “This feels like hypocrisy to me,” John said.
    Putin said Russia is not photophobic, but that a Western willingness to embrace homosexuality and gender fluidity seemed excessive to him.
    John, 72, a prominent gay rights campaigner, has previously spoken out against a 2013 law banning the promotion of homosexuality to minors.
    In 2015, Putin said he would be willing to meet with John. Although the singer played a concert in Moscow in May 2016, no meeting with Putin took place.
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

6/29/219 Putin says ‘genius musician’ Elton John mistaken on Russia LGBT rights
    OSAKA (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday that Elton John was “mistaken” about LGBT rights in Russia, while praising the British singer as a musical genius.
    Elton John said on Friday he was deeply upset by Putin’s comment that liberal values were “obsolete” and had been rejected by the majority of people in Western nations.
    He also accused Putin of hypocrisy for saying that he wanted LGBT people to be happy after reports that gay scenes in “Rocketman,” the movie based on the singer’s life, had been censored in Russia.
    “I have a lot of respect for him, he is a genius musician, we all enjoy his music, but I think he is mistaken,” Putin said when asked about Elton John’s comments in Osaka where he was attending a G20 summit.
    Putin said Russian authorities had a “relaxed and unprejudiced” attitude toward LGBT people, but decisions about gender identity could only be made by adults and therefore minors need to be “left alone.”
    Russian law bans “propaganda of homosexuality among minors.”
    Putin also said that while he did not deny the attractiveness of liberal values in general, he was referring to situations where they impinged on traditional lifestyles.
(Reporting by Katya Golubkova; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Alexander Smith)

6/29/2019 Singapore holds gay pride rally amid calls for repeal of colonial-era law by Fathin Ungku
A woman and her pet dog are seen at Pink Dot, an annual event organised in support of the LGBT community,
at the Speakers' Corner in Hong Lim Park in Singapore, June 29, 2019. REUTERS/Feline Lim
    SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Thousands of people took part in Singapore’s annual gay pride rally on Saturday, with many calling for a law banning gay sex to be scrapped following similar measures elsewhere in the region.
    Singapore joins dozens of other cities around the world in celebrating gay pride this weekend but it is the only one where gay sex is criminalized, although the law is not enforced.
    Pressure for change in the city-state has increased since India’s top court struck down colonial-era criminalization of homosexuality last year.    Elsewhere in the region, Taiwan recently became the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage.
    “The majority of Singaporeans are tolerant.    But for us to be accepted, we have a long way to go,” said Elaine, 26, a banker who attended the rally with her girlfriend.
    “But I’m happy that the government doesn’t stop or disallow events like this to happen,” she added, asking to give only her first name.
    Under the law, a man found to have committed an act of “gross indecency” with another man could be jailed for up to two years, although prosecutions are rare.    The law does not explicitly ban homosexual acts between women.
    Previous legal challenges to overturn the ban have failed but shortly after the landmark Indian court ruling, a Singapore DJ filed a new court challenge against the colonial-era law.
    For 32-year-old public relations executive Devane Sharma, the criminalization of gay sex has repercussions on the society even if prosecutions do not take place.
    “The government often says that the law isn’t really enforced so it’s okay, but there are ripple effects on the rest of society, especially in matters on sexual health and workplace discrimination,” Sharma said.
    The gay pride rally has been held since 2009 under stringent public assembly laws at Speakers’ Corner, an area set aside for demonstrations, performances and exhibitions for citizens and permanent residents only.
    During its six decades since independence, Singapore has emerged as a modern, wealthy city-state.
    Lawmakers, however, remain cautious over social reforms, partly due to sensitivities stemming from the ethnic and religious mix among Singapore’s 5.6 million inhabitants.
    But there was an optimistic mood among the marchers at Saturday’s rally:
    “It’s a matter of time.    I think within a few years, the law will (be repealed).    I am hopeful,” Sharma said.
(Reporting by Fathin Ungku; Editing by Helen Popper)

6/29/2019 North Macedonia hosts its first Gay Pride march by Fedja Grulovic and Kole Casule
Participants kiss as they take part in the first Gay Pride parade in Skopje, North Macedonia June 29, 2019. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski
    SKOPJE (Reuters) – North Macedonia held its first Gay Pride march on Saturday, in a test of the conservative Balkan country’s record on respecting minority rights as it seeks to join the European Union.
    Gay men, lesbians and other members of the LGBT community continue to face discrimination and hate attacks across the Balkans.    North Macedonia is among the last countries in the region to hold a Pride event.
    Several hundred gay and human rights activists marched through central Skopje, dancing and waving a long, trademark rainbow flag.    The event was also attended by state officials and Skopje-based diplomats.
    “This event celebrates pride, love and diversity,” said Linda, who is transgender.
    North Macedonia, which is awaiting a date to start EU membership talks, must improve human and minority rights before it can join the bloc.
    “There are far more people than we have expected … hate speech of those who attempted to scare people away backfired,” said Koco Andonovcki of North Macedonian watchdog Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, one of the event organizers.
    As the LGBT rally took place, hundreds of supporters of right-wing organizations rallied in front of an Orthodox Christian cathedral, saying they were promoting traditional family values.
    A pro-EU coalition led by Social Democrats and their ethnic Albanian partners have sought to improve the situation of LGBT people in North Macedonia, after replacing the conservative VMRO DPMNE party in 2017.
    But rights groups and gay activists say LGBT people in North Macedonia still face discrimination in education, work, health and welfare protection, as well as facing hate speech.
    Saturday’s march marked the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York which kicked off the modern gay rights movement.    Balkan countries such as Serbia and Kosovo have staged Pride marches.    Bosnia is due to hold one in September.
    North Macedonia this year changed its official name from Macedonia after reaching an agreement with neighboring Greece, ending a decades-old dispute and opening its path to NATO and EU membership talks.
(Reporting by Kole Casule and Fedja Grulovic; Writing by Aleksandar Vasovic)

6/30/2019 Minneapolis church expelled over support of gay marriage
    MINNEAPOLIS – Leaders of the Evangelical Covenant Church voted to defrock a Minneapolis pastor for permitting gay marriage.    The Rev. Dan Collison had his credentials removed by a 77% vote at the Evangelical Covenant Church’s annual meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, on Friday night.    Leaders also expelled Collison’s First Covenant Church, a founding member of the 135-year-old denomination.    The ECC said First Covenant is free to operate independently and can keep its building.    Collison will continue as lead pastor.

6/30/2019 Judge blocks Indiana ban on 2nd-trimester abortion procedure
    INDIANAPOLIS – A federal judge on Friday blocked an Indiana law that would ban a second-trimester abortion procedure, days before the law was set to take effect Monday.    The order was released hours after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to revive a similar law in Alabama.    The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana sued on behalf of two doctors who perform dilation and evacuation abortions.    Under the law, a doctor who performs the procedure could face a felony charge, punishable by up to six years in prison.

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