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

    This file is attached to http://www.mazzaroth.com/ChapterEight/2014-2017.htm from ďAstronomical Events To Appear Between 2014 Through 2017 A.D.Ē - Chapter Eight by Jim A. Cornwell, Copyright © 1995, all rights reserved.

SCARLET WOMAN 2019 OCTOBER-DECEMBER
This file is a continution of Scarlet Woman 2018 or return to Scarlet Woman 2019 July-September


10/1/2019 Report: Archdiocese has removed accused priests - Findings show complaint process works Ďvery wellí by Frank Esposito, Rockland/Westchester Journal News USA TODAY NETWORK
    NEW YORK Ė Every priest in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York who has a substantial sex-abuse accusation against him has been removed from ministry, according to a report released today.
    That finding was revealed in a report by former federal judge and prosecutor Barbara Jones, who was tasked by Cardinal Timothy Dolan with studying the archdioceseís handling of sex-abuse complaints.
    Her findings show a near stop to all abuse in the archdiocese since the early 2000s.
    ďAlmost all the complainants received over the last several years are not complaints of current conduct, but rather they are complaints about conduct which occurred sometimes decades ago,Ē Jones said.
    Jones, who is serving as special counsel and independent investigator for the archdiocese, looked at its policies, procedures, and protocols related to the problem.    She shared her findings at a news conference at the Catholic Center in New York City.
    Jones said the current processes for dealing with sex-abuse complaints are ďworking very well
    ďThere have only been two substantiated claims of sexual abuse of a minor since 2002,Ē Jones said.
    The archdiocese faces a bevy of lawsuits amid accusations of sexual abuse.
    Cardinal Dolan was pleased with the results, which showed the system has been working for the most part.
    For Dolan commissioning the report was about rebuilding trust he believed the church lost in the wake of the child sex abuse scandals.
    ďIíve had people tell me that they didnít trust the bishops or the church,Ē Dolan said.
    Among the chief recommendations in the report is that the archdiocese upgrade its technology to better track priestsí backgrounds and monitor their training.
    The archdiocese should also hire someone whose sole responsibility would be to oversee sex-abuse complaints, according to the report.
    Jones emphasized converting the archdiocese current paper filings into digital ones is the first step to preventing any more abuse.
    ďThe real focus here is on prevention and converting to digital records can help with that,Ē Jones said.
    She also mentioned Safe Environment training that the archdiocese requires of anyone working with children.
    That training currently is required once, but she suggested that it be an annual mandateparticularly in archdiocesan schools.
Contributing: Matt Spillane
    ďAlmost all the complainants received over the last several years are not complaints of current conduct.Ē Barbara Jones, special counsel Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, shown last year, called for a review of handling of sex-abuse complaints. AP

10/1/2019 Vatican police raid top offices in financial investigation by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: A general view of the Mass for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees,
led by Pope Francis at the Vatican, September 29, 2019. REUTERS/Remo Casilli/File Photo
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Ė Vatican police raided the offices of the Holy Seeís Secretariat of State and its Financial Information Authority, or AIF, on Tuesday and took away documents and electronic devices as part of an investigation of suspected financial irregularities, a Vatican statement said.
    It was believed to be the first time the two departments were searched for evidence involving alleged financial crimes.
    The Secretariat of State, the most powerful department in the Vatican, is the nerve center of its bureaucracy and diplomacy and the administrative heart of the worldwide Catholic Church.
    The AIF, headed by Swiss lawyer Rene Bruelhart, is the financial controller, with authority over all Vatican departments.
    The Vatican statement gave no details except to say that the operation was a follow-up to complaints filed in the summer by the Vatican bank and the Office of the Auditor General and were related to ďfinancial operations carried out over the course of time
    A senior Vatican source said he believed the operation, which the statement said had been authorized by Vatican prosecutors, had to do with real estate transactions.
    Since the election of Pope Francis in 2013, the Vatican has made great strides in cleaning up its often murky financial reputation.
    Last year, a former head of the Vatican bank and an Italian lawyer went on trial to face charges of money laundering and embezzlement through real estate deals. It is still in progress.
    In May, the AIF said reports of suspicious financial activity in the Vatican reached a six-year low in 2018, continuing a trend officials said showed reforms were in place.
    For decades, the bank, officially known as the Institute for Works of Religion, or IOR, was embroiled in numerous financial scandals as Italians with no right to have accounts opened them with the complicity of corrupt insiders.
    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.
    In 2017, Italy put the Vatican on its ďwhite listĒ of states with cooperative financial institutions, ending years of mistrust.
    The same year, Moneyval, a monitoring body of the Council of Europe, gave Vatican financial reforms a mostly positive evaluation.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Dan Grebler)

10/2/2019 Boy, 6, dies after alleged attempted exorcism by Molly Duerig, Arizona Republic USA TODAY NETWORK
    PHOENIX Ė A 6-year-old boy who lived on the Pascua Yaqui Indian Reservation near Tucson is dead after a man tried to exorcise a demon from him Thursday, according to a federal complaint.
    The man, Pablo Martinez, is in custody.
    On Thursday, police and fire officials from the Pascua Yaqui tribe arrived at a home on the reservation in response to a call about a child who was burned.    FBI officials also responded.
    Police found Martinez and Romelia Martinez, the boyís adoptive mother, standing outside the home.    Itís not clear if the Martinezes are married.
    Pablo Martinez told police the boy had been acting demonic, a characterization that the mother agreed with.    He told police he ďneeded to save himĒ and so he poured hot water down the boyís throat, the complaint read.
    Romelia Martinez told police that Pablo Martinez had offered to bathe the boy.
    When the boyís mother heard a gurgling sound in the bathroom, she came by and found the door locked.    She unlocked it and went inside to find Pablo Martinez holding her son under the running faucet of hot water.
    Romelia Martinez said she screamed at him to stop, but he responded that ďhe had to do it.Ē    She said Pablo Martinez tried to perform CPR on the boy and poured cold water on him.
    Pablo Martinez estimated that the boy had been underwater for between five and 10 minutes, according to the criminal complaint.
    The boy was taken to Banner University Medical Center in Tucson, where he was pronounced dead.
    Pablo Martinez has been charged with first-degree murder.

10/2/2019 Vatican financial control office director, four others suspended: report by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: A general view of the Mass for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, led
by Pope Francis at the Vatican, September 29, 2019. REUTERS/Remo Casilli/File Photo
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Ė Five Vatican employees, including the number two at the Vaticanís Financial Information Authority (AIF) and a monsignor, have been suspended following a police raid, the Italian magazine LíEspresso reported on Wednesday.
    The scandal, affecting two departments at the heart of the Vatican, was the first after several years of relative calm in which reforms enacted by Pope Francis appeared to be taking root.
    A Vatican spokesman said he had no immediate comment on the report.
    On its website, LíEspresso published a picture of a police notice to guards at Vatican gates telling them not to allow in the five employees because they had been suspended.    The notice included photographs of the five, one of whom is a woman.
    The people whose pictures were on the notice included Tommaso Di Ruzza, the director of the AIF, and Monsignor Mauro Carlino, the head of documentation at the Secretariat of State.    The other three held minor roles in the Secretariat of State, the key department in the Vaticanís central administration.
    Calls to Di Ruzzaís cell phone went unanswered.    Reuters was not immediately able to contact the other officials.
    A senior Vatican source said he was aware of the suspension of four employees from the Secretariat of State, but not of Di Ruzzaís suspension.
    Vatican police raided both offices on Tuesday and seized documents and electronic devices as part of an investigation of suspected financial irregularities.
    Tuesdayís raid is believed to be the first time the two departments were searched for evidence involving alleged financial crimes.
    The Secretariat of State, the most powerful department in the Vatican, is the nerve center of its bureaucracy and diplomacy and the administrative heart of the worldwide Catholic Church.
    The AIF, headed by Swiss lawyer Rene Bruelhart, Di Ruzzaís boss, is the financial controller, with authority over all Vatican departments.
REAL ESTATE AND CHARITY FUNDS
    In a statement on Tuesday, the Vatican said the operation was a follow-up to complaints filed in the summer by the Vatican bank and the Office of the Auditor General and were related to ďfinancial operations carried out over the course of time
    The magazine report was written by Emiliano Fittipaldi, who has authored several books on Vatican financial scandals.
    He wrote that Vatican investigators were believed to be looking into real estate transactions, particularly relating to expensive properties in London.
    A senior Vatican source told Reuters shortly after the raid was announced on Tuesday that real estate deals were involved.
    Fittipaldi said investigators were also looking into the use of money from Peterís Pence, a fund taken up in parishes around the world and earmarked for the popeís charitable activities.
    Since Francisí election in 2013, the Vatican has tried to clean up its financial reputation.
    Last year, a former head of the Vatican bank and an Italian lawyer went on trial to face charges of money laundering and embezzlement through real estate deals.    The trial is still in progress.
    The AIF said in May that reports of suspicious financial activity in the Vatican reached a six-year low in 2018, continuing a trend officials said showed reforms were in place.
    The bank, officially known as the Institute for Works of Religion, or IOR, was for decades embroiled in numerous financial scandals as Italians with no right to have accounts opened them with the complicity of corrupt insiders.
    Hundreds of IOR accounts were closed at the bank, whose stated purpose is to manage funds for the Church, Vatican employees, religious institutes or Catholic charities.
    Italy put the Vatican on its ďwhite listĒ of states with cooperative financial institutions in 2017, ending years of mistrust.
    Moneyval, a monitoring body of the Council of Europe, gave Vatican financial reforms a mostly positive evaluation in a review the same year.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Alex Richardson and Timothy Heritage)

10/2/2019 Amazon synod deepens faultlines between pope and conservatives by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: Shainkiam Yampik Wananch, a deacon ordered by the Catholic Church, holds up a host during a liturgy with
indigenous Achuar people at a chapel in Wijint, a village in the Peruvian Amazon, Peru August 20, 2019. REUTERS/Maria Cervantes/File Photo
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Ė An assembly of bishops to discuss the future of the Roman Catholic Church in the Amazon, including the possibility of introducing married priests, has deepened faultlines between Pope Francis and conservatives who say it is heretical.
    The three-week synod opens on Sunday at a time when the region Ė made up of eight countries and the French territory of Guiana Ė is in the world spotlight because of recent devastating fires in Brazil.
    About 260 participants, mostly bishops from the Amazon, will discuss spreading the faith, protection of the environment, climate change, deforestation, indigenous people and their right to keep their land and traditions.
    The Churchís small but vociferous hardline conservative wing has drawn up battle lines.     Despite being led by only three cardinals among some 230 in the Church and just one bishop out of more than 5,000, they have parlayed their savvy use of social media and their access to conservative Catholic news outlets to pillory the synodís working document.     They say it is bursting with doctrinal errors, including what they say is an implicit recognition of forms of paganism and pantheism practiced by indigenous people, such as nature worship.    Many of the conservative hardliners are also skeptical about climate change science.
    Last week, about 200 conservatives gathered near the Vatican and prayed silently ďwith the purpose of forming a united army against the enemies of God and of the Church,Ē they said in a statement.
    The synod will be ďa battle between good angels and demons,Ē one participant said.
    German Cardinal Walter Brandmueller wrote that the synod could mark ďthe self-destruction of the Church or its transformation from the mystical body of Christ into a secular NGO with an ecological-social-psychological mandate
    ďWhat do ecology, economy and politics have to do with the mandate and mission of the Church?Ē he asked.
    Plenty, answered Pope Francisí defenders.    They have rejected conservative criticisms that the Church should concentrate on saving souls and not get involved in issues such as climate change and social and economic injustice.
DIGNITY FOR ALL
    ďEvery Christian has a prophetic commitment to justice, peace and dignity for every human being,Ē said Peruvian Cardinal Pedro Barreto Jimeno, vice president of REPAM, a grouping of the Catholic communities in the Amazon.
    Barreto said this included protecting people and the environment from the excesses of a ďdominant model of society that leads to exclusion and inequality
    While Francisí defense of the environment has been widely praised, including by the United Nations, conservatives, mainly in the United States, have attacked him.    Many are aligned with conservative news outlets and well-funded political foundations skeptical of climate change science.
    Conservatives are also angry with Francis over other issues, such as a more welcoming attitude towards homosexuals and moves to allow Catholics who have divorced and remarried outside the Church to receive communion.
    ďThere is no doubt that there is a political battle going on in the Church today,Ē said Father Arturo Sosa, the Venezuelan head of the Jesuit order to which Francis belongs.
    Sosa said the attacks are a way of ďtrying to influence the election of the next popeĒ by destabilizing Francisí papacy so cardinals picking his successor after his death or resignation lean towards a conservative who wonít rock the boat so much.
    One of the synodís contentious topics is whether to allow older married ďproven menĒ with families and a strong standing in local communities to be ordained as priests in the Amazon.
    This solution to the shortage of priests, backed by many South American bishops, would allow Catholics in isolated areas to attend Mass and receive the sacraments more regularly.
    At least 85% of Amazon villages cannot celebrate Mass every week. Some see a priest only once a year.
    Opponents of the change, even only on a regional basis, fear it would be a doctrinal Trojan horse.
HERESY
    U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke, de-facto spiritual guru for many of the popeís critics, said the shortage of priests in the Amazon was a ďpretextĒ that would lead to ďthe practical abolition of priestly celibacyĒ in the rest of the world.
    Burke and Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Kazakhstan issued an appeal for ďa crusade of prayer and fasting to implore God that error and heresy do not pervertĒ the synod.
    The popeís backers point out that the Church in the West already has a small number of married priests and say the fears are exaggerated.
    They say there was little or no criticism when Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, both revered by conservatives, ushered in changes that allow married Anglican clergymen who convert to Catholicism to continue to serve as priests.
    The synod does not make decisions.    Participants vote on a final document and the pope will decide which recommendations to integrate into his future rulings.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Gareth Jones)
[heresy - belief or opinion contrary to orthodox religious (especially Christian) doctrine.].

10/2/2019 Pompeo blasts China over Uighur Muslims during Vatican visit by Philip Pullella and David Brunnstrom
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attends the launch of a Vatican - U.S. Symposium on Faith-Based Organizations (FBOs),
at the Old Synod Hall in the Vatican, October 2, 2019. Andreas Solaro/Pool via REUTERS
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Ė U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday blasted China over its treatment of Uighur Muslims, during a Vatican conference taking place in the shadow of a political crisis back home.
    Pompeo reserved his toughest criticism for China in a keynote speech at a Vatican conference on religious freedom.    The others were Cuba, Iran, Pakistan and Myanmar.
    ďWhen the state rules absolutely, it demands its citizens worship government, not God.    Thatís why China has put more than one million Uighur Muslims Ö in internment camps and is why it throws Christian pastors in jail,Ē he said.
    ďWhen the state rules absolutely, God becomes an absolute threat to authority,Ē he said.
    China has been widely condemned for setting up complexes in remote Xinjiang that it describes as ďvocational training centersĒ to stamp out extremism and give people new skills.
    ďToday we must gird ourselves for another battle in defense of human dignity and religious freedom.    The stakes are arguably higher than they were even during the Cold War, because the threats are more diverse and more numerous,Ē he said at the conference organized by the U.S. embassy to the Vatican.
    Pompeo, who is due to meet Pope Francis on Thursday morning, later visited the Sistine Chapel and other parts of the Vatican museums.
    His trip, which will also include a visit to his ancestral home in the rugged Abruzzo region northeast of Rome and stops in Montenegro, North Macedonia and Greece, has been overshadowed by an impeachment inquiry at home targeting President Donald Trump.
    Democratic opponents have accused Trump of soliciting foreign interference in the 2020 U.S. election for his personal political benefit.
    At issue is a July 25 phone call in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter in coordination with U.S. Attorney General William Barr and Trumpís personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
    Bidenís son had served as a director for a Ukrainian gas company.
    U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel and two other Democratic committee chairmen have accused Pompeo of ďstonewallingĒ the impeachment inquiry, and called him a ďfact witnessĒ in the investigation, based on media reports that he had listened in on Trumpís call with Zelenskiy.
    Pompeo has not commented on Wall Street Journal report saying he took part in the phone call.
    On Tuesday, he sternly objected to a move by the U.S. House of Representatives to obtain depositions from five current and former State Department officials as part of an impeachment inquiry.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Giles Elgood)

10/3/2019 '40 Days for Life' campaign kicks off by OAN Newsroom
An abortion opponent sings to herself outside the Jackson Womens Health Organization clinic
in Jackson, Miss., Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
    '40 Days for Life' continues to recruit prayer warriors across America to join their fight against the nationís abortion providers.    The group sent out a Twitter invitation on Tuesday, which will be open for several weeks as the pro-life group gathers more participants for their yearly battle.
    The organization has a hand in more than 6,000 local campaigns.    They said itís all thanks to their one million volunteers, who helped close more than 100 abortion clinics and saved more than 16,000 lives.
    ďOne woman was scheduled to have an abortion on Saturday morning,Ē said group President Shawn Carney.    ďInstead of going and having an abortion, she stood outside at the í40 Days for Lifeí Vigil
    Carney emphasized that vigils are effective because they take the anti-abortion fight to the literal doorstep of facilities such as Planned Parenthood.    The groupís work has won praises from Republican lawmakers, who said their efforts arenít going unnoticed.
    ďIíve seen í40 Days for Lifeí grow over these past 11 years and Iím in awe of how God is using this peaceful and prayerful effort,Ē said former Governor Mike Huckabee.    ďWe live in a great country where we have the rights to not tuck our faith away
    Attendees from ĎForty Days for Lifeí are expected to continue praying outside of abortion clinics until early November.    The group says anyone is welcome to join.

10/3/2019 Pro-life student group pushes colleges to support pregnant women by OAN Newsroom
FILE Ė In this March 14, 2019, file photo students walk on the Stanford University campus in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)
    A national pro-life organization is seeking to prevent an increase in student abortions by asking colleges to ramp up their resources for pregnant women.    Students for Life of America recently launched a new plan to expand opportunities for expectant mothers called the ďPregnant on Campus Initiative
    The student group plans to use its research to mitigate the number of school sanctioned abortions.    Recent graduate and mother Yasmeen Garcia was encouraged by this effort.
    ďStill being in college, I was really afraid of how this newborn baby was going to play intoÖmy long term goals,Ē said the SDSU alumna.    ďI was super ambitious about what I wanted to do
    The non-profit spent months researching the most effective tools to give pregnant parents in college.    They will use their findings to create common sense criteria and push the ball forward.
    Services such as financial assistance and spacious housing determine a collegeís rank on the groupís five-star rating system.    The organization recently sent letters to more than a dozen colleges in Chicago, explaining each universityís ranking on the list.    Group leaders said if schools strongly consider their critiques, it will open the floodgates for more women to accomplish their career goals while raising children.
    ďI kept envisioning myself in a cap and gown,Ē explained alumna Carole Chuma.    ďTo this day, being a parent isnít the most easy thing, but I always picture my name with an M.D. on the end
    Chuma also said after she got pregnant with twins, she thought sheíd never get her degree ó she is thankful she was wrong.
    Students for Life said only one college has responded to their recommendations so far.    The college has agreed to create a committee to review the groupís research.

10/3/2019 Pompeo, Pope Francis urge religious freedom in Mideast, elsewhere
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shakes hands with Pope Francis on the sidelines of a symposium at the
Vatican, October 3, 2019 in this still image taken from a video. Vatican Media/¨Reuters TV via REUTERS
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Ė Pope Francis and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo agreed on Thursday on the need to protect the rights of Christian minorities in the Middle East during a meeting at the Vatican, the U.S. State Department said.
    Pompeo, whose trip this week to Italy, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Greece has been overshadowed by an impeachment inquiry at home targeting President Donald Trump, met the pope for about a half an hour.
    ďThey reaffirmed the United States and Holy See commitment to advancing religious freedom around the world, and in particular, protecting Christian communities in the Middle East,Ē State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said.
    Ancient Christian communities face persecution or harassment in some Middle Eastern countries, and many Christians have left to build new lives in the West.
    The Vatican did not issue a statement on the contents of the meeting.    It usually does so only when the pope meets heads of state.
    On Wednesday Pompeo attended a Vatican conference on religious freedom where he blasted China over its treatment of Uighur Muslims.
    Pompeo, the first Italian-American secretary of state, has already met Italian leaders on his trip and later on Thursday paid a visit to his ancestral home town of Pacentro in the rugged Abruzzo region to the east of Rome.
    According to a pool reporter traveling with him, Pompeo was greeted by a crowd of local residents and a scrum of journalists.    A group of children started calling out, ďPompeo! Pompeo!.Ē    He greeted them back in English.
    It was Pompeoís first visit to his grandfatherís home town.    Locals said the population had declined from around 6,000 in World War Two to around 1,000 today.    They said that, like Pompeoís grandfather, many people had moved overseas, including to Canada, Venezuela and Australia, as well as to the United States.
    Pompeo, who has been accompanied on his trip to Italy by his wife Susan, is due to make brief stops in Montenegro and North Macedonia on Friday before flying on to Athens.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella, pool report and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Gareth Jones)

10/4/2019 Japanese MP makes waves by linking same-sex marriage to revising constitution by Linda Sieg
Kanako Otsuji, Japan's first openly lesbian lawmaker, poses at her office near
the parliament in Tokyo, Japan, October 4, 2019. REUTERS/Linda Sieg
    TOKYO (Reuters) Ė A conservative ally of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called for discussion on revising Japanís constitution to allow same-sex marriage, annoying colleagues in the ruling party who are against it and also opposition parliamentarians who say enacting a simple law would clear the way.
    Japan has no anti-LGBT laws although many LGBT people still conceal their sexuality.
    But couples seeking to register same-sex marriages have been rejected by local authorities because there is no law specifically recognising it.
    The constitution, never amended since it was adopted after Japanís defeat in World War Two, says: ďMarriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes and it shall be maintained through mutual cooperation with the equal rights of husband and wife as a basis
    Amending the constitutionís pacifist Article 9 to clarify the status of Japanís military is a long-held goal of Abe and his ruling Liberal Democratic Party. Revising the article is highly controversial, although it has already been stretched to allow armed forces for self-defence.
    Former Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura last month floated the idea of adding same-sex marriage to a list of other potential constitutional changes.
    ďIt is important to proceed with debate without any taboo, including of the idea that a man can marry a man and a woman can marry a woman,Ē NHK public TV quoted him as saying at a meeting of local LDP members last month.
    The LDP has said same-sex marriage was ďincompatibleĒ with the constitution and Shimomuraís remark caused concern at a meeting of the partyís general affairs committee this week, media reported.
    ďOne should not lightly make comments such as revising the constitution to recognise same-sex marriage,Ē the Asahi newspaper quoted former cabinet minister Keiji Furuya as saying.
    LGBT activists including Kanako Otsuji of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ) Ė the countryís first openly LGBT lawmaker Ė say no amendment is needed to allow same-sex marriage because the constitution does not explicitly ban it.
    They have submitted a marriage equality bill to parliament in June, but the ruling coalition has declined to debate it.
    ďI think the goal is to shake up the opposition,Ē Otsuji told Reuters, referring to Shimomuraís suggestion.    ďIf they agree with same-sex marriage, they should agree with our bill
    Shimomuraís office declined a request for an interview due to his tight schedule.
    A survey last year showed nearly 80 percent of Japanese in their 20s to 50s favoured legalising same-sex marriage.
    ďThe constitution did not envision same-sex marriage when it was writtenÖbut it was not prohibited,Ē said Gon Matsunaka, head of Pride House Consortium, which promotes LGBT awareness.
    ďSociety and the world have changed and it is the responsibility of the legislature to pass a law in line with that
    Constitutional amendments must be approved by two-thirds of the members of both houses of parliament and a majority in a public referendum.    The ruling bloc has a two-thirds majority in the lower house but lacks one in the upper chamber.
(Reporting by Linda Sieg, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

10/5/2019 High court to tackle La. abortion case by Richard Wolf, USA TODAY
    WASHINGTON Ė Abortion is returning to the Supreme Court.
    Three years after striking down restrictions on Texas clinics and doctors that had created burdens for thousands of women, the justices agreed Friday to consider a similar Louisiana law in the term beginning Monday.
    That puts one of the nationís most divisive issues front and center as the 2020 presidential election approaches Ė and at a time when the high court is under a microscope following several contentious confirmation fights and rulings.    A ruling in favor of Louisiana would give President Donald Trump something to show for his 2016 pledge to appoint ďpro-life justices
    The high court temporarily blocked Louisianaís abortion limits last February, when Chief Justice John Roberts joined the courtís four liberals in a preliminary skirmish.    The law therefore is on hold until the court rules, most likely in the spring.
    Abortion rights advocates had complained that the law was virtually identical to the one struck down in 2016.    But that Texas decision required the vote of Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, who retired last year and was replaced by Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh.     Roberts dissented in that case, preferring to let the Texas restrictions stand.
    Abortion cases are among the most controversial to come before the court, which might be why they donít get there very often.    It took almost 20 years after the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide before the justices reinforced the right to abortion and statesí justification in imposing some restrictions.
    Between 2000 and 2007, the court struck down a state law banning lateterm abortions, then upheld a similar federal law.    The court last term upheld an Indiana law requiring the burial or cremation of fetal remains following an abortion.    But it refused to consider that stateís effort to ban abortions based on sex, race or disability.
    More abortion restrictions are headed the high courtís way at a time when Roberts and some of his colleagues would prefer a lower profile.    Many of those would ban abortions after a certain number of weeks of pregnancy, posing a more direct challenge to the courtís 1973 decision legalizing abortion.
    Even with a 5-4 conservative majority, the court has not shown much interest in overturning Roe v. Wade. Roberts prefers a more incremental approach, and during his confirmation hearings last year, Kavanaugh referred to a series of Supreme Court rulings affirming the abortion right as ďprecedent on precedent.Ē
    The question in Louisiana is whether the state can require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.    Three years ago, the court ruled 5-3 that the hardships for Texas women would be greater than any possible benefits of such hospital affiliations.
    The Texas restrictions had threatened to close all but nine clinics capable of complying with the new standards, leaving the state unable to handle an estimated 65,000 to 70,000 abortions a year.    Proponents of the Louisiana law argued that the impact there would not be as great.
Abortion, one of the nationís most divisive issues, could be front and center as the 2020 election approaches. SHAWN THEW/EPA-EFE FILE

10/5/2019 Pope installs new cardinals to set future direction of church by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis greets Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, during a consistory to
elevate 13 Roman Catholic prelates to the rank of cardinal, at Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, October 5, 2019. REUTERS/Yara Nardi
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Ė Pope Francis installed new cardinals on Saturday, putting his stamp on the future of the Roman Catholic Church with men who share his vision for social justice, the rights of immigrants and dialogue with Islam.
    Ten of the 13 bishops elevated to the high rank are under the age of 80 and so are eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a new pope from their ranks.
    Francis has now appointed more than half of the 128 cardinal electors, increasing the possibility that the next pope will continue his progressive policies.
    Over six years he has appointed more cardinal electors than those still alive who were named by former Pope Benedict and the late Pope John Paul combined.
    At a ceremony in St. Peterís Basilica, known as consistory, Francis gave the new cardinals their trademark red biretta, or hat, and asked them to always be compassionate with others and loyal.
    The geographical distribution of the new cardinal electors reflects Francisís desire to give more clout to small national churches outside of Europe and North America, countries on the periphery of world political power.    Nearly 50% of the cardinal electors now come from the developing world.
    ďI think that the pope wanted to make visible the churches that were almost invisible,Ē said Cardinal Cristobal Lopez Romero, of Rabat, the capital of Morocco, which is overwhelmingly Muslim.
    Romero, 67, is one of four new cardinal electors who are steeped in experience with Islam.
    The others are Cardinal Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, 67, the Spanish head of the Vaticanís department for inter-religious dialogue; British Cardinal Michael Fitzgerald, 82, one of the Churchís foremost experts on Islam and the Koran, and Cardinal Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo, 69, the archbishop of Jakarta in Indonesia, the country with the worldís largest Moslem population.
    Clerics who have fought for social justice and defended the rights of the poor and immigrants were also prominent among the new cardinals.
    Cardinal Alvaro Leonel Ramazzini Imperia, 72, of Guatemala has helped farmers there buy their land to grow coffee, led campaigns against pollution caused by mining, and stood up to multinational corporations.
    Cardinal Michael Czerny, 73, a Canadian who was born in the former Czechoslovakia, has worked with the poor in El Salvador and Kenya and is currently is the Vaticanís expert on migration, a choice reflecting Francisí own strong defense of immigrants.
    Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerith, 61, of Luxembourg has taken a strong stand against Europeís populist leaders, saying this year that they were playing an ďignoble gameĒ by creating fear of migrants and Muslims.
    Italyís Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, 63, archbishop of Bologna, hails from the progressive Rome-based Santoí Egidio Community, which helps the poor, migrants, homeless and refugees around the world.
    Cardinal Frivolling Ambo Besungu, 59, archbishop of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, stood up to former president Joseph Kabila when he delayed elections and also defended Catholics who took part in pro-democracy demonstrations.
    Cardinal Sights Tamkevicius, 81, of Lithuania, spent six months in prison and more than five years in exile in Siberia for his defense of religious freedom during the Soviet era.
    Cardinal Juan de la Caridad Garcia Rodriguez, 71, of Cuba, helped get priests to minister to prisoners on the communist-run island after the government began permitting them in the late 1980s.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella)

10/6/2019 Pope asks for compassion from cardinals - Conservatives show resistance to his approach on some topics by Nicole Winfield, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    VATICAN CITY Ė Pope Francis added 13 new cardinals to the top of the Catholic hierarchy on Saturday, telling them they must show Godís compassion to those who suffŹer to be faithful to their ministry.
    Francis presided over the ceremony in St. Peterís Basilica, elevating churchmen who share his pastoral concerns at a time when his pontifićcate is under fićre from conservatives in the College of Cardinals.
    Ten cardinals are under age 80 and eligible to vote in a conclave, increasing the likelihood that a future pope might end up looking much like the current one.    These are churchmen who care for migrants, promote dialogue with Muslims and minister to the faithful in poor, far-flźung missionary posts.
    With Saturdayís consistory, Francis will have named 52% of the voting-age cardinals.    Many hail from churches in the developing world that never have had a ďprinceĒ representing them, in a sign of Francisí desire to mirror the universal face of the Catholic Church in the churchís leadership ranks.
    Francis was in many ways preaching to the choir when he urged the new cardinals to feel and share Godís compassion, saying it was an ďessentialĒ part of understanding Godís love for the weakest and most marginal.
    ďIf I donít feel it, how can I share it, bear witness to it, bestow it on others?Ē he asked in his homily.    ďSo many disloyal actions on the part of ecclesiastics are born of the lack of a sense of having been shown compassion, and by the habit of averting oneís gaze, the habit of indiffŹerence
    The consistory comes at a fraught time in Francisí six-year papacy.    Opposition is mounting among conservative Catholics who disapprove of his emphasis on the environment, migrants and other issues rather than the doctrinaire focus of his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI.
    Yet in a sign of continuity with the past pope, Francis and the new cardinals made a pilgrimage across the Vatican gardens after the ceremony Saturday evening to call on Benedict, who gave them his blessing, the Vatican said.
    Francis has acknowledged criticism in the U.S. church but shown no sign that such conservative outrage is hampering his agenda.    After he stacks the College of Cardinals with more likeminded men, he will on Sunday open a three-week meeting on better ministering to the indigenous peoples of the Amazon region.
    Right-wing groups backed by a handful of conservative cardinals have come out in force against the Amazon synodís environmental emphasis, saying it amounts to a heretical attempt to create a new ďpaganĒ religion.
    A Canadian priest elevated Saturday, Cardinal Michael Czerny, said he thinks the criticism is coming from a small fringe with vested interests in developing the Amazon and pursuing other priorities incompatible with the popeís vision.
    ďHeís meeting with some loud opposition.    I donít think itís so much,Ē Czerny said before the consistory.    ďI think itís loud
    Czerny is clearly a Francis favorite, someone in whom the pope sees a cardinal he can entrust his most important dossiers.    Czerny has worked since 2010 in the Vaticanís justice offiĀce, where he helped draft Francisí major environmental encyclical.    In 2016, Francis made Czerny his personal point-man on migrant issues, and the pectoral cross he sported Saturday showed he took the mission to heart: It was made of wood from a migrant ship.
    A Jesuit like the pope, Czerny went to El Salvador in 1989 after six Jesuit confreres were gunned down at Central American University. For a South American Jesuit like Francis, the killings were an unfathomable assault that laid bare the orderís social justice ethos, the same ethos that years later would inform his papacy.
    Several other prelates with experience in another of Francisí agenda items Ė relations with Islam Ė also received red hats, including the head of the Vaticanís interfaith relations offiĀce, Cardinal Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, and Guixotís predecessor in that job, Cardinal Michael Fitzgerald.
    Long considered one of the churchís leading experts on Islam, Fitzgerald was removed as president of the Pontifićcal Council for Interreligious Dialogue in 2006 and sent offŹ to Egypt as the Vaticanís ambassador.    His removal came a month before Benedict folded the interfaith relations offiĀce into the Vaticanís culture ministry, in a move seen as reducing dialogue with Islam in a post-9/11 world.
    The Vatican restored the offiĀce as its own entity the following year after Benedict enraged the Muslim world with a now-infamous speech equating Islam with violence. Only recently under Francis have Catholic-Muslim relations healed.
    Many commentators have seen Francisí decision to make Fitzgerald a cardinal as a righting of a past wrong.
    Fitzgerald, who is over 80 and unable to vote in a conclave, was diplomatic when asked about the significance that both he and his successor were receiving red hats, saying it showed ďcontinuity
    Another new cardinal over the voting age limit was a clear sentimental favorite for Francis: Lithuanian Cardinal Sigitas Tamkevicius, a Jesuit who was imprisoned and sent to labor camps for 10 years, some of them in Siberian exile, for his anti-Soviet activities.
    Tamkevicius accompanied Francis last year on a visit to site of a KGB prison in Vilnius where he had been was held, one of the most moving moments of the popeís trip to Lithuania.
    ďIn prison, there were diffiĀcult moments, very diffiĀcult moments, and the worst was when I was interrogated,Ē Tamkevicius told journalists at the Vatican.    ďThe interrogation would last for months and months
    He said he was thankful to God ďfor all these years that I have had as priest, as bishop, as archbishop
    ďI ask that he allows me to go on a lot longer so that I can face the challenges of today and always have the faith in my heart,Ē Tamkevicius said.
Thirteen new cardinals were added to the top of the Catholic hierarchy on Saturday, including 10
who are under age 80 and eligible to vote in a conclave. VATICAN MEDIA/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

10/6/2019 Pope urges conservatives to be open to changes in Church by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis leaves after a Mass to open a three-week synod of Amazonian bishops at the Vatican, October 6, 2019. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Ė Pope Francis appealed to conservatives on Sunday not to be bound by the status quo as he opened an assembly of bishops to discuss the future of the Roman Catholic Church in the Amazon, including the possibility of introducing married priests.
    At a Mass in St. Peterís Basilica opening the synod, Francis also denounced past and present forms of colonialism and said some of the fires that devastated forests in Brazil in recent months were set by special interest groups.
    In his sermon, Francis said some Church leaders risked becoming ďbureaucrats, not shepherds,Ē and urged them to have the courage of rekindling what he called the fire of Godís gift by being open to change.
    ďIf everything continues as it was, if we spend our days content that Ďthis is the way things have always been doneí, then the gift vanishes, smothered by the ashes of fear and concern for defending the status quo,Ē he said.
    One of the most contentious topics of the synod, whose some 260 participants are mostly bishops from the Amazon, is whether to allow older married ďproven menĒ with families and a strong standing in local communities to be ordained as priests in the Amazon.
    This solution to the shortage of priests, backed by many South American bishops, would allow Catholics in isolated areas to attend Mass and receive the sacraments regularly.    At least 85% of villages in the Amazon, a vast region that spans eight countries and the French territory of Guiana Ė cannot celebrate Mass every week.    Some see a priest only once a year.
    Conservative opponents fear it would be a doctrinal Trojan horse that would then spread to the entire Church in the West.
HERESY AND ERROR
    They have attacked the synodís working document as heretical, including what they say is an implicit recognition of forms of paganism and pantheism practiced by indigenous people, such as nature worship.
    The three-week synod will discuss spreading the faith in the vast region, a greater role for women, environmental protection, climate change, deforestation, indigenous people and their right to keep their land and traditions.
    Bill Donohue, president of the U.S.-based Catholic League, a conservative group, drew criticism for what was perceived as a condescending attitude toward native cultures when he said this week that a dilemma in the Amazon was ďhow to respect the culture of indigenous peoples while at the same time acknowledging inherent deficiencies in it
    A number of conservatives have tweeted their disapproval of a three-planting ceremony in the Vatican on Thursday in which people from the Amazon used native symbols and gestures, such as blessing the earth.
    In his sermon, Francis said indigenous cultures had to be respected.
    ďWhen peoples and cultures are devoured without love and without respect, it is not Godís fire but that of the world.    Yet how many times has Godís gift been imposed, not offered; how many times has there been colonization rather than evangelization!Ē he said.
    The synod is taking place at a time when the Amazon is in the world spotlight because of the devastating fires in Brazil. Francis implied that he believed at least some of the fires were intentionally set.
    ďThe fire set by interests that destroy, like the fire that recently devastated Amazonia, is not the fire of the Gospel (which is) fed by sharing, not by profits,Ē he said.
    The synod does not make decisions.    Participants vote on a final document and the pope will decide which recommendations to integrate into his future rulings.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Frances Kerrry)

10/7/2019 ĎTwo Popesí filmmakers hope Pope Francis is amused
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis visits his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, at the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery
in Vatican, December 21, 2018. Picture taken December 21, 2018. Vatican Media/Handout via REUTERS
    LONDON (Reuters) Ė Director Fernando Meirelles is a fan of Pope Francis but says his new film, which tries to get into the head of the Argentine pontiff, also shows some of his weaknesses.
    ďThe Two PopesĒ is based on the story of Pope Benedictís 2013 dramatic retirement from the papacy and the ascendancy of Pope Francis and imagines some of the conversations the two men might have had.
    ďI did the film because Iím a big fan of Pope Francis.    I think heís a very important voice in the world today,Ē Meirelles said at the London film festival on Monday.
    ďHe sees the planet as one thing and heís trying to build bridges while everybody wants to build walls.    So I decided to make the film to know him better and even to support what he says,Ē he added.
    ďItís very honest.    We show the mistakes that heís done some 30 years ago in Argentina.    But in the end, he comes across like somebody we should support,Ē the Brazilian filmmaker said.
    The film, starring Anthony Hopkins as the traditional Pope Benedict and Jonathan Pryce as his more liberal successor, is set mostly in a movie set replica of the ornately decorated Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.
    ďIt was just such a great character to play, showing his flaws and his weaknesses as well as his very positive strengths and what he can do as a kind of leader which we desperately need in political life these days; someone who can show us the way and show us how to live and go back to the old Christian values,Ē Pryce said.
    The Netflix movie launches in U.S. movie theaters in late November and on the streaming service in December.    It is not known whether it will be screened at the Vatican.
    ďIf he (Francis) sees it, I hope he is amused.    I hope he isnít angry.    And I hope he understands that what weíve tried to portray is the essence of the man and what he is trying to do,Ē said Pryce.
(Reporting by Hanna Rantala; Editing by Dan Grebler)

10/7/2019 Pope urges respect for indigenous Amazon peoples at start of three-week gathering by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis prays during the Synod of Amazonian bishops at the Vatican, October 7, 2019 REUTERS/Remo Casilli
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Ė Pope Francis on Monday told an assembly of bishops discussing the Amazon region of South America that modern society should not try to impose its rules on indigenous people but respect their culture and let them chart their own future.
    Francis, who is from Argentina, was addressing the opening of the first working session of a three-week gathering on the future of the Roman Catholic Church in the Amazon, including the possibility of introducing married priests.
    The pope said the people of the Amazon should not be ďapproached with a type of entrepreneurial eagerness that seeks to give them pre-concocted programmes aimed at discipliningĒ them, their history and their culture.
    ďIdeological colonisation is very common todayÖ (Letís say) Ďnoí to this urge to domesticate original peoples,Ē he said.
    Francis, who in the past has asked forgiveness in the name of the Church for the errors of European missionaries who accompanied the first colonisers, said that for a long time many in the Church had a ďdisparagingĒ attitude toward native peoples and their cultures and that some still do.
    ďI was very saddened to hear, right here, a mocking comment about that pious man who brought the offerings with feathers on his head,Ē he said, speaking of a man from the Amazon who participated in a papal Mass on Sunday.
    ďTell me: what difference is there in having feathers on your head and the three-cornered hat worn by some officials of our (Vatican departments)?Ē he said.
LAND, TRADITIONS, PRIESTHOOD
    The three-week gathering, or synod, will discuss spreading the faith in the Amazon, a greater role for women, environmental protection, climate change, deforestation, indigenous people and their right to keep their land and traditions.
    It is taking place at a time when the Amazon is in the world spotlight due to the devastating fires in Brazil.    At the ceremonial opening Mass on Sunday, Francis said the fires were intentionally lit by special interest groups.
    Conservative Catholics have attacked the synodís working document as heretical, including what they say is an implicit recognition of forms of paganism and pantheism practised by indigenous people, such as nature worship.
    Last week, Bill Donohue, president of the conservative U.S.-based Catholic League, drew criticism for what was perceived as a condescending attitude toward native cultures when he said that a dilemma in the Amazon was ďhow to respect the culture of indigenous peoples while at the same time acknowledging inherent deficiencies in it
    Conservatives are particularly up in arms about the possibility of allowing older married ďproven menĒ with families and a strong standing in local communities to be ordained as priests in the Amazon as a solution to a shortage of priests.
    In his keynote address to the gathering of some 260 people, most bishops from Amazon countries, Brazilís Cardinal Claudio Hummes said the Church had to be open to change.
    ďThe Church cannot remain inactive within her own closed circle, focused on herself, surrounded by protective walls and even less can she look nostalgically to the past,Ē Hummes said.
    ďThe Church needs to throw open her doors, knock down the walls surrounding her and build bridges, going out into the world and setting out on the path of history,Ē he said.
    The synod does not make decisions.    Participants vote on a final document and the pope will decide which recommendations to integrate into his future rulings.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Gareth Jones)

10/8/2019 Pope considers allowing some priests exemption from celibacy by John Bacon, USA TODAY
    Pope Francis urged South American bishops gathered at the Vatican on Monday to ďspeak with courageĒ as they address a severe priest shortage in remote areas of the region that could result in the church dropping celibacy requirements for some priests.
    The three-week Synod of Bishops for the Amazon also will address crucial regional topics ranging from protection of rainforests and local cultures to climate change, migration and clean water.
    ďWe have not come here to invent programs of social development or custody of cultures,Ē the pope said.    ďWe come to contemplate, to understand, to serve the peoples
    Cardinal Claudio Hummes, retired archbishop of Sao Paulo who organized the synod, said many rural Amazon communities have so little access to priests that Sunday Mass canít be held.    And while the Eucharist can be distributed to worshippers by nonpriests, the symbolic wafers must be blessed by a priest.
    Last rites and other Catholic sacraments also are affected, Hummes said.
    ďIndigenous communities, faced with the urgent need experienced by most of the Catholic communities in Amazonia, requested that the path be opened for the ordination of married men resident in their communities,Ē Hummes said.    ďAlbeit confirming the great importance of the charisma of celibacy in the Church
    Jim Bretzke, professor of theology at John Carroll University, said the proposal isnít really new and would not have to alter fundamental church principles.    But he told USA TODAY the last two popes, Benedict XVI and John Paul II, would have likely dismissed the idea no matter how scarce priests became.
    Pushback to the proposal will come from those already unhappy with changes demanded by the pope, Bretzke said.     The Catholic Church has required celibacy from its priests for centuries.    The vows have been broken so frequently, however, that the Vatican established secret guidelines for dealing with clerics who fathered children, Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti acknowledged in February.    The proposal, however, involves men who are married and have children before ordination.    Francis, who hails from Argentina, is fully aware of the struggles the church faces serving its flock in the region.    Francis has said he could consider ordaining married men to address the shortage of priests.    In March 2017, he told German newspaper Der Zeit that mature, married men of proven faith could possibly serve in isolated areas.    He dismissed, however, giving young priests the option of rejecting celibacy.
    Still, the proposal is not a lock to win the pontiffís approval.
    ďThe pope realizes that a decision taken for one region likely will have ramifications for other regions,Ē Bretzke said.
    ďThe pope realizes that a decision taken for one region likely will have ramifications for other regions.Ē Jim Bretzke - Professor of theology at John Carroll University

10/9/2019 Australian prosecutors argue no grounds for ex-Vatican treasurerís final sex crimes appeal
FILE PHOTO: Cardinal George Pell attends news conference at the Vatican, June 29, 2017. REUTERS/Remo Casilli/File Photo
    MELBOURNE (Reuters) Ė Prosecutors have urged Australiaís High Court to refuse to hear a final appeal by former Vatican treasurer George Pell against his convictions for sexually abusing two 13-year-old boys in the late 1990s.
    In opposing arguments put by Pellís lawyers to Australiaís highest court, prosecutors said there was no error in the approach taken by the Victorian state Court of Appeal.
    The state appellate court upheld Pellís convictions, in a 2-1 ruling in August, on five charges of abusing the two boys at St Patrickís Cathedral in Melbourne when he was archbishop there.
    ďThe appeal raises no question of law of public importance,Ē the prosecutors said in a filing to the High Court on Tuesday.    The facts of the case were ďcarefully and thoroughly explored by the majority of the Court of Appeal,Ē they said.
    Pellís lawyers have seven days to respond, after which a panel of High Court judges will decide whether to hear the appeal, a High Court spokesman said.    That decision can be made just on the submitted applications or following a hearing.
    The earliest the case could be heard would be in 2020, should the court decide to take on the appeal.
    Pell is the highest-ranking Catholic worldwide to be convicted of child sex offences.    He was jailed in March for six years and will be eligible for parole in October 2022, when he will be 81.
    Two of the three judges at the Victorian appeal court ruled that ďit was open to the jury to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Cardinal Pell was guilty of the offences chargedĒ
    Pellís lawyers argued at his trial that it was impossible for him to have committed the offences in light of all the activity that went on after mass in the priestsí sacristy area of the cathedral, where the offences were said to have occurred.
    Pellís lawyers said in his leave to appeal to the High Court that the Court of Appealís majority, in believing his accuser, had incorrectly shifted the burden of proof to the defense to show that the offences were impossible.
    Prosecutors said in response ďthere was little evidence that approached what could be described as an Ďalibi'Ē and the account of Pellís accuser was backed by evidence, including his detailed description of the priestsí sacristy, which was off-limits to choirboys.
(Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Paul Tait)

10/9/2019 ĎCHRISTIANS CANNOT REMAIN SILENTí - Church declares Ďsanctuaryí status - St. William slams Trumpís policies by Billy Kobin, Louisville Courier Journal USA TODAY NETWORK
    In some ways, not a lot has changed in the 118 years that St. William Catholic Church has stood at the corner of 13th and Oak streets.
    Thereís still the brick structure that is filled on Sundays.    Thereís still the frequent rumble of freight trains on the Paducah and Louisville Railway tracks to the west.
    And St. William, which was founded in 1901 to serve Irish immigrants working in the nearby railroad yards, continues to provide support for migrants and refugees.
    But while standing out on the churchís front steps Tuesday morning, leaders said some things surrounding immigration in the United States today have changed, driven in large part by the policies and rhetoric of President Donald Trump.
    In light of that, parishioners, joined by other local church leaders and groups, packed the steps outside the church Tuesday to reaffirm their identity as a ďsanctuary congregationĒ that rejects the ďincreasingly racist rhetoricĒ of the Trump administration.
    St. William members took turns reading out loud parts of a public statement that singled out the Trump administrationís ďtolerance for white supremacist terrorism and encouragement of harsh enforcement by ICE and Border Patrol agents
    ďWhen immigrants, black and brown persons, Muslims, LGBTQ persons and other communities are under attack, Christians cannot remain silent,Ē the public statement said.    ďWe therefore affirm our commitment to sanctuary, understood not simply as offering space in churches, but as an active praxis of solidarity."
    ďWe commit ourselves to resist this administrationís horrendous policies and rhetoric toward immigrants, and to offer ongoing and active support to immigrantled movements for justice. We raise our voices to cry out, in the name of God, for sanctuary for all
    St. William, part of the Archdiocese of Louisville, had originally voted to become a sanctuary church in the 1980s, giving shelter to refugees fleeing political repression in El Salvador and helping them find safety in Canada.
    That effort in the 1980s was part of a broader ďSanctuary MovementĒ that involved U.S. churches helping Central American refugees.
    But another change in the decades since is that St. William said it can no longer house undocumented immigrants in an adjacent building that is now a youth retreat center.
    The latest ďsanctuaryĒ declaration from St. William, instead, calls for several changes in U.S. immigration policy, including     This latest declaration is part of the expanding ďNew Sanctuary MovementĒ that has grown with Trumpís presence in the Oval Office.    The movement is rooted in religious teachings that compel church members to care for the vulnerable. But it does not only involve housing undocumented immigrants.
    Rather, as St. William members noted Tuesday, giving assistance to immigrants and refugees today can include everything from providing diapers or food to connecting undocumented immigrants with legal assistance.
    Pro-immigration church leaders around the country have often called Jesus a ďrefugeeĒ who taught his followers to care for foreigners and marginalized peoples.
    Supporters of Trump, including many evangelicals, have responded by stating that those seeking to enter the United States and gain citizenship must follow established laws.    Trump has made immigration a signature issue as a candidate and has taken steps to follow through on his campaign promises as president, with the Republican seeking to limit immigration and build a wall along the border with Mexico, among other goals.
    In September, the Trump administration announced it will reduce the number of refugees allowed to resettle in the United States to a historic low of 18,000.
    Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz said in a statement that St. Williamís declaration is supported by the archdiocese and ďlongstanding effortsĒ by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to help immigrants and refugees.
    Those recent efforts, Kurtz said, include a campaign to collect and hand-deliver postcards that express support for migrants to Kentuckyís federal lawmakers and Gov. Matt Bevin.
    ďEspecially as we celebrate Respect Life Month, I call upon all 110 parishes of the Archdiocese of Louisville to share the call of Catholic social teaching to respect the dignity of every human person, especially those vulnerable persons seeking a better life and fleeing violence and persecution,Ē Kurtz said.    ď... We know that the Church and our nation is at our best when we welcome and accompany others
    Bevin has used immigration as an issue in his bid for reelection, with a TV ad saying his opponent, Andy Beshear, will allow ďillegal immigrants to swarm our state
    The governor has also supported legislative efforts to ban ďsanctuary citiesĒ in Kentucky.
    Louisville has had an ordinance in place since 2017 that blocks LMPD officers from assisting federal agents on immigration matters unless a judge signs a warrant or there is a danger to the public.
    Despite the ordinance, the Trump administration in April 2018 determined Louisville is not a sanctuary city and is not in violation of federal law, following a review by the Department of Justice.
    Kurtz noted he is the grandson of Slovakian and Polish immigrants and said while Catholic leaders respect the ďrights of sovereign nations to control their borders,Ē the U.S. and other ďrich and powerful nationsĒ also have a ďserious responsibilityĒ to welcome refugees and immigrants.
    St. William members said they will partner with local congregations and groups, such as the Interfaith Coalition of Immigrant Justice, La Casita Center and Mijente Louisville, to explore a ďsanctuary networkĒ that could involve several churches offering short-term shelter to persons in emergency situations.
    Local congregations supporting St. William and its sanctuary declaration include Highland Baptist Church, according to its reverend, Lauren Jones Mayfield.
    ďThe part that is so beautiful about the new sanctuary movement is that it gives the participants the opportunity to expand the concept of holiness,Ē Mayfield said Tuesday, noting that ďsanctuaryĒ means ďholy placeĒ in Latin.
    ďYes, it is space, but it is so much more,Ē Mayfield said.    ďIt is love, it is welcome and it is justice to all people, who again, are made in a divine image
    As they concluded their sanctuary declaration, St. William members pointed out a permanent banner that will hang on their churchís front facade.
    It says, ďSanctuary For All
    Reach Billy Kobin at bkobin@courierjournal.com or 502-582-7030.    Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/subscribe.
Karina Barillas speaks as St. William Catholic Church announced it would be a sanctuary church.
Banners were on display welcoming immigrants and refugees. PHOTOS BY ALTON STRUPP/COURIER JOURNAL
    ď... I call upon all 110 parishes of the Archdiocese of Louisville to share the call of Catholic social teaching to respect the dignity of every human person, especially those vulnerable persons seeking a better life and fleeing violence and persecution.Ē Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz
Karl Ruttan, a member of the Commission for Peace and Justice with the Episcopal Diocese of Kentucky,
speaks as St. William Catholic Church announced it would become a sanctuary church. PHOTOS BY ALTON STRUPP/COURIER JOURNAL
Audience members hold signs at St. William Catholic Church on Tuesday.

10/9/2019 LGBT employment bias divides court by Richard Wolf, USA TODAY
    WASHINGTON Ė The Supreme Court appeared divided Tuesday on a major civil rights question: whether gay and transgender people are covered by a federal law barring employment discrimination on the basis of sex.
    The courtís rulings in three cases, which are not expected until next year, appear to hinge on President Donald Trumpís two nominees.    Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch called the dispute over transgender rights ďcloseĒ but more likely an issue for Congress to address.     Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh directed his only question to a lawyer for two employers that fired gay workers, leaving his position in doubt.
    The courtís four liberal justices forcefully denounced the firings of two gay men and a transgender woman from Georgia, New York and Michigan and made clear they believe all three should be protected by the statutory ban on sex discrimination.
    ďWe canít deny that homosexuals are being fired merely for being who they are and not because of religious reasons, not because they are performing their jobs poorly,Ē Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor said.
    The three cases are among the most significant on the high courtís 2019 docket, and the justicesí rulings are likely to come in the heat of the 2020 presidential campaign.    The challenges pick up where the same-sex marriage battle left off in 2015, when the court ruled 5-4 that states cannot bar gay men or lesbians from getting married.
    Whatís different is the court itself: The author of four major opinions expanding gay rights, Anthony Kennedy, retired last year and was succeeded by the more conservative Kavanaugh.
    Gorsuch said sex was at least ďin play,Ē an acknowledgment that the gay and transgender workers claiming sex discrimination have a reasonable argument.    What he did not say: that the courts should fix it.
    Instead, Gorsuch said the ďmassive social upheaval that would be entailed in such a decisionĒ in the fired workersí favor points more toward Congress.    ďItís a question of judicial modesty,Ē he said.
    The three plaintiffs are Gerald Bostock, 55, a former child welfare services coordinator from Georgia; Donald Zarda, a former New York skydiving instructor who died at 44 in 2014 but is represented by his sister and his former partner; and Aimee Stephens, 58, a former funeral home worker from Michigan who is transgender.
    Throughout the debate, the courtís conservative and liberal justices tangled over the text of the 1964 statute, the proper male-female and gaystraight comparisons to make and the role of the courts in righting societal wrongs.
    Rather than claiming a constitutional right to equal treatment, the challengers must convince at least five justices that the word ďsexĒ in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 incorporates sexual orientation and gender identity.
    Outside court, hundreds of LGBTQ demonstrators rallied, undeterred by a security threat that forced police to cordon off the street Tuesday morning when two suspicious packages were noticed.
Contributing: Susan Miller
Hundreds of LGBTQ demonstrators rallied outside the Supreme Court building Tuesday in Washington. JACK GRUBER/USA TODAY NETWORK

10/9/2019 High court sharply divided over LGBT protection - Gorsuch, Kavanaugh could hold the keys by Richard Wolf, USA TODAY
    WASHINGTON Ė The Supreme Court appeared deeply divided Tuesday on a major civil rights question: whether gay and transgender people are covered by a federal law barring employment discrimination on the basis of sex.
    The courtís rulings in three cases, which are not expected until next year, seemed to hinge on President Donald Trumpís two nominees.     Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch called the dispute over transgender rights ďcloseĒ but more likely an issue for Congress to address.     Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh directed his only question to a lawyer for two employers that fired gay workers, leaving his position in doubt.
    The courtís four liberal justices forcefully denounced the firings of two gay men and a transgender woman from Georgia, New York and Michigan and made clear they believe all three should be protected by the statutory ban on sex discrimination.
    ďWe canít deny that homosexuals are being fired merely for being who they are and not because of religious reasons, not because they are performing their jobs poorly,Ē Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor said, calling it ďinvidious behavior
    The three cases are among the most significant on the high courtís 2019 docket, and the justicesí rulings are likely to come in the heat of the 2020 presidential campaign.    The challenges pick up where the same-sex marriage battle left off in 2015, when the court ruled 5-4 that states cannot bar gay men or lesbians from getting married.
    Whatís different is the court itself: The author of four major opinions expanding gay rights, Anthony Kennedy, retired last year and was succeeded by the more conservative Kavanaugh.    If his vote was counted on by those taking the employersí side, he gave no hints.    He was mostly silent during Tuesdayís two hours of oral arguments.
    Gorsuch said sex was at least ďin play,Ē an acknowledgment that the gay and transgender workers claiming sex discrimination have a reasonable argument.    What he did not say: that the courts should fix it.
    Instead, Gorsuch said the ďmassive social upheaval that would be entailed in such a decisionĒ in the fired workersí favor points more toward Congress. ď    Itís a question of judicial modesty,Ē he said.
    The three plaintiffs are Gerald Bostock, 55, a former child welfare services coordinator from Georgia; Donald Zarda, a former New York skydiving instructor who died at 44 in 2014 but is represented by his sister and former partner; and Aimee Stephens, 58, a former funeral home worker from Michigan who is transgender.
    Throughout the debate inside a packed courtroom, the courtís conservative and liberal justices tangled over the text of the 1964 statute, the proper male-female and gay-straight comparisons to make and the role of the courts in righting societal wrongs.
    The conversation veered from comparisons made by liberal justices between same-sex relationships and interfaith marriages to concerns voiced by conservative justices that a win for LGBT rights would endanger menís and womenís restrooms, dress codes and fitness tests.
    Rather than claiming a constitutional right to equal treatment, the challengers must convince at least five justices that the word ďsexĒ in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 incorporates sexual orientation and gender identity.    ďAll you need to do is show that sex played a role here,Ē said Pamela Karlan, the lawyer representing Bostock and Zarda.
    That clearly was a stretch for some conservative justices.
    ďYouíre trying to change the meaning of what Congress understood sex to mean in 1964,Ē Associate Justice Samuel Alito said.    While Associate Justice Clarence Thomas stayed characteristically silent, Alito seemed most aligned with the employers and the Trump administration.
    Solicitor General Noel Francisco argued both cases alongside lawyers for the Georgia county, the New York skydiving company and the Michigan funeral home. Sex, he said, ďmeans whether youíre male or female, not whether youíre gay or straight
    Outside court, hundreds of LGBTQ demonstrators rallied, undeterred by a security threat that forced police to cordon off the street early Tuesday when two suspicious packages were noticed.
    Katherine Fuchs, 38, said she came to the demonstration because she was ďoutraged that in 2019, someone could be fired for their sexual orientation or gender identity
    The impact of a victory for Bostock, Zarda and Stephens would be greatest in 28 states that have little or no workplace protection for the LGBT community.    Even in states such as New York, which does, incorporating sexual orientation in the federal law barring discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin would add an important layer of protection.
    About 4.5% of the U.S. population, or roughly 11 million people, identify as LGBTQ, of which 88% are employed.
    Federal appeals courts have been split on the question since 2017, when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit became the first to rule that gay men and lesbians should be covered by the decades-old federal civil rights law. The 2nd Circuit ruled for Zarda last year, but the 11th Circuit, based in Atlanta, ruled against Bostock.    The 6th Circuit, based in Cincinnati, ruled for Stephens last year.
    Congress has debated the issue for decades but ďrepeatedly declined to pass bills adding sexual orientation to the list of protected traitsĒ under the law, the Justice Department noted.    The Democrat-controlled House passed the Equity Act this year, but the GOP-controlled Senate has not considered it.
    If the court rules that LGBTQ workers are protected under the civil rights law, it could help them win other rights in areas such as housing, education, health care and credit.
Contributing: Susan Miller
Protesters on both sides gather outside the Supreme Court as justices heard arguments in a landmark employment discrimination case. JACK GRUBER/USA TODAY

[THE FIGHT FOR THE LIFE OF THE UNBORN IS AT HAND.].
10/10/2019 First ever pro-life summit to take place in D.C. in January 2020 by OAN Newsroom
Anti-abortion groups rallied outside of the new Planned Parenthood mega abortion clinic,
Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019, in Fairview Heights, Ill. (Derik Holtmann/Belleville News-Democrat via AP)
    A handful of conservative organizations are extending a hand to others ahead of the nationís first ever pro-life summit.    The one-day event will take place next year and aims to recruit and train pro-life activists of all ages.
    Students for Life America, Live Action, Alliance Defending Freedom and the Heritage Foundation are hoping to grow a grassroots movement in 2020.    The summit titled ĎCasting a Vision for a Post-Roe Americaí aims to advance the pro-life agenda by recruiting more allies.    The event will feature prominent Republican speakers such as the vice presidentís daughter, Charlotte Pence, and former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.    The conference will focus on ways to encourage pro-life values and elect politicians who will prioritize pro-life laws.    They will also discuss strategies for overturning the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case.
    Students for Life President Kristan Hawkins is set to take the stage, where she hopes to strike common ground with people on the other side of the aisle.    Hawkins recently voiced her support for abolishing abortion and is encouraging fathers to take care of the babies they help create.
    ďAfter the Alabama and Georgia pro-life laws passed, pro-abortion feminists took to the internet saying that if abortion is gonna be illegal, men need to step up and be responsible ó Amen sisters,Ē she said.    ďDespite what you may have heard, men play an important role in abortion
    Hawkins went on to say a manís primary job is to protect his family, which she claims begins with helping the woman he impregnates take care of their child.    The SFLA leader said encouraging men to fulfill their fatherly duties may help reduce the number of abortions.
    The 2020 National Pro-Life Summit will take place in Washington D.C. next January.

    The following found at https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/10/beto-orourke-tax-exemptions-religious-groups-churches-lgbtq.html
10/11/2019 Beto OíRourke Is Turning Into a Human Straw Man for Conservatives by Jordan Weissmann
Democratic presidential candidate, former U.S. Rep. Beto OíRourke speaks
at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. Mario Tama/Getty Images
    Given his low and static polling, itís hard to tell what, exactly, Beto OíRourke hopes to accomplish by staying in the presidential race.    But while his actual goal seems a bit elusive, he is increasingly playing a very specific role: the human straw man, the embodiment of every seemingly irrational conservative fear about what the left really wants.
    Consider OíRourkeís appearance at Thursdayís CNN town hall on LGBTQ issues, at which he told moderator Don Lemon that churches and other nonprofits should lose their tax exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage, a position tantamount to declaring war on Catholic parishes and evangelical congregations across the country, not to mention any number of Orthodox Jewish and Muslim groups.    Lest you think Iím exaggerating, or leaving out some important nuance, here was his full exchange.
    Don Lemon: Do you think religious institutions like colleges, churches, charities, should they lose their tax exempt status if they oppose same sex marriage?
    OíRourke: Yes.    There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break, for anyone, any institution, any organization in America, that denies the full human rights, that denies the full civil rights, of everyone in America.    So as president, weíre going to make that a priority.    And we are going to stop those who are infringing upon the human rights of our fellow Americans.
    And the video.
    OíRourkeís comments drew a warm round of applause in the friendly room, and riled conservatives, who have spent years worrying that Democrats might try to do such a thing.    Vlogger Ben Shapiro, to take just one example, suggested that religious conservatives might be forced to move out of the country or ďpick up a gunĒ if the candidateís plan ever came to pass.    Some on the left were also critical; Atlantic writer Adam Serwer called the idea ďplainly unconstitutional
    This is not the first time OíRourkeóa politician, it should be noted, without a constituency: no district, almost no support in the pollsóhas promised to make conservativesí worst nightmares come true.    After adopting gun control as a marquee issue following the mass shooting in El Paso earlier this year, OíRourke promised a mandatory gun buyback program for assault weapons, memorably telling a moderator, ďHell yes, weíre going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.Ē    Not long after, Trump and Republicans blamed his comments for making it harder to get a gun control deal done in Congress. (Yes, thatís a bit rich coming from the GOP, but Iíll come back to that).
    These are not the only far-left positions Beto has staked out recently.    Heís strongly pro reparations, for instance.    But his comments about churches and guns are especially remarkable, in that heís essentially adopting unpopular stances that Democratic politicians have spent years claiming are unfair caricatures of their actual beliefs.    He is turning himself into a walking straw man, the non-fringe guy Republicans can reliably point to when they want to say: ď    See, the libs really do want to take your guns and shut down your churches
    Religious conservatives have worried about the possibility that same-sex marriage could be used as an excuse to strip churches of their tax exemptions for several years now.    The fear is rooted in a bit of history: In 1983, the Supreme Court ruled that the IRS could revoke Bob Jones Universityís nonprofit status over its opposition to interracial dating and marriage.    During oral arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges, the case that legalized same-sex marriage nationally, Justice Samuel Alito grilled President Obamaís solicitor general, Donald Verrilli, about whether creating a constitutional right to gay marriage could similarly lead to conservative churches and religious colleges losing their tax-free status.    Verrilli said he wasnít sure, adding that ďitís certainly going to be an issue.    I donít deny that, Justice Alito.    It is going to be an issue.Ē    This set off a wave of panic among religious conservative groups, which led Obamaís IRS commissioner to publicly announce that, no, the government would not try to nix anyoneís tax-exemptions over positions on marriage.
    Now, OíRourke has thrown kerosene on the issue all over again, and for what?    For many religious institutions, this is a legitimately existential issueópaying property taxes, business income taxes (assuming they do more than break even), and losing the ability to collect tax deductible donations would be a massive financial blow.    For LGBTQ rights activists, it would perhaps be a moral victory, but one that would also risk triggering an explosive culture war over faith that could transform gay marriage back into a deeply polarizing topic when itís been trending in the other direction.    Meanwhile, Iíve seen no evidence that OíRourkeís position has much support among a wide swath Democratic voters or leaders.    Yet there is now video of a telegenic presidential candidate bringing form to religious conservativesí worst fears, like some sort of tax-policy Babadook.
    As for guns: It barely needs mentioning that the National Rifle Associationís entire fundraising and political strategy at this point consists of trying to convince its members that Democrats are coming to steal and melt down their rifles.    The typical response from Democrats has been to say that, no, they just want some sensible regulations that will prevent needless deaths.    As Hillary Clinton put it at the partyís national convention: ďIím not here to repeal the Second Amendment.    Iím not here to take away your guns.Ē    While this has not led to any political breakthroughs, it has been effective at shaping public opinion: Gun control measures like background checks and limits on assault rifles are extremely popular.    Mandatory gun buybacks, on the other hand, are not.
    Of course, the most ardent gun-control opponents have always assumed that Democrats are lying about all this and are secretly plotting mass gun confiscation.    Some point back to a 1995 video in which Sen. Dianne Feinstein said that, if she could have rounded up 51 votes to ban all assault rifles, she would have.    (They also badly misconstrue that moment as her saying she wanted to ban all guns).    But I humbly submit that having a fresh video of Beto OíRourke saying ďhell yeahĒ refreshes their message a bit.
    The thing about all of this is that, politically, it is deeply unhelpful.    I would personally argue that stripping churches of their tax-exempt status is a horrible idea on the merits for a long lists of reasons it would take a whole second article to spell out.    (Short version: Racial segregation has a unique and monstrous history in the U.S. that has required the government to take active measures to stamp out, a la Bob Jones, but generally speaking, the government absolutely should not be in the business of siding with one religious belief system over another, which would create a troubling precedent a conservative administration might turn against other minorities, such as Muslims one day.)    I would, however, be perfectly comfortable with a mandatory buyback program.    But neither is going to happen any time in the foreseeable future, and if anything, talking about them makes it harder to make actual progress on issues of gay rights and guns by activating conservativesí fears about slippery slopes.
    Do I think that OíRourkeís comments about AR-15s single-handedly made a gun deal that much harder in Congress, as some GOP senators have claimed?    Noóand for what itís worth, Trump has lately been using impeachment as a reason to avoid negotiations.    But do I think his mouthing off took a bit heat off Republicans by giving them an excuse not to engage?    That by making himself a convenient figure on which Republicans can hang bad faith attacks about Democratsí intentions, he has hurt the causes heís supposed to be fighting for?    Yes, I do.    Thatís what straw men are good for, after all.
Update, Oct. 12, 7:55 AM:
    The OíRourke campaignís rapid response director, Lauren Hitt, has sent me a statement attempting to clarify the candidateís comments from Thursday: ďThereís been a lot of confusion about Betoís position on tax exempt status for religious institutions.    In short, he would support revoking the tax exempt status for a religious institution that fired an employee or refused to hire someone b/c they were in a same-sex marriage.    He would not, however, revoke tax-exempt status for a religious organization he simply disagree [sic] with.Ē    This would still be a somewhat controversial position that would open up questions about the rights of churches.    But if OíRourke really was only talking about specific instances of employment discrimination, perhaps it would have been smart to say so on stage.

10/13/2019 Pope canonizes British Catholic luminary John Henry Newman, four others by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis leads a Mass for the canonisation of 19th-century British cardinal John Henry Newman, a Swiss laywoman, an Indian nun,
an Italian nun and a nun known as the "Mother Teresa of Brazil," at the Vatican, October 13, 2019. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Ė Pope Francis on Sunday declared five people saints, including Cardinal John Henry Newman, a leading 19th century Anglican who converted to Catholicism and became one of the most influential Christian figures of modern times.
    Underscoring Newmanís luminary status in Christianity today, Prince Charles, who will become head of the Church of England when he becomes king, attended the canonization Mass in St. Peterís Square and said it was a cause for celebration by all Britons.
    ďWhatever our own beliefs, and no matter what our own tradition may be, we can only be grateful to Newman for the gifts, rooted in his Catholic faith, which he shared with wider society,Ē Charles said in an article in the Vatican newspaper.
    Charles praised Newman, the first British saint in more than 40 years and the first Englishman born since the 1600s to be canonized, as ďthis great Briton, this great churchman and, as we can now say, this great saint
    Such has been the fascination with all things Newman among British Christians leading up to the canonization that Father Ignatius Harrison, provost of the Birmingham Oratory that Newman founded in 1848, speculated that the new saint would have been a ďremainerĒ in the Brexit debate because he believed in unity.
    Newman was a man of towering intellect who wrote theology, novels, philosophy, history and poetry.
    In 1833, just eight years after he was ordained an Anglican priest, Newman helped launch the Oxford Movement that aimed to return the Church of England, which split with Rome in 1534, to the teachings and rituals of early Christianity.
    He was the movementís chief promoter and became increasingly critical of certain Anglican teachings and was opposed to a national Church with no links to Rome.
POETRY, HYMNS, THEOLOGY
    He converted to Catholicism in 1845, was ordained a Catholic priest in 1847 and was elevated to the rank of cardinal in 1879.
    Newmanís poetry, hymns and theology have had a great influence on modern Christian spirituality.    His autobiography, Apologia Pro Vita Sua, written in 1864 to explain the evolution of his religious thinking, is still in print and widely read today.
    Both conservatives and progressives in the Catholic Church today have enlisted Newmanís writings to back their positions.    The conservatives say his giving precedence to conscience over obedience shows it is proper to criticize the current pope, Francis.
    The progressives say loyalty to Rome was central to his faith and that was a key reason he left the Church of England.
    The pope also canonized three nuns: Giuseppina Vannini (1859-1911), an Italian who founded a religious order; Mariam Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyn (1876-1926), an Indian who helped the poor; and Dulce Lopes Pontes 1914-1992), a Brazilian who dedicated much of her life to educating workers.
    He also canonized Marguerite Bays (1815-1879) a Swiss lay woman who was said to have the stigmata, the five wounds of the crucified Jesus.
    All five of the new saints were attributed with interceding with God to perform miracles.
    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 Frances Kerry)

10/13/2019 Second term awaits nationalist PiS as divided Poles vote by Agnieszka Barteczko and Alan Charlish
A woman walks in front of election banners in Warsaw, Poland October 12, 2019. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
    WARSAW (Reuters) Ė Poles voted on Sunday in an election that is likely to hand the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party a second term in office, potentially deepening the countryís isolation as unease within the EU about its commitment to democratic standards grows.
    PiS is expected to win more votes than it did in 2015 and may get enough parliamentary seats to continue to govern alone Ė but the shift in the political climate that it has presided over in the past four years has polarized the country.
    Polls opened at 0500 GMT and will close at 1900 GMT.
    The party has cast the election as a choice between a society rooted in traditional Catholic values and a liberal order that promotes a chosen few and undermines family life.
    Opposition parties and Polandís European Union partners say the outgoing government has undermined the independence of the judiciary and the media and made Poland less welcoming for sexual and ethnic minorities.
    ďWe can guarantee that Polish families are protected, that Polandís freedom is protected and that the Polish Church is protected against attacks,Ē PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski told supporters in its eastern rural heartland on Friday.
    Surveys show PiS winning 40-46% of votes, which may give the party an absolute majority.    But it might need to form a coalition, which would raise the possibility of the far-right Confederation Ė one of three smaller groups that might garner the 5% of votes needed to enter parliament Ė becoming part of government.
    Polling around 19-26%, the centrist Civic Coalition Ė an umbrella group that includes the Civic Platform formerly led by EU Council president Donald Tusk Ė looks certain to continue forming the main opposition.
    Its candidate for prime minister, Malgorzata Kidawa-Blonska, on Thursday accused Kaczynski of destroying democracy and seeking to sow further divisions.    Support for the opposition is strongest in urban centers, where anti-PiS protests have previously drawn thousands of people.
    ďHe is building a huge wall and creating great tensions,Ē she told supporters on Thursday.    ďThat is why I call on all people of good will Ö regardless of their political views: letís defend Poland against such Öhatred
CHURCH AND STATE
    One of the foundations of PiS success is the way it has tapped into anger among poorer Poles who have missed out on prosperity since the collapse of communism in 1989, mixing nationalist rhetoric with a vast welfare program that an economic boom has allowed it to implement.
    It has drawn on the deeply-rooted popularity of the Catholic Church.    Top PiS officials regularly attend Church events and the party has espoused stronger religious values in public life.
    The Church does not openly back any party but senior officials have given the PiS tacit support.
    On Oct. 1, Polandís senior bishop wrote that Catholics should vote for those to defend the right to life from conception, support family values and define marriage as between man and a woman.
    During campaigning, PiS has called lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights an invasive foreign influence that threatens Polandís national identity.
    The party has also shifted Polandís foreign policy away from the European mainstream, becoming a leading proponent of calls to take some powers away from the EU, with which Warsaw is embroiled in a long-running row over judicial and media reforms.
    Brussels has taken legal action to force Polish authorities to row back on legislation it says has politicized the courts.
    PiS says the reforms are needed to make the court system fairer and more efficient and plans further changes if it is re-elected.
    ďA lack of independent courts is not part of the Polish tradition,Ē Kidawa-Blonska said on Friday.
    PiS has also sought closer ties with U.S. President Donald Trump, with whom it shares views on coal mining, climate and abortion Ė fuelling concern among some western EU diplomats that Trump could use the biggest of the EUís ex-communist states to sow discord in Brussels over issues such as Iran.
    Deeply distrustful of its former Soviet master, Poland has persuaded Trump to bolster Washingtonís military presence on Polish soil to counter Russiaís growing assertiveness since its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
    On the economy, PiS has promised to shake off the post-communist Polish model that relied on cheap labor by more than doubling the minimum wage over 8 years.
    Some economists say the partyís already vast social spending has exposed the economy to too much risk at the time of an economic slowdown in the West, while opposition critics say it has deprived the health care and education systems of funding.
    But markets are largely sanguine about the prospect of another PiS government.
(Reporting by Warsaw bureau; Writing by Justyna Pawlak; Editing by John Stonestreet and Raissa Kasolowsky)
[The above article lets you know that there are two types of Catholic churches, which is those who believe what the Bible says and those who are trying to whitewash the Bible to fit their beliefs of the way the world should be.    So ask yourself which one are you?].

10/14/2019 Pope mistakenly Tweets support for U.S. ĎSaintsí football team
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis leaves after a Mass for the canonisation of 19th-century British cardinal John Henry Newman, a Swiss laywoman,
an Indian nun, an Italian nun and a nun known as the "Mother Teresa of Brazil", at the Vatican, October 13, 2019. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Ė Some saints wear halos, other saints wear helmets.
    The Vatican employees who manage Pope Francisí official Twitter account in English confused the two on Sunday when Tweeting about five new saints he canonised in St. Peterís Square.
    ďToday we give thanks to the Lord for our new #Saints.    They walked by faith and now we invoke their intercession,Ē the Tweet read.
    The hashtag #Saints used by the Vatican on the popeís English account, however, had the Fleur-de-lis after it, which is the one used by an American football team, the New Orleans Saints.     So the Tweet went viral as thousands of U.S. football fans reacted, with many New Orleans Saints fans jokingly giving thanks for the perceived blessing.
    ďPraise the Lord and pass the football,Ē one said.
    For the record, the Saints, those from New Orleans, beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 13-6 on Sunday.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Robert Birsel)

10/14/2019 Polandís ruling nationalists win majority in parliament by Marcin Goclowski and Pawel Florkiewicz
Poland's ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski waves after the exit poll
results are announced in Warsaw, Poland, October 13, 2019. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
    WARSAW (Reuters) Ė Polandís ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party won a majority in Sundayís parliamentary election, securing a second four-year term to continue reforms that have put it on a collision course with Brussels.
    PiS secured 45.2% of votes, according to results from 83% of constituencies published by the electoral committee on Monday.    The biggest opposition grouping Civic Coalition (KO), which comprises centrist and liberal parties, came second with 26.1%.
    The win for PiS is likely to stoke concern about democratic standards in the largest former communist state of European Union, where the government has been accused of politicizing the judiciary, turning state media into a mouthpiece and polarising society.
    A second term for PiS could also bolster anti-immigration populists in the EU are who keen to scale back the blocís liberal agenda.
    The party cast the election as a choice between a society rooted in traditional Catholic values and a liberal order that promotes a chosen few and undermines family life.
    Critics accused it of fomenting homophobia during the election campaign, with PiS officials calling lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights an invasive foreign influence that threatens Polandís national identity.
    ďWe saved Poland. Ö It is time to complete decommunisation.    It is time to stop the LGBT dictate!,Ē Deputy Digitalisation Minister Andrzej Andruszkiewicz seen as close to far-right politicians wrote in a tweet
.
    The leftist alliance, The Left, got 12.1%, while the bloc of agrarian PSL and anti-system Kukizí15 was at 8.8%.    The far-right Confederation has probably also passed the threshold and managed to get into parliament, scoring 6.7% based on partial results.
    ďThe most important thing is that we achieved our aim Ė from the very beginning our plan was to get the majority,Ē Deputy Prime Minister Jacek Sasin told private broadcaster TVN24 on Monday.
    According to Reuters calculations, PiS won 238 out of 460 seats in lower house, the Sejm, although this result is subject to change depending on the performance of other parties.
    Polandís euro-denominated government bonds rallied on Monday after the results came out.    The zloty started Monday trade at 4.3056 to euro, almost unchanged since late Sunday. Warsaw stock exchange started the day with a 0.4% slide.
(Reporting by Marcin Goclowski, Anna Koper, Justyna Pawlak, and Pawel Florkiewicz; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)
[At least there is one country and majority of their people in the world that fears the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob who knows what will come for those countries who allow and push the sins of Sodom and Gommorah on their society.    Are you listening Pope Francis?    Soon you will see the anti-Christian forces attack Poland in force.].

10/14/2019 Vatican security chief, papal bodyguard, steps down over leak by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis is seen at the Vatican walking next to Domenico Giani, Inspector General of the
Corpo della Gendarmeria, the police and security force of Vatican City, before boarding a bus heading to Ariccia,
south of Rome, to make his Lent spiritual exercises March 5, 2017. REUTERS/Tony Gentile
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Ė Domenico Giani, the Vaticanís longtime security chief and Pope Francisí main bodyguard, resigned on Monday over leaks related to an investigation into alleged financial wrongdoing in the Vatican.
    Giani, 57, a former member of Italyís secret services, had been part of the Vatican security apparatus for 20 years, serving three popes, and had held the top post since 2006.
    No previous head of Vatican security has left under a shadow in living memory.    His resignation is the latest twist in a saga that has gripped the Vatican for two weeks.
    It started with an unprecedented and unexplained Oct. 2 raid by Gianiís men on two key Vatican offices, the Financial Information Authority (AIF) and the Secretariat of State.
    The subsequent leak and publication in Italian media of an internal police notice bearing pictures of five Vatican employees, including the number two at AIF and a monsignor in the Secretariat of State has left the Vatican in turmoil.
    The shaven-headed Giani, who was often seen by the popeís side or running along beside the popemobile as it moved through crowds, signed the notice which showed the five, including a woman, in a format similar to a ďmost wantedĒ flyer.
    Vatican sources said the pope was furious over the leak of the notice, issued to guards at gates telling them the five could not enter the Vatican because they had been ďpreventively suspended,Ē and had ordered an investigation.
    Sources said he was upset that the five had been represented in such a way even though they were not formally suspected of anything and while the investigation, into an international real estate deal, was still in its infancy.
    In a statement on Monday, the Vatican said publishing the notice was ďprejudicial to the dignity of the people involved and to the image of the GendarmerieĒ but that Giani ďbears no personal responsibility in the unfolding of events
    Giani himself told the internal Vatican Media website that he assumed ďobjective responsibilityĒ as commander of the Vaticanís Gendarmerie.
GENDARMERIE WORKS WITH SWISS GUARD
    The Gendarmerie provides security together with the Swiss Guard, a separate unit with its own commander.    Both travel with the pope when he leaves the Vatican.
    When police raided the offices on Oct. 2, seizing documents and electronic devices, the Vatican said it was a follow-up to complaints filed in the summer by the Vatican bank and the Office of the Auditor General, and related to ďfinancial operations carried out over the course of time
    Vatican sources say the still-murky episode has all the hallmarks of a power struggle involving the AIF, the Vatican bank, the office of the auditor general and the Secretariat of State, the nerve center of the tiny city-state.
    The Vaticanís chief prosecutor Gian Piero Milano opened an investigation into the real estate deal after he received complaints from the Vatican bank, officially known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), and the auditor generalís office against ďunknown persons
    Milanoís investigation involves a stake in a building on Londonís posh Sloane Avenue that the Secretariat of State purchased years ago as an investment.
    According to Vatican sources, the Secretariat of State wanted to buy out an Italian partner so it could get full control over the property.
    The Secretariat asked the IOR for a short-term bridge loan of about 150 million euros but the IOR refused.    Instead, it and the acting auditor general filed complaints to prosecutor.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Catherine Evans)

10/16/2019 Poland plans bill to criminalize Ďpromoting underage sexí by Marcin Goclowski
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party arrives at the Lower House of the Parliament before the session to vote
on the bill that would criminalise "the promotion of underage sex" at the parliament in Warsaw, Poland, October 16, 2019. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
    WARSAW (Reuters) Ė Lawmakers from Polandís ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) have begun work on a bill to criminalize ďthe promotion of underage sexual activity in a move which aims to boost their credentials with staunchly Catholic voters but which has angered liberals and womenís rights activists.
    Polish schools do not currently offer formal sex education, instead teaching students how to ďprepare for family life.Ē    Some cities run by more liberal parties have allowed sexual education programs in schools, prompting a backlash from the PiS and the Catholic Church.
    Protests against the new bill, which some activists fear may mean sex educators would risk up to five years behind bars, are planned in several cities on Wednesday.
    The PiS won parliamentary elections in Poland last Sunday, but far-right and staunchly catholic voters also managed to introduce candidates to parliament.
    Some political analysts think the PiS, which lost seats in the upper house and won the same number of seats in the lower house as in 2015, wants to show such voters it is the best party to represent them, which may result in the party turning further to the right and to the Church.
    ďThis is their gesture towards ultra-Catholics and the Church.    They donít understand what sex education is and why it is important,Ē lawmaker Joanna Scheuring-Wielgus from the opposition Now! party said.
    Critics accused the PiS of fomenting homophobia during the election campaign, with party officials calling lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights an invasive foreign influence that threatens Polandís national identity.
    ďThey are trying to impose a narrative that we are in a culture and civilization war,Ē Scheuring-Wielgus said, adding the bill is aimed at intimidating and silencing educators and activists.
    But newly-elected PiS lawmaker Marcin Ociepa said fears that educators may end up behind bars are just an ďoverinterpretation of the billĒ and that he saw nothing bad with the legislation which is to be debated on Wednesday afternoon.
    ďThis only says that it is not allowed to encourage a person younger than 15 Ö to have sex or to conduct other sexual activities,Ē Ociepa told private radio TOK FM.
    Bishop Ignacy Dec of the Swidnica diocese told right-wing newspaper Nasz Dziennik, ďit is worrying that some local authorities are introducing to pre-schools and schools sexualisation programs recommended by the World Health Organization, which just harm children and youths
    Womenís rights activists will protest on Wednesday in several cities, under the ďNo to forbidding sex educationĒ banner, according to Twitter posts.
    Large protests stopped the PiS in previous years from tightening Polandís abortion law which is already one of the most restrictive in Europe.
    The fresh social clash underlines the difficulties the PiS faces in pushing through its policies as new politicians from both sides of the political spectrum are expected to mount robust challenges.
    Poland, European Unionís biggest post-communist member, is one of the most devoutly Catholic countries in Europe, but its society is becoming more liberal, and the number of people attending Sunday mass is falling constantly, which may threaten the PiSís conservative agenda.
(Additional reporting by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)
[Poland a country that has hung on to the true religion of Christianity came into the E.U. not knowing that it had become anti-religious government and is now fighting for its life for its true Christian background.    May God protect you from the evil in the world.].

10/16/2019 Florida bill seeks to require religious courses in public schools by OAN Newsroom
    A new Florida bill could make it mandatory for public schools to offer a Bible study course.    The bill was filed last week by Representative Kimberly Daniels.    It would require schools to offer courses relating to religion, Hebrew Scriptures and the Bible to high school students.
    The bill outlines that the courses must be offered from a neutral perspective.
    ďA course offered pursuant to this section may not endorseÖor show hostility toward a particular religion, religious perspective or nonreligious faith,Ē read the legislation.
    Daniels introduced a similar bill last year.    Opponents have used precedent as an argument against the bill, suggesting that varying interpretations of religious texts may make a curriculum impossible to standardize.
    If passed, the new measure will take effect in July of 2020.

10/18/2019 Share of Americans with no religious affiliation growing
    The portion of Americans with no religious affiliation is rising significantly, in tandem with a sharp drop in the percentage that identifies as Christians, according to new data from the Pew Research Center.    Based on telephone surveys conducted in 2018 and 2019, Pew said Thursday that 65% of American adults now describe themselves as Christian, down from 77% in 2009.    Meanwhile, the portion that describes its religious identity as atheist, agnostic or ďnothing in particular,Ē now stands at 26%, up from 17% in 2009.

[Here is what: The First Amendment (Amendment I) says before you read the following article "to the United States Constitution prevents the government from making laws which respect an establishment of religion, prohibit the free exercise of religion, or abridge the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, the right to peaceably assemble, or the right to petition the government for redress of grievances."]
10/18/2019 Bevinís promotion of Christianity is violating the US Constitution
    In the four years he has served as the governor of Kentucky, Matthew G. Bevin has flouted his state and federal constitutional obligations to keep church and state differentiated.    As legal director at the American Humanist Association, I sent a letter to the governor, admonishing him for repeatedly running afoul of the state and federal Constitutions.
    Thomas Jeffersonís ďwall of separation between church and stateĒ Ė enshrined in our Establishment Clause of the First Amendment Ė mandates a secular government that neither favors nor discriminates against religion.    Bevin does not adhere to this command.
    In October 2018, and again just last month, Bevin promoted ďBring Your Bible to School DayĒ in a video on his official Twitter feed.    (The manufactured holiday is one of the flagship events of Focus on the Family, a Christian organization).
    Bevinís privileging of Christianity over other religions and no religion isnít just limited to his public statements.    In one of his first legislative actions, Bevin supported and signed a bill encouraging school boards to offer Bible literacy classes, which have been used to promote Christian theology in publicly funded classrooms.    In May 2019, he signed a bill mandating that all public schools display ďIn God We TrustĒ in a prominent location.    These bills are copied directly from the playbook of a shadowy national organization whose Project Blitz campaign works to inject Christianity into secular, public institutions.
    Promoting Christianity through official government channels damages both government and religion.    As the Supreme Court recognized in its seminal school prayer case in 1962, Engel v. Vitale, the Establishment Clauseís ďfirst and most immediate purpose rested on the belief that a union of government and religion tends to destroy government and to degrade religion.Ē    James Madison viewed governmental support for religion as ďreligious bondage (that) shackles and debilitates the mind, and unfits it for every noble enterprise.Ē    In reference to his groundbreaking Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson agreed that governmental religious favoritism ďtends also to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing, with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess and conform to it.Ē    Or, as Justice Blackmun framed it in Lee v. Weisman, ďThe favored religion may be compromised as political figures reshape the religionís beliefs for their own purposes.Ē    Compromised indeed.
    To many Christians, the commingling of religion and secular government violates not only the First Amendment but also the injunction in Matthew 22:21 to ďrender unto Caesar the things which are Caesarís, and unto God the things that are Godís.Ē    Among others, our Baptist allies have noted that Christians are bound to religious tenets by faith and a choice to believe.    When elected officials tie government to those same tenets, it takes that choice away and removes much of the sacred nature of faith.    In addition, when governments are the mouthpiece for religious teachings, the power to instruct is taken away from religious institutions.
    True free exercise of religion rarely requires the intervention of legislators.    When legislative bodies do intervene, it tends to result in special rights for the Christian right.    This false equivalency of religious freedom and a right to discriminate is a battle that reached the U.S. Supreme Court just last week with oral arguments made on Oct. 8 in three LGBTQ+ workersí rights cases.    A secular, open and pluralistic society where government does not ascribe to one worldview over another is a right to which every American is entitled, as guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.
    Bevin conflates being a good American with being a good Christian.    When Fayette County public schools posted an enlarged dollar bill to comply with the aforementioned ďIn God We TrustĒ directive, the governor weighed in, stating that ďpeople who try to undermine the intent of something are only robbing their own students of the significance of understanding the importance of God in this nationís history    Bevin seems to forget that we have a godless Constitution and the motto, ďIn God We TrustĒ is of recent vintage.    It was adopted in 1956 ó the peak of the Mc-Carthy era ó and replaced the longstanding secular motto adopted by our founders, E pluribus unum, which had been in use since 1776.
    As our warning letter to Bevin notes, ďEven setting aside the legal/constitutional implications of such actions (and there are many), common decency dictates that you show more respect for those non-Christians whom you serve (and who pay your salary).Ē    In this lies what is, perhaps, the most humanist concern: Bevinís promotion of Christianity devalues the thousands of Kentucky residents who do not adhere to his same religious belief.
    Monica L. Miller is the legal director and senior counsel at the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, the legal arm of the American Humanist Association.
[KEEP UPTHE GOOD WORK BEVIN AND TRUMP BECAUSE THE ANTICHRIST ARE EVERYWHERE AND TRYING TO QUASH CHRISTIANITY NOW AND GOD IS ON YOUR SIDE IN THIS ANCIENT BATTLE.].

10/21/2019 Northern Ireland prepares for momentous abortion, same-sex marriage changes by Amanda Ferguson
FILE PHOTO: Pro-choice demonstrators take part in a march in Belfast, Northern Ireland September 7, 2019. REUTERS/John Sibley
    BELFAST, (Reuters) Ė Campaigners who fought for decades to end Northern Irelandís same sex-marriage ban and restrictions on abortion prepare on Monday for a momentous change to the laws on both at the stroke of midnight.
    Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that does not allow same-sex marriage.    Also, unlike England, Scotland and Wales, laws in Northern Ireland forbid abortion except where a motherís life is at risk, bans that have been upheld by the regionís block of conservative politicians.
    But an overwhelming vote by British lawmakers in July to compel the government in London to overhaul the laws if Belfastís devolved executive had not been restored by Oct. 21 is set to kick in with little or no hope of politicians ending the local parliamentís near three-year hiatus.
    Advocacy groups have planned a number of events on Monday to usher in the changes.
    ďIn 2014 when I needed an abortion and was denied one I swore I would add my voice to the campaign for abortion rights and to have achieved that is just incredible,Ē Ashleigh Topley, who was part of a Supreme Court challenge to the laws, said in a statement.
    ďThis will never undo my experience but has given a purpose to my pain and I am relieved that no one will now have to go through what I did,Ē said Topley, who at 4-1/2 months pregnant was told that her baby would not survive but had to carry on against her wishes until she went into labor at 35 weeks and the baby girlís heart stopped.
    Abortion rights were long opposed in Northern Ireland by religious conservatives in both the Protestant community that supports continued British rule and the Catholic community that favors union with the traditionally Catholic Irish Republic.
    Pressure has mounted, however, to change the Victorian-era laws in recent years, particularly after the neighboring Irish Republic voted overwhelmingly last year to repeal a similarly restrictive ban, demonstrating a stark change in attitudes on an island once known for its religious conservatism.
    If a new devolved government is not formed by midnight, abortion will be decriminalized, beginning a consultation on what the framework for services should look like, which is due to be finalised and approved by March 2020.
    ďThis is a bad law being implemented through a bad process leading to bad consequences for both women and unborn children,Ē said Dawn McAvoy from the anti-abortion Both Lives Matter group.
    Opinion has also changed on same-sex marriage.    But despite opinion polls showing most in the region in favor, previous attempts to follow the Irish Republic in legalizing it have been blocked by the socially conservative Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), using a special veto intended to prevent discrimination towards one community over another.
    It will take the British parliament until mid-January to bring in the new legislation, setting up Feb. 14, 2020 Ė Valentineís Day Ė as the first opportunity for same-sex couples to marry once they give the required 28-daysí notice.
(Reporting by Amanda Ferguson; Editing by Padraic Halpin and Peter Cooney)

10/22/2019 Vatican denies bookís allegations of impending default by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: Italian author and journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, who has written three previous books
about financial scandals in the Vatican, attends a news conference for his new work, called "Original Sin,"
in Rome, Italy, November 9, 2017. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi/File Photo
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Ė The Vatican on Tuesday dismissed allegations in a new book that the Holy See risks default in the next few years because of falling donations, financial mismanagement and corruption.
    The 350-page book, ďLast Judgment,Ē is by Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, and is his latest on Vatican finances.
    Nuzzi writes that years of deficits may leave the Vatican little choice but to declare default by 2023.
    ďThere is no threat of default here.    There is only the need for a spending review.    And that is what we are doing,Ē said Archbishop Nunzio Galantino.
    Galantino is head of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See (APSA), a general accounting office that manages real estate holdings in Rome and elsewhere in Italy, pays salaries of Vatican employees and acts as a purchasing office and human resources department.
    The archbishop told the Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenire that while there was ďno need for alarmism,Ē the Vatican had to contain costs.
    The worldís smallest state has no taxes.    Its sources of income are from investments, real estate, collections taken around the world from faithful, contributions from dioceses and revenue from its highly popular museums.
    Nuzzi said contributions from the faithful had fallen sharply in recent years, particularly in countries such as the United States hit by the sexual abuse scandal.
    While Galantino challenged Nuzzi, saying parts of the book ďsound a lot like the ĎDa Vinci Code,'Ē the Vatican is no stranger to financial scandals.
    On Oct. 2, Vatican police raided two key departments, the Financial Information Authority (AIF) and the Secretariat of State, seizing documents and computers in an investigation into the purchase of a building in a posh neighborhood of London for $200 million.
    Five Vatican employees were immediately suspended and later the head of Vatican security resigned over the leak of a document related to the investigation.
    The Vaticanís prosecutor is looking into possible crimes such as embezzlement, abuse of office, fraud and money laundering, according to people familiar with the search warrant.
    The Vatican bank, known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), was embroiled in several past scandals.
    Only recently has it enacted sweeping reforms, such as closing accounts held by outsiders who had no right to hold them.
    At a news conference presenting the book, Nuzzi said he was a great admirer of Pope Francis and wanted to highlight alleged mismanagement blocking him from enacting long-lasting reform.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Peter Cooney)

10/22/2019 Season of discontent: protests flare around the world
A demonstrator rides a bicycle past an improvised bonfire during a protest against the
increase in subway ticket prices in Santiago, October 19. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado
    (Reuters) Ė Another day, another protest.
    On Monday it was Bolivia Ė angry people clashed with police after the political opposition said it had been cheated in an election won by incumbent President Evo Morales.
    Last week, the streets of the Chilean capital Santiago descended into chaos, as demonstrators enraged by a hike in public transport fares looted stores, set a bus alight and prompted the president to declare a state of emergency.
    Earlier this month, Ecuadorís leader did the same after violent unrest triggered by the decision to end fuel subsidies that had been in place for decades.
    And that was just South America.
    Hong Kong has been in turmoil for months, Lebanonís capital Beirut was at a standstill, parts of Barcelona resembled a battlefield last week and tens of thousands of Britons marched through London at the weekend over Brexit.
    Protests have flared around the world in the last few months.    Each has had its own trigger, but many of the tactics and underlying frustrations are similar.    Governments, economists and ordinary people are taking notice.
ECONOMICS
    In at least four countries hit by recent violent protests, the main reason for the uprising is economic.
    Governments in Chile and Ecuador have incurred their peopleís wrath after trying to raise fares and end fuel subsidies.
    As clashes engulfed Quito, Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno reached out to indigenous leaders who had mobilized people to take to the streets.
    Within minutes, chief protest organizer Jaime Vargas had rejected that outreach.
    ďWeíre defending the people,Ē Vargas said in a live Facebook video from the march in Quito.
    His response, visible to millions of people, underlines an added challenge authorities have when trying to quell dissent: social media has made communication between protesters easier than ever.
    Tens of thousands of people have flooded Beirut in the biggest show of dissent against the establishment there in decades.    People of all ages and religions joined to protest about worsening economic conditions and the perception that those in power were corrupt.
    Similar factors were behind deadly civil unrest in Iraq in early October.
    More than 100 people died in violent protests across a country where many Iraqis, especially young people, felt they had seen few economic benefits since Islamic State militants were defeated in 2017.     Security forces cracked down, with snipers opening fire from rooftops and the internet being shut to stem the flow of information among protesters.
    ďThe bullets do not scare us.    They do not scare Iraqis.    This will all come down over their heads,Ē said one protester in Baghdad.
GIVE US OUR AUTONOMY
    Hong Kong has been battered by five months of huge and often violent protests over fears Beijing is tightening its grip on the territory, the worst political crisis since colonial ruler Britain handed it back to China in 1997.
    There have been few major rallies in recent weeks, but violence has escalated at those held, with militant activists setting metro stations ablaze and smashing up shops, often targeting Chinese banks and stores with mainland links.
    Police have fired thousands of rounds of tear gas, hundreds of rubber bullets and three live rounds at brick- and petrol bomb-throwing activists.
    Events in Hong Kong have drawn comparisons to demonstrations in Catalonia in recent days.    There, too, people are angry at what they see as attempts to thwart their desire for greater autonomy from the rest of Spain, if not outright independence.
    Protesters set cars on fire and threw petrol bombs at police in Barcelona, unrest sparked by the sentencing of Catalan separatist leaders who sought to declare an independent state.
    Demonstrators also focused on strategic targets to cause maximum disruption, including the international airport, grounding more than 100 flights.
    That came several days after similar action in Hong Kong, suggesting that protests movements are following and even copying each other on social media and the news.
    ďIn Hong Kong they have done it well, but they are crazier,Ē said Giuseppe Vayreda, a 22-year-old art student at a recent Catalan separatist protest.
    On Thursday, Hong Kong protesters plan a rally to show solidarity with those demonstrating in Spain.
LEADER OR NO LEADER
    In some cases, individuals rise to the forefront of protest movements, using social media to get their message across.     In Egypt, where demonstrations last month were relatively small yet significant in their rarity, the catalyst of dissent against President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was an Egyptian posting videos from Spain.     Greta Thunberg, a Swedish teenager, inspired millions of people to march through cities around the world in September to demand that political leaders act to stop climate change.     Tens of thousands gathered in a New York park to listen to her speech.     ďIf you belong to that small group of people who feel threatened by us, then we have some very bad news for you,Ē she said.    ďBecause this is only the beginning. Change is coming whether they like it or not
(Slideshow: Slideshow of global protests link: https://www.reuters.com/news/picture/season-of-discontent-protests-around-the-idUSRTS2QML7).
(Reporting by Reuters correspondents; Writing by Mike Collett-White; Editing by Nick Tattersall)

10/22/2019 Vatican accuses conservative social media of fomenting hate after statues dumped by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis meets with Indigenous Community of Amazonia at the Vatican October 17, 2019. Vatican Media/¨Handout via REUTERS
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Ė The Vatican on Tuesday accused ultra-conservative Catholic social media of fomenting hate, a day after militants stole statues they considered pagan idols from a church and dumped them in the Tiber river.
    Mondayís incident came in the final week of an assembly of bishops to discuss the future of the Church in the Amazon region.    The stolen statues were on display along with other Amazon artifacts at a church near the Vatican.
    ďIn the name of tradition and doctrine, an effigy of maternity and the sacredness of life was dumped in contempt,Ē said Andrea Tornielli, the Vaticanís editorial director.     Tornielli said the incident was a ďviolent and intolerant gestureĒ and that the thieves had ďpassed from hate on social media to action.Ē    He said it was shocking that one conservative Catholic website headlined its story on the theft ďJustice is Served
    Even before the synod started, conservative Catholic social media attacked its working document as heretical, particularly for suggesting that elderly married men could be ordained as priests to say Mass in the vast region.
    They later expressed outrage at the use of an Amazonian statue of a pregnant woman at an opening ceremony.
    Hardline conservative media said the statue was of a pagan goddess known as Pachamama.    The Vatican said it was an indigenous traditional symbol of life.
    A video of the incident was posted on the internet and given prominence on conservative Catholic media websites and Twitter.    One, LifeSite News, had begun a petition to remove the statue.
    LifeSite carried a statement from the thieves saying they acted because people of faith were ďbeing attacked by members of our own Church.        We do not accept this! We no longer stay silent! We start to act NOW!Ē
    In a statement on Tuesday, REPAM, a grouping of Roman Catholic bishops and church organizations from the Amazon in Rome for the synod, called for respect of diversity in the Church.
    ďIn recent days, we have been victims of acts of violence, reflecting religious intolerance, racism, humiliation against indigenous peoples above all,Ē the REPAM statement said.
    REPAM said its members feared an escalation of such incidents.
    The three-week synod ends on Saturday with a final declaration which the pope, who has attended most of the sessions, can use to write his own document, known as an Apostolic Exhortation.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

10/22/2019 San Francisco blacklists states with pro-life laws by OAN Newsroom
FILE- The Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco skyline are seen from the Marin Headlands above Sausalito, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)
    San Francisco is bringing its pro-choice agenda to the national level.    The cityís mayor announced a measure last week, which will blacklist 22 states that are considered to have restrictive abortion laws.    All those listed have similar time restraints for terminating a pregnancy, ranging from a 13 week to a 24 week cut off.
    Mayor London Breed defended the measure by saying, ďevery day in this country womenís reproductive rights are threatened and we have to fight back
    Under the law, all San Francisco city workers will be prohibited from taking work-related trips or doing business with companies in those states.    However, critics argue the city does not provide those states with enough tax revenue to encourage any real policy changes.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed gestures during a news conference in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
    Georgia, Kentucky and Alabama are among some of the effected states.    These states recently made headlines for passing restrictive abortion measures, including the popular Ďfetal heartbeat billí which makes it illegal to abort a fetus once a heart beat is detected.
    Meanwhile, nine of those states were already blacklisted by the city due to their laws and policies regarding the LGBTQ community.    The measure is scheduled to take effect starting in January of 2020.

MORE ON THE POSSIBLE FUTURE MARK OF THE BEAST UNLESS YOU DO NOT BELIEVE THAT
10/22/2019 Microchips havenít chipped in at work - Startupís app would offer access through Ďmobile credentialsí by Jefferson Graham, USA TODAY
    Forget about having to get chipped in todayís workplace.
    Access technology is playing a huge role in offices, where buildings are more security conscious, and badges and fobs that used to be required just for entry now also get you up and down the elevator and into the company network.
    A Wisconsin firm made a splash in 2017 by announcing a plan to voluntarily implant microchips in employees, not for being tracked, but as a replacement for the company badge.
    Now, a Los Angeles startup says it can now offer the same perks of entry without reaching for a badge or access card, and itís app-based.    Openpath is working with Dominoís, Bird Scooter and tech firm the Leaf Group to let employees come and go with ďmobile credentials
    Meanwhile, Three Square Market, the company that received worldwide headlines in 2017 when it made its microchip announcement has been quiet since.    But a Washington state firm that offers chipping is looking to the technology as an alternative to typing in passwords.
    Chipping ďhas always been an uphill swing,Ē says Amal Graafstra, who runs the VivoKey microchip service from Lynden, Washington.    ďBut our sales are going up every month
    In response to the Three Square Market chipping splash, five states Ė Wisconsin, North Dakota, California, Missouri and Oklahoma Ė responded by outlawing mandatory chipping.    A bill passed the Nevada assembly in the spring but stalled in the Senate.
    The L.A. startup, Openpath, scoffs at the notion that chipping makes life easier for employees.    ďWeíre trying to reduce friction to access,Ē says James Segil, co-founder of Openpath.    ďPutting you into minor surgery to get to work just added more friction
Instead, companies buy his hardware and subscribe to software, and, instead of a company badge, employees set up the app and come and go by waving their hands at the entryway, without having to pull the phone out of the pocket or purse.    OpenPath uses Bluetooth to communicate with the phone.
    Eric Roseman, vice president of innovation for the Lincoln Property Company, which manages commercial real estate nationally, works with Openpath, and says offering mobile credentials ďwill create a more futureproofed experience for tenants
    For human chipping, Graafstra envisions a future where his implanted chips will enable banking and anything that requires a password.
    Heís testing a chip that works directly with apps, and heís hoping to have it used for payments in 2020.
    His firm, VivoKey, is a platform for selling and installing chips and looking to the future.    He has doubts that an appbased alternative could solve access entry.
    ďWhat if you lose your phone, or it stops working?Ē he says.
    The costs of getting chipped are about $100 to buy the chip and $35 to $75 to have it implanted, he says.    He says anyone who specializes in piercings can handle that part.
    The trend of microchipping animals to keep track of them has been a success, says the American Veterinary Medical Association, which found that dogs without microchips were returned to their owners 21.9% of the time, compared with 52.2% for chipped dogs.
    Patrick McMullan, the president of Three Square Market, said heís looking to develop a ďmore robustĒ chip.    ďThe chip being used globally simply isnít capable of doing much,Ē he notes.
    Indeed, since the 2017 Three Square Market announcement, only four other organizations have offered microchipping to their workers, and one of them, a Mexican company, did it to keep track of top execs in case they were kidnapped, says Brian Kropp, an analyst for Gartner, ďso they would know how to find them
An employee would wave at an OpenPath sensor to gain entry without having to show a badge in a company demo. OPENPATH
A microchip is implanted at Three Square Market in River Falls, Wis. JEFF BAENEN/AP

10/22/2019 Haitian Catholics march for political reform as protests spread by Andres Martinez Casares and Andre Paultre
Faithful pray as they walk during a march organised by religious leaders in
Port-au-Prince, Haiti October 22, 2019. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
    PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) Ė As Haiti entered a sixth week of violent anti-government protests over corruption and economic woes, Catholic leaders held a rare march on Tuesday calling for a resolution to the crisis that has paralyzed the country and sweeping political reform.
    Thousands joined the peaceful march throughout the capital Port-au-Prince that underscored how more and more sectors of society are rising up against what they view as not only President Jovenel Moiseís bad governance but also a broken political system.
    ďCan we advance with the current political regime and this system in place?    We should Ö build anew,Ē said the Reverend Firto Regis, spokesman for the Haitian Conference of Religious.
    There have been several waves of protests since Moise took power in February 2017, but this is the longest.
    While protesters originally were calling for Moise to fix the countryís problems, they have been dismayed by his inaction and are now calling outright for his resignation.
    Last week, four of the seven allies Moise nominated to a commission aiming to find a path out of the political crisis resigned from it after he ruled out ending his mandate early in a speech.    They said all options needed to be on the table.
    ďThe Catholic Church usually holds religious processions but today it is holding a march Ö for the deliverance of Haiti, because we are in a disastrous situationĒ said Rose Marie Bolimer, a school teacher.
    Bolimer complained that educational institutions have still not re-opened following the summer break due to the protests.
    ďThe situation is becoming harder day by day, we do not have enough to eat, we have no security,Ē she said.    ďAnd we have a president who does absolutely nothing, on the contrary, he plans on killing us more
    The march came as one of Haitiís top hotels, the Best Western in Port-au-Prince, confirmed it was closing its doors at the end of the month, meaning dozens of layoffs and underscoring the damage being done to tourism.
    ďMy only aim now is to leave because I do not know how I will be able to keep supporting my family, there is no work here,Ē said Alexandre Pierre, a 40-year-old receptionist at the hotel, who has two young children.
    ďEven if I decide to set up some kind of shop, itís not possible because everything is closed here, blocked
    Georges Sassine, the president of Haitiís manufacturing industry association, told Reuters that companies producing goods for sale locally had reduced their workforce by 40%.
    He said Haitians wanted an enduring solution to the crisis, not simply a handover to another politician who would continue to defend the interests of only a handful.
    Sassineís association was one of the more than 100 business or civil society groups which earlier this month signed a document laying out the framework for a possible transition towards a better political system including electoral reform.
(Reporting by Andres Martinez Casares and Andre Paultre in Port-au-Prince; Additional reporting by Sarah Marsh; Writing by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Paul Simao)

10/23/2019 Vatican financial regulator denies wrongdoing in London property buy by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis is seen at the Vatican walking next to Domenico Giani, Inspector General of the
Corpo della Gendarmeria, the police and security force of Vatican City, before boarding a bus heading to Ariccia,
south of Rome, to make his Lent spiritual exercises March 5, 2017. REUTERS/Tony Gentile/File Photo
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Ė The Vaticanís financial regulator on Wednesday rejected a prosecutorís accusations that it acted improperly over the purchase of a luxury building in London, raising the stakes in an awkward internal conflict for Pope Francis.
    A statement by the Financial Information Authority (AIF) was the latest twist in a saga that has so far included an unprecedented police raid on two key departments, the suspension of five employees and the resignation of the Vaticanís longtime security chief and papal bodyguard.
    In its first public comment since the raid on its offices on Oct. 1, when police seized documents and computers, AIF said it had carried out an internal investigation and confirmed confidence in its director, Tommaso di Ruzza, who was suspended after the raid.
    ďNeither the director nor any other employee of AIF improperly exercised his authority or engaged in any other wrongdoing,Ē it said.
    Vatican prosecutor Gian Piero Milano is looking into possible crimes such as embezzlement, abuse of office, fraud and money laundering connected to the purchase of the building by the Secretariat of State, according to people familiar with his search warrant.    Those offices were also raided on Oct. 1.
    Milano will decide whether to continue the investigation and ask for indictments or drop it.
    The AIF statement suggested that it believed Milano overstepped his jurisdiction with the search warrant, which was issued based on complaints from the Vatican bank and the office of the auditor general.
    It said the AIFís role in the deal was ďproperly institutional in nature and conducted in conformity with the AIFís governing Statute
    In 2014, the Vaticanís Secretariat of State, the nerve centre of the bureaucracy of the 1.3 billion-member Church, spent about $200 million for a minority stake in a complex plan to buy a building in Londonís Chelsea district and convert it into luxury apartments, according to people familiar with the events.
    In 2018, with London financial and real estate markets still rattled by Britainís decision to leave the European Union, the Secretariat of State bought the rest of the stake and became the outright owner but took on some debt to refinance.
    Several Italian middlemen were involved in the operations and the Italian magazine LíEspresso, which has published leaked documents, said they may have overcharged the Vatican.
    This past June, the Secretariat of State, seeking to extinguish the mortgage, asked the Vatican bank, officially known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), for a bridge loan of 150 million euros ďfor institutional reasonsĒ but the bank refused.
    Vatican sources are concerned the investigation and the police raids could harm an upcoming evaluation of the Vaticanís financial structures by Moneyval, a monitoring body of the Council of Europe.
    In recent years Moneyval has given the AIF and Vatican financial reforms in general mostly positive evaluation.    The next one is due in 2020.
(The story adds dropped word third para)
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Alison Williams, Andrew Cawthorne and Giles Elgood)

10/24/2019 Report: Nearly 900 womenís clinics lose federal funding by Kristin Lam, USA TODAY
    Nearly 900 clinics have lost funding from a federal family-planning program since a Trump administration rule banned recipients from referring patients to abortion services, according to a new report.
    Power to Decide, an unplanned pregnancy-prevention organization, estimated 876 clinics nationwide lost Title X funding after recipients refused to comply with the rule.
    The loss of funding could prevent low-income women from getting affordable reproductive health care, the organization said, including cancer screenings and STD testing. Some women have gone without health services because of resulting higher costs, the report said.
    Created nearly 50 years ago, Title X serves patients who are poor or donít have health insurance by distributing $260 million in family planning grants annually.    The program, which covers screenings and annual exams, does not fund abortions.
    Five states now lack Title X clinics, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation and Power to Decide.    Program recipients in Maine, Oregon, Utah, Vermont and Washington all withdrew, saying the Trump administration rule would restrict patientsí ability to get an abortion and abortion counseling.
    Planned Parenthood, which served 40% of all Title X patients before rejecting the funding in August, was the sole grantee in Utah.    Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, previously told USA TODAY that Utah patients may see longer wait times or need to drive hundreds of miles for services.
    ďIt will simply be impossible for other health centers to fill the gap,Ē she said.
    In an effort to fill the void, the Office of Population Affairs gave $33.6 million in supplemental funding to remaining Title X participants.    A Kaiser Family Foundation report found the supplemental funding has not made up for the losses in 14 states, however.
    Paloma Zuleta, director of media relations at Power to Decide, told NBC that clinic changes will especially affect lowincome women of color.
    ďIf clinics can no longer open early anymore or they can no longer keep late hours because their funding is so different or if they have to lay people off, itís a deterrent for women to be able to access the health care that they need,Ē Zuleta said.
    Planned Parenthood sued the Trump administration in March to block the rule that prohibits it from providing abortion referrals to Title X patients.    The American Medical Association was also a plaintiff in the lawsuit.    While three district courts sided with Planned Parenthood, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the rule to take effect.    The cases are ongoing.
Contributing: Nicquel Terry Ellis, USA TODAY

10/24/2019 Texas Gov. Abbott says state looking into case of James ĎLunaí Younger by OAN Newsroom
Jeff Younger is pictured with his son James. (Photo/Facebook/handout)
    The state of Texas is getting involved after a jury turns down a fatherís request to block his seven-year-old boy from transitioning.    On Wednesday, Governor Greg Abbott tweeted that the Texas Attorney Generalís Office and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services are looking into what they can do for James Younger.
    This comes after a Texas jury turned down Jeff Youngerís plea for sole custody Monday.    The father is hoping to prevent his sonís biological mother from giving him female hormones.    The mother has argued the child is transgender, and has demanded Jeff to facilitate his transition.    Meanwhile, the father argues she has pressured James into identifying as female.
    Other members of Congress from Texas, including Ted Cruz and Dan Crenshaw, have also weighed in on youngerís case.    They say a seven-year-old cannot possibly make this decision or understand it.
[This is how sick our societies have become as the way it was in Sodom and Gomorrah and it can only be because of mental illness and lack of religious teachings as in Christian values that can turn this around and we are only born male or female, there is no transforming from one to the other as it is unnatural to the nature of mankind.].

10/25/2019 Pope asks forgiveness for theft of controversial Amazon statues by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis attends the Synod of Amazonian bishops at the Vatican, October 7, 2019 REUTERS/Remo Casilli
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Ė Pope Francis asked for forgiveness from Amazon bishops and others at a Church assembly on Friday after conservative Catholic militants stole statues they considered pagan idols from a church and dumped them in the Tiber river.
    ďFirst of all, this happened in Rome, so as bishop of the diocese, I ask forgiveness from the persons who were offended by this gesture,Ē he said at the start of the last session of the three-week assembly, known as a synod.
    The synod is discussing the future of the Church in the Amazon and threats to its environment.
    Francis said there ďwas no idolatrous intentionĒ in using the statues, which depicted a pregnant woman, at a side event in the Vatican when the assembly began.
    Replicas were put in a nearby church with other artifacts from the Amazon and stolen on Monday.    The militants posted a video of the theft and claimed responsibility in a statement to a Catholic news organization.
    The next day, the Vatican accused ultra-conservative Catholic social media of fomenting hate, saying in an editorial that the statues were ďan effigy of maternity and the sacredness of lifeĒ
    Hard-line conservative media said the statue was of a pagan goddess known as Pachamama.    The Vatican said it was an indigenous traditional symbol of life.
    In his remarks, the pope used the phrase ďthe pachamama statuesĒ but in the transcript the word pachamama was in italics.
    Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said the pope used the word as a means to identify the statues because that is the way they have become known in the Italian media and not as a reference to the goddess.
    Francis said Italian police had recovered the statues.    The Vatican had yet to decide on a suggestion by police who found the statues that they be used in the synodís final Mass on Sunday, he said.
    On Saturday, members will vote on a final declaration which the pope, who has attended most of the sessions, can use to write his own document, known as an Apostolic Exhortation.
    The synodís most contentious issue has been whether elderly married men could be ordained as priests only in the Amazon to say Mass in the vast region because of the shortage of priests.
    Conservatives oppose the proposal, saying it would be a slippery slope leading to the end of the tradition of celibacy in the rest of the 1.3 billion-member Church.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; editing by Grant McCool)

10/26/2019 Vatican synod proposes ordaining married men as priests in the Amazon by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis attends the weekly general audience at the Vatican, October 16, 2019. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Ė An assembly of Roman Catholic bishops from the Amazon on Saturday proposed that married men in the remote area be allowed to be ordained priests, which could lead to a landmark change in the Churchís centuries-old discipline of celibacy.
    The proposal, made in a final document from a three-week assembly, known as a synod, passed by 128 votes in favor to 41 against.
    Pope Francis will consider it, along with many other proposals on issues including the environment and the role of women, in a future document of his own, known as an Apostolic Exhortation.
    Separately, when he closed the synodís final working session earlier on Saturday, Francis announced that he would reconvene a commission to study the history of women deacons in the early centuries of the Catholic Church, responding to calls by women that they be allowed to take up the role today.
    But the issue of a married priesthood for the Amazon region was by far the most contentious item in the 120-paragraph final document.
    The proposal calls for married men who are already deacons in the Church, have a stable family relationship, and are proven leaders in their communities to be ordained as priests.
    It said the ordination to the priesthood would have to be preceded by an ďadequate formation
    This solution to the shortage of priests, backed by many South American bishops, would allow Catholics in isolated areas to attend Mass and receive the sacraments more regularly.
    At least 85% of Amazon villages cannot attend Mass every week and some cannot do so for years.
    Conservatives oppose the change, fearing it would be a slippery slope leading to a married priesthood throughout the 1.3 billion member Church.
    They fear that if one part of the Church was allowed to ordain married men as an exception, there would be nothing to stop other areas with a shortage of priests doing the same, even in developed countries.
    A CBS News poll last year said nearly 70% of American Catholics favor letting priests marry.
    The document said that some bishops in the synod thought the issue should be discussed on a universal basis.
WOMEN DEACONS
    Conservatives are also opposed to women deacons, saying the deaconate is linked with the male priesthood.
    Many deacons in the Church around the world today are married men.
    Deacons, like priests, are ordained ministers.    They may not celebrate Mass, but they may preach, teach in the name of the Church, baptize and conduct wedding, wake and funeral services and even run a parish with the permission of a bishop.
    In his closing comments to the synod, Francis said: ďWe still have not grasped the significance of women in the Church
    Scholars have debated the precise role of women deacons in the early Church.
    Some say they ministered only to other women, such as at immersion rites at baptism and to inspect the bodies of women in cases where Christian men were accused of domestic violence and brought before Church tribunals.
    Others believe women deacons in the early Church were fully ordained and on a par with the male deacons at the time. The Church did away with female deacons altogether in later centuries.
    A commission that handed its report to the pope this year was inconclusive.    Francis, who ends the synod ceremoniously with a Mass in St. Peterís Basilica on Sunday, gave no details on when the new commission would start its work.
    Francis and his predecessors have ruled out allowing women to become priests.
    But advocates of women priests see a female deaconate might eventually make it easier for a future pope to study the possibility of women priests.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Alex Richardson)

10/27/2019 Pope, closing synod, decries plundering of the Amazon by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis leads a Mass to close a three-week synod of Amazonian bishops at the Vatican, October 27, 2019. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Ė Pope Francis on Sunday called for an end to the plundering of the Amazon basin, as he closed an assembly of Roman Catholic bishops who discussed the challenges the Church faces in the region.
    The work of the assembly, known as a synod, ended on Saturday night with a final document containing a proposal that married men in the remote area be allowed to be ordained as priests.
    The milestone proposal could lead to a landmark change in the Churchís centuries-old discipline of celibacy.
    One of the other themes of the three-week synod was the environmental protection of the Amazon and respect for its indigenous peoples and their cultures.
    In his sermon at a closing Mass in St. Peterís Basilica, Francis criticized those who consider indigenous people ďbackward and of little worthĒ instead of acknowledging what their cultures can teach others.
    ďThey despise their traditions, erase their history, occupy their lands, and usurp their goods.    How much alleged superiority, transformed into oppression and exploitation, exists even today!Ē he said.
    ďThe mistakes of the past were not enough to stop the plundering of other persons and the inflicting of wounds on our brothers and sisters and on our sister Earth: we have seen it in the scarred face of the Amazon region,Ē he said.
    The synodís final document warned of the risks to the Amazon basin from mining and deforestation, which scientists say increases the threat of global warming.
    The bishops proposed that the Church define what would constitute the ďecological sinĒ of harming the environment and also introduce specific ministries for the care of nature.
    The pope will consider the proposals, including an expanded role for women, in writing his own document, known as an Apostolic Exhortation.    He said he hopes to have it ready by the end of the year.
    At the Mass, attended by indigenous people from the Amazon, Francis also appeared to take a swipe at conservatives who have attacked parts of the synodís working document as heretical.
    Opponents of Francis, inspired by the writings of two cardinals, held several side events during the synod.    They took particular umbrage at the use of an indigenous statue of a pregnant woman at an opening event, saying that was pagan.
    The pope asked forgiveness for what he considered an insult to the indigenous after ultra-conservative Catholic militants stole replicas of the statue and dumped them into the Tiber River.
    In his sermon, Francis spoke of ďthose masters of the art of self-justificationĒ and those seeking ďself-canonization
(Editing by Deepa Babington)

10/27/2019 Missouri court to rule on licensing dispute between abortion clinic and state by OAN Newsroom
FILE- In this June 4, 2019, file photo, a Planned Parenthood clinic is photographed in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)
    The fate of Missouriís only abortion clinic is set to be determined this week.    Following a long dispute with the state, a judge will decide whether or not the facility will be allowed to renew its license to operate.
    This comes after the stateís health department declined to renew the clinicís license earlier this year, citing concerns over patient safety.    Department officials said the facility failed to address certain deficiencies, which were noted during its annual inspection.
    The claim has since been disputed by Planned Parenthoodís attorneys, who said the license was blocked unlawfully.    They further claimed the block was in excess of the departmentís statutory and regulatory authority.
    If the facility is shut down, Missouri would become the first state in decades to not have a medical abortion clinic.    This comes as the nationwide debate over abortion restrictions is ramping up.    Recent reports said more states are imposing tighter restrictions, including heartbeat bills ó which ban abortions after a fetal heart beat is detected.
    The court battle is expected to draw large demonstrations from both pro-life and pro-choice activists.    The hearing is set to begin on Monday.

10/28/2019 ĎSecretí no more: Pope renames historic Vatican archives by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: Britain's Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, visit archives that were known
as the Vatican Secret Archives at the Vatican, April 4, 2017. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi/File Photo
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Ė The Vatican Secret Archives, containing millions of documents spanning 12 centuries, are no longer officially ďsecret
    Pope Francis has renamed the priceless archives, which include letters about King Henry VIIIís requests to divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn that led to the English Churchís 1534 split with the Catholic Church in Rome.
    They also hold the original acts of the 1633 trial of astronomer Galileo by the Roman Inquisition which condemned him for heresy for teaching that the earth revolves around the sun.
    The Vatican said on Monday the new name will be the Vatican Apostolic Archives.
    This removes any potentially ďnegative nuancesĒ from the Latin word ďsecretumĒ which the pope said in a decree was closer to ďprivateĒ or ďreservedĒ than ďsecretĒ when the archives first got their name around 1610.
    The archives have long not been a secret anyway: like most state archives, they are open to qualified researchers after a period of time.
    The collection of papers, documents and parchments that date back to the 700s make the archives one of the worldís most important research centers.
    They contain 85 km (53 miles) of shelves and an underground vault known as ďThe Bunker,Ē a version of which was recreated in the film version of the Dan Brown novel ďAngels and Demons
    The archives are open for the period of the pontificate of Pope Pius XI, ending in 1939.    Those from the pontificate of Pius XII (1939-1958) are due to be opened to scholars next March, which is keenly awaited by the Jewish community.
    Many Jews say Pius did not do enough to help those facing persecution by Nazi Germany.
    The Vatican maintains that Pius chose to work behind the scenes, concerned that public intervention would have worsened the situation for both Jews and Catholics in a wartime Europe dominated by Hitler.
    When Francis announced the date of Pius XII opening last March, he said Piusí legacy had been treated with ďsome prejudice and exaggerationĒ
(Editing by Timothy Heritage)

10/29/2019 Biden denied holy communion at mass due to stance on abortion by OAN Newsroom
(AP Photo)
    Former Vice President Joe Bidenís recent statements on abortion are upsetting religious voters so much that he was denied communion at Sunday mass.    Father Robert E. Morey of Saint Anthonyís Catholic Church in Florence, South Carolina had reportedly refused Biden the sacrament due to the politicianís support of pro-choice stance.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, gestures as he speaks during a campaign stop, Wednesday Oct. 23, 2019
at the Small Grand Things venue in West Point, Iowa. (John Lovretta/The Hawk Eye via AP)
    Biden, who claims to be personally against abortion, has gone on record in support of upholding the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, and recently has voiced his support of Medicaid funded abortions.
    "I made sure we guaranteed a womanís right to choose for better part of a generation, I would make sure that we move and insist that we pass, we codify Roe v. Wade,Ē stated Biden.    ďThe public is already there, things have changed
    Canon church law states a priest must refuse communion to any person who publicly lives a life of sin without repentance, which includes supporting abortion.
    Denying pro-choice politicians the sacraments has long been practiced, most notably in 2013 when the Vatican declared that Nancy Pelosi should be denied communion until her policy changed.
[Well JOE maybe you are getting a sign from GOD to stop lying to the public over Ukraine, China and Romania and all the other things you did during the Obama 8 years of corruption, and now abortion is murdering Gods children who are the unborn.    The priest are afraid that if they do you it may release all those evil gaffes.    And then they would have to call ďGAFFEBUSTERSĒ to do your exorcism.]

10/29/2019 Vatican number two says will shed light on ďopaqueĒ London property buy by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: Italian cardinal Pietro Parolin leads a special mass for peace in the Korean peninsula
in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, October 17, 2018. REUTERS/Max Rossi/File Photo
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Ė The Vaticanís number two acknowledged on Tuesday that the Holy Seeís deal to buy a luxury building in London was not transparent and promised to shed light on it.
    The comments from Cardinal Pietro Parolin were the first by a top Vatican official on a saga that began a month ago when Vatican police raided the Secretariat of the State, the department he heads, and those of the Vaticanís Financial Information Authority (AIF).
    ďWe are working to clear up everything.    This deal was rather opaque and now we are trying to clear it up,Ē he said on the sidelines of a book launch at the Italian embassy to the Vatican in Rome.
    The current scandal has been mushrooming and is shaping up to be one of the most serious in decades for an institution whose bank and other offices have been embroiled in numerous cases of corruption.
    Five Vatican employees were suspended following the police raids on Oct. 1, including four in Parolinís department, and AIF director Tommaso di Ruzza.
    Two weeks later, Domenico Giani, the Vaticanís longtime security chief and Pope Francisí personal bodyguard, resigned over the leak of a document related to a magistrateís investigation of the deal.
    The Secretariat of State, the nerve center of the bureaucracy of the 1.3 billion-member Church, spent about $200 million in 2014 for a minority stake in a complex plan to buy a building in Londonís Chelsea district and convert it into luxury apartments, according to people familiar with the events.
    In 2018 the Secretariat of State bought the rest of the stake and became the outright owner but took on some debt to refinance.
    Several Italian middlemen were involved in the operations and the Italian magazine LíEspresso, which has published leaked documents, said they may have overcharged the Vatican.
    Last week the AIF, the internal regulator, issued a statement rejecting Milanís accusations that it acted improperly, raising the stakes in an awkward internal conflict for the pope.    The AIF board also confirmed its confidence inDi Ruzza.
    LíEspresso reported that at least some of the money used to buy the London property as an investment came from Peterís Pence, the yearly collection taken up around the world and destined for the popeís charities.
    In his comments on Tuesday, Parolin suggested the purchase of the building was a one-off episode and said he believed the fund was ďwell managed
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Sandra Maler)

10/29/2019 U.S. pitted against Britain, France, South Africa, others at U.N. over abortion by Michelle Nichols
FILE PHOTO: New U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft speaks to reporters after attending her first U.N.
Security Council meeting at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S. September 12, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo
    UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) Ė The United States told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday that it opposed references to sexual and reproductive health and the safe termination of pregnancies, pitting Washington against Britain, France, South Africa and others.
    While the United States joined its 14 council counterparts to unanimously adopt a resolution on women, peace and security, U.S. Ambassador Kelly Craft said Washington was unhappy that the text mentioned previous resolutions that promote sexual and reproductive health.
    ďWe cannot accept references to Ďsexual and reproductive health,í nor any references to Ďsafe termination of pregnancyí or language that would promote abortion or suggest a right to abortion,Ē she said after the vote.
    The statement by Craft was the latest in a string of moves by U.S. President Donald Trumpís administration against the promotion of sexual and reproductive health services by the United Nations.
    ďThe U.N. should not put itself in a position of promoting or suggesting a right to abortion, whether it is humanitarian or development work,Ē said Craft, who took up her role in August.
    The language promoting sexual and reproductive health is long-agreed internationally, including in resolutions adopted by the Security Council in 2009 and 2013 and several resolutions adopted annually by the 193-member General Assembly.
    ďWomen have long-argued that they should be able to control their bodies,Ē South Africaís International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor told reporters.    ďIt is their right to make that choice and this is recognized worldwide,Ē Pandor said of abortions.
    ďIt canít be that Iím a victim of sexual violence and I cannot make a choice as to my body and my reproductive rights,Ē she said.
    Britainís U.N. Ambassador Karen Pierce said sexual and reproductive health were ďa vital part of public services for women in all countries and a vital part of ensuring that women can play a truly equal role in the building of their countries
    Deputy French U.N. Ambassador Anne Gueguen said council acknowledgement of sexual and reproductive health and rights was essential to helping victims of sexual violence globally.
    In April, Washington threatened to veto a Security Council resolution if a reference was not cut citing the need for U.N. bodies and donors to give timely ďsexual and reproductive healthĒ assistance to survivors of sexual violence in conflict.
    U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Security Council on Tuesday that ďsexual and gender-based violence continues to be used as a weapon of war, with the survivors of such violence often left without justice or support
    ďThis year alone, millions of women and girls were in need of life-saving sexual and reproductive health services, and millions more required interventions to prevent sexual and gender-based violence,Ē he said.
    The Trump administration cut funding in 2017 for the U.N. Population Fund because it said it ďsupports, or participates in the management of, a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.Ē    The U.N. said that was an inaccurate perception.
    In 2018, Washington unsuccessfully tried to remove language on sexual and reproductive health from several General Assembly resolutions, then failed in a similar campaign in March during the annual U.N. Commission on the Status of Women meeting.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

10/30/2019 Alabama abortion ban nixed by judge by Kim Chandler, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    MONTGOMERY, Ala. Ė A federal judge on Tuesday blocked Alabamaís near-total abortion ban from taking effect next month, saying the law, part of a wave of new abortion restrictions by conservative states, is unconstitutional.
    U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson issued an expected preliminary injunction temporarily blocking Alabama from enforcing the law that would make performing an abortion a felony in almost all cases.    The ruling came after abortion providers sued to block the law from taking effect Nov. 15.    The injunction will remain in place until Thompson decides the full case.
    ďAlabamaís abortion ban contravenes clear Supreme Court precedent,Ē Thompson wrote in an accompanying opinion. ďIt violates the right of an individual to privacy, to make choices central to personal dignity and autonomy.    It diminishes the capacity of women to act in society, and to make reproductive decisions.
    It defies the United States Constitution

    Energized by new conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court, Alabama and other conservative states have attempted to enact new restrictions on abortion in the hopes of getting Supreme Court justices to reconsider Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

10/30/2019 Catholics outraged as Pope Francis places Incan idol in Vatican by OAN Newsroom
    Pope Francis is coming under fire for bringing so-called pagan idols into the Vatican. One Americaís Jack Posobiec spoke to a Catholic author to learn more.

10/30/2019 Britain gives Argentina back Madonna statue taken from Falklands by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis kisses a gravestone for an Argentinian soldier as he presides over the exchange of two statues
by British and Argentinian military vicars that are symbolic of the 1982 Falklands War on the
Falkland Islands, which Argentina refers to as the Islas Malvinas, at the Vatican, October 30, 2019. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Ė Thirty-seven years after the Falklands war, a tiny statue of the Madonna taken at the end of the conflict and held in Britain ever since is going home to Argentina in a gesture of reconciliation blessed by Pope Francis.
    Francis, who is Argentine, presided over the handover on Wednesday as Britainís top Roman Catholic military chaplain, Bishop Paul Mason, returned the 35-cm (14-inch) statue to his Argentine counterpart, Bishop Santiago Olivera.
    Argentine soldiers took the statue of Our Lady of Lujan, one of their countryís most revered icons, with them for divine protection when they invaded the islands, which Buenos Aires calls the Malvinas, on April 2, 1982.
    That statue was a copy of the 1630 original, which is in the cathedral of Lujan.
    After the Argentine rout at the end of a two-month conflict, a Catholic Church official responsible for the Falklands gave it to the Catholic military chaplain who had arrived with the British forces.
    The statue was then taken to Britain and found a home in the Catholic Military Cathedral of St. Michael and St. George in Aldershot, in southern England.
    The statue that was in Britain will return to Argentina and a replica will go to the British cathedral in Aldershot.
    Olivera had asked for its return because people in the area of Argentina where it was venerated before the war wanted to be able to pray before it again.
    ďI immediately realized what a good opportunity it was, not only to return the statue, but also to demonstrate a united faith across two countries that have experienced political division,Ē Mason said.
    Some 255 British troops and about 650 Argentine soldiers were killed in the two-month conflict.
    During the handover in St. Peterís Square at the end his weekly general audience, Francis also blessed and kissed a gravestone for the tomb of an unknown Argentine soldier.
    Argentina still claims the windswept South Atlantic archipelago, which has a population of about 4,000.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Alison Williams)

10/31/2019 Vatican, Jews criticize Italyís right for snubbing anti-Semitism committee by Crispian Balmer
FILE PHOTO: Secretary of State of the Holy See Cardinal Pietro Parolin arrives to address the 74th session of the United Nations
General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 28, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo
    ROME (Reuters) Ė The Roman Catholic Church and Romeís Jewish community expressed dismay on Thursday after rightist parties refused to back the creation of a parliamentary commission to investigate hate, racism and anti-Semitism.
    The idea of the committee was put forward by Holocaust survivor and life senator Liliana Segre in response to a regular stream of abuse hurled her way on social media.
    The ruling 5-Star Movement and center-left Democratic Party (PD) backed the motion, but the far-right League and its allies, the Brothers of Italy and former prime minister Silvio Berlusconiís Forza Italia, all abstained.
    ďThe abstention of some parties is a bit dismaying.    Itís a decision that we consider wrong and dangerous,Ē said the president of Romeís Jewish community, Ruth Dureghello.
    The Vaticanís powerful number two, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, also weighed in.
    ďI am worried, in the sense that on some things like fundamental values we should all be united,Ē he told reporters.    ďThere is a danger that all this gets politicized.    We need to break clear of this,Ē he said.
    Segre was deported from Italy to Auschwitz in 1944 when she was 13 Ė one of some 776 Italian children under the age of 14 who were sent to the Nazi concentration camp. Only 35 survived.
    She said this month that social media haters posted an average 200 messages a day against her.    ďThey should be pitied or treated,Ē she said this week.
    The League and its allies said they abstained in Wednesdayís vote because Segreís motion was ambiguous, in citing, for example, nationalism and ethnocentricity as possible driving forces behind racial hatred.
    ďBy doing that you are outlawing Brothers of Italy,Ē said one of the partyís senators, Giovanbattista Fazzolari.    ďThis is not a commission on anti-Semitism, as they want you believe, but rather a commission aimed at political censorship
    While Brothers of Italy and the League, led by Matteo Salvini, have both positioned themselves on the far-right of the political spectrum, Forza Italia sees itself as center-right and some of its leaders were dismayed by the decision to abstain.
    ďWe are betraying our values and changing our skina,Ē said lawmaker Mara Carfagna, who is widely seen as a possible party leader when Berlusconi finally steps away from the helm.
    She has voiced alarm at Berlusconiís recent efforts to patch up differences with the League and hand effective control of the rightist bloc to Salvini.    ďWe are being dragged along without defending our identity,Ē Carfagna wrote on Twitter.
    The rightist bloc triumphed in a local election in Umbria on Sunday, beating a candidate put forward by the PD and 5-Star by 20 percentage points and ousting the center-left from power in the central Italian region for the first time in 50 years.
    The Senate committee will be set up despite the abstention from the rightist bloc, but the 5-Star and PD both denounced their stance.
    ďThis abstention seems to legitimize a culture of hatred that is reflected in society.    It is a shameful page in our political life,Ē said 5-Star lawmaker Elisa Tripodi.
(Additional reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Giles Elgood)

11/2/2019 House Democrats discuss controversial bills amid coverage of impeachment by OAN Newsroom
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., center, is followed by members of media as she leaves the House Chamber after announcing
that the House votes 232-196 to pass resolution on impeachment procedure to move forward into the next phase of the
impeachment inquiry into President Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
    The impeachment inquiry is in full swing and Democrats are reportedly taking advantage of the opportunity to pass a whole host of new bills.    The legislation is focused on controversial issues such as religious freedom, gun rights, and tax increases.
    The biggest measure under fire is the Equality Act of 2019, which was passed by the House in May.    The bill seeks to achieve legal equality for the LGBTQ community under federal civil rights legislation.    This means if the act is implemented, sexual orientation would be treated as the same as race in the eyes of the law.
Supporters of the LGBT gather in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
    Conservatives have noted the threat it poses to medical practices and religious freedom.
    ďThis law ó for the very first time ó specifically says you cannot use the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as a claim or defense,Ē stated Liberty Counsel Chairman Mathew Staver.    ďIt literally guts religious freedom
    The Equality Act would reportedly force hospitals and insurers to provide and pay for therapies against medical objections.
    ďThe Equality Act would create the opportunity for anyone who identifies as transgender to sue doctors who donít prescribe the hormonal treatment or perform the surgical interventions,Ē explained Heritage Foundation attorney Emilie Kao.    ďIt would create incredible pressure on the medical profession
    The bill reportedly could also lead to the dismantling of gender-only spaces, such as public bathrooms and sex-specific sports.    There are concerns it could possibly shut down numerous faith-based charities and adoption agencies as well.
FILE Ė In this Aug. 15, 2012 file photo, three variations of the AR-15 rifle are displayed at the
California Department of Justice in Sacramento, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
    Another hotly contested bill is allegedly aiming to restrict the Second Amendment.    House Democrats are seeking to enact the Assault Weapons Ban of 2019 to regulate assault weapons, enhance, background checks and strengthen red flag procedures.
    Lawmakers are also debating the Medicare for All Act of 2019, which was first introduced in February.    The bill aims to improve Medicare coverage and provide comprehensive health care plans nationwide.    Reports claimed the Medicare for All Act is broader and could be implemented more quickly than the Medicare plan put forth by Senator Bernie Sanders.    Funding for the bill and its future has yet to be discussed.
    Other legislation that has been introduced amid the impeachment inquiry includes a bill seeking to dissolve the Electoral College, a measure authorizing pay raises for federal workers and the federal Green New Deal.
[The Democrats besides trying to usurp Trump with a phoney impeachment inquiry because he is screwing their Globalist agenda that they are now trying to pass an Equality Pact to take away our First Amendment rights of religious freedom, then our right to bear arms as the Second Amendment gives to us gun rights, changing the founders voting rules to gain an advantage and also trying to increase our taxes for their spending nightmare that is being promoted by their 2020 presidential runners of a nightmare Green New Deal.].

11/7/2019 Morality rule on abortions is nixed by Larry Neumeister, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    NEW YORK Ė A federal judge on Wednesday struck down a new rule, not yet in effect, that allowed health care clinicians to refuse participation in abortions and other services on moral or religious grounds.
    U.S. District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer in New York said he was tossing out the rule in its entirety.
    The decision came after 19 states, the District of Columbia, three local governments, health organizations and others sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
    The rule let clinicians object to providing abortions and other services that conflict with their moral and religious beliefs.
    Engelmayer said his ruling came in three consolidated lawsuits.
    Plaintiffs had argued that the rule was unconstitutional because it would be discriminatory and stall access to health care for populations nationwide.br>     Health and Human Services and the Justice Department are reviewing the ruling but ďwill not comment on the pending litigation at this time,Ē said Caitlin Oakley, a Health and Human Services spokeswoman.
    Clare Coleman, president of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, one of the plaintiffs, said the group was ďheartened by todayís ruling

11/8/2019 Vatican Ďdisgustedí by anti-Semitic abuse of Italian Holocaust survivor by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: Newly ordained bishop Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot from Spain stands on the altar during an ordination
ceremony in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican March 19, 2016. REUTERS/Tony Gentile/File Photo
    ROME (Reuters) Ė A Vatican cardinal said on Friday he was ďdisgustedĒ by the anti-Semitic abuse of an 89-year-old Italian senator and Holocaust survivor who was given police protection after receiving death threats.
    Segre, a survivor of the Auschwitz extermination camp who was made a life senator last year, had called for a parliamentary commission to investigate hate, racism and anti-Semitism.    Her proposal was backed in a vote last month by most of Italyís main political parties.
    But right-wing groups abstained, including the League party which was part of the ruling coalition until September and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconiís Forza Italia, arguing that it could criminalize nationalist rhetoric as hate speech.
    She has since reported a wave of threats, which police said were serious enough to merit special protection.
    ďI am disgusted by this,Ē said Cardinal Miguel Ayuso Guixot, head of the Vaticanís Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, asked about the case at an event at a papal university in Rome with Ron Lauder, head of the World Jewish Congress.
    Lauder said political parties should expel any members who were anti-Semitic.    Ayuso said he agreed.
    ďMy responsibility is to promote inter-religious dialogue and for this I call on all people to work together,Ē Ayuso said.
    Italy has been the biggest entry point for asylum seekers arriving in Europe across the Mediterranean over the past several years, and right-wing parties, especially the League, have seen a surge in support on anti-immigration platforms.
    Opponents say they have tapped into a dangerous vein of xenophobia.    The right-wing parties have so far declined to comment since police protection for Segre was announced.
    Lauder said Italy risked forgetting its past as a Fascist ally of Nazi Germany.
    ďItaly cannot afford to be ripped apart again the way it was in the 1930s and 1940s.    The people today donít remember what happened,Ē Lauder said.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Peter Graff)

11/10/2019 Pope wants to visit South Sudan next year, urges unity government by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis leads a Mass dedicated to the San Giovanni in Laterano Basilica in Rome, Italy, November 9, 2019. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Ė Pope Francis said on Sunday he wanted to make his postponed visit to South Sudan next year, and he urged the countryís leaders to overcome their divisions and bring an end to the suffering of its people.
    Francis spoke of the crisis in the worldís youngest country three days after its president and a former rebel leader agreed to delay forming a unity government for 100 days beyond the Nov. 12 deadline, which itself was an extension of an original deadline last May.
    Speaking at his weekly blessing in St. Peterís Square, Francis said he ďwill have to visitĒ South Sudan next year.
    A trip by Francis to South Sudan, which is predominantly Christian, had been tentatively scheduled for 2017 but had to be canceled because of political instability and poor security.
    ďI want to renew my invitation to all sides in the national political process to seek what unites them and overcome what divides, in a spirit of true brotherhood,Ē Francis said.
    Last April, a month before the original deadline, the pope brought South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, opposition leader Riek Machar and other politicians to the Vatican for a retreat.
    In a dramatic gesture on the last day of the retreat, Francis knelt at the feet of the previously warring leaders as he urged them not to return to a civil war that ended with a shaky peace deal in 2018.
    Referring to the civil war in his lengthy appeal on Sunday, Francis said the people of South Sudan had ďsuffered too much in recent yearsÖ (and are) waiting for the definitive end of conflicts and lasting peace
    The five-year conflict killed an estimated 400,000 people, triggered a famine and created Africaís biggest refugee crisis since the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
    The pope wants to make the trip with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and Presbyterian Church leaders from Africa in an effort to promote unity in South Sudan.
    Sudan, which is predominantly Muslim, and the mainly Christian south fought for decades before South Sudan became independent in 2011.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Gareth Jones)

11/11/2019 Australian court to rule on Wednesday on appeal by Vaticanís former treasurer
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/File Picture
    MELBOURNE (Reuters) Ė Australiaís High Court will rule on Wednesday whether to allow a final bid by Vatican former treasurer George Pell to overturn his convictions for sexually abusing two 13-year-old choirboys in the late 1990s.
    Pell, the highest ranking Catholic worldwide to be convicted of child sex offences, was jailed in March for six years, and would become eligible for parole in October 2022, aged 81.
    In September, Pell sought leave to appeal against a ruling by the appeal court in the southeastern state of Victoria that upheld his conviction on five charges of abusing the boys at St Patrickís Cathedral when he was archbishop of Melbourne.
.     The High Court will hand down its decision at 9:30 am (2230 GMT), the courtís spokesman said.    If it grants leave to appeal, the case will be heard in 2020.
    Pellís lawyers appealed against the 2-1 decision by the Court of Appeal, saying the majority were wrong in concluding that the verdicts were not unreasonable.
    They were also wrong in shifting to the defense the burden of proving it would have been impossible for Pell to have committed the offences, the lawyers said.
(Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

11/11/2019 Polish far-right groups march on independence anniversary by Anna Koper and Kacper Pempel
People take part in a march marking the National Independence Day in Warsaw, Poland
November 11, 2019. Dawid Zuchowicz/Agencja Gazeta via REUTERS
    WARSAW (Reuters) Ė Tens of thousands of Poles took part in a far-right march in the capital Warsaw on Monday to mark Polish independence, an annual event that has become a focus of friction between nationalists and liberals.
    Some chanted ďGod, honor, homeland!Ē and ďNo to the European Union!Ē and waved red-and-white Polish flags.    Others lit red flares, blanketing sections of the parade with smoke.
    ďWe have to return to our roots.    Our world has abandoned God and Christianity,Ē Robert Bakiewicz, head of a group organizing the march, told participants in central Warsaw.    ďWe will die as the nations of western Europe are dying
    A small group of hardline Italian far-right group Forza Nuova members also took part, waving flags.
    Poland has become increasingly polarized since the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party came to power in 2015, calling for a revival of patriotic and Catholic values in public life and a rejection of Western liberalism.
    Critics say PiS, which won a second term last month with 44% of the vote, has tacitly encouraged groups with roots in the fascist and anti-Semitic movements of the 1930s that organize the march, although the party denies this.
    Last year, on the centenary of Polish independence, government officials and President Andrzej Duda, an ally of the PiS, agreed to hold a joint event with the annual march organizers, but walked at a distance, away from any overt displays of nationalism.
    This year, PiS held its own, separate events.     ďOur nation has a mission and it has to fulfill it,Ē PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said on Sunday.    ďOur mission is to sustain everything thatís a foundation of our Christian civilization.
    ďWe will walk this path, and if itís done in a thoughtful way, it will bring us to victory

    On Nov. 11, Poles commemorate the establishment in 1918 of the second Polish republic, created after World War One from parts of what was then Russia, Germany and Austria.
    Two years ago, the march was dotted with racist banners, some of them reading ďPure blood, clear mindĒ or ďEurope will be white or uninhabited
    Before PiS came to power, scuffles between participants and police were not uncommon, but in recent years, more families with children have joined.
    On Monday, some wore stickers saying ďStop 447,Ē in a protest against a U.S. law on the restitution of Jewish property seized during or after World War Two, an issue increasingly featuring in public debate in Poland.
    The U.S. Department of State is expected to provide a non-binding report to Congress later this year on property restitution, under legislation known as the Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act, or Act 447.
    Poland was home to one of the worldís biggest Jewish communities before it was almost entirely wiped out by Nazi German occupiers who set up death camps such as Auschwitz on Polish soil.
(Editing by Kevin Liffey and Andrew Cawthorne)

11/12/2019 Scientific groups remove job posts over LGBTQ policy at BYU
    SALT LAKE CITY Ė Two scientific groups have dropped job postings from Brigham Young University off their websites because of the schoolís LGBTQ policies.    The American Geophysical Union and the Geological Society of America took down the ads amid mounting pressure from members, the Salt Lake Tribune reported Monday.    Both groups said the ads require applicants to abide by the schoolís honor code, which includes a ban on homosexual behavior.    Members of both nonprofits criticized the ads as discriminatory.

11/12/2019 Vatican conference urges governments to tackle food loss and waste by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: A worker dumps pre-consumer food waste before being feed to black soldier fly larvae at the Enterra Feed
Corporation in Langley, British Columbia, Canada, March 14, 2018. Picture taken March 14, 2018. REUTERS/Ben Nelms
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Ė An international panel of experts backed by Pope Francis appealed to governments on Tuesday to commit to halving food waste and loss by 2030, saying it was morally, economically and environmentally unacceptable.
    The appeal came at the end of a two-day conference at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences attended by more than 50 scientists, academics, economists, corporate leaders and United Nations officials from 24 countries.
    ďWe call on our leaders, and on all of us, for deepened commitment to action toward halving food loss and waste by 2030 ó an achievable goal based on existing knowledge and technology,Ē a statement said.
    As the conference began, the pope tweeted: ďWe must put an end to the culture of waste, we who pray to the Lord to give us our daily bread.    Food waste contributes to hunger and to climate change
    Generally speaking, food loss refers to what is lost on the way from production to the consumer, including damage in transport or storage.
    Food waste is that which is discarded by the consumer, restaurants or supermarkets.    In rich countries, households and restaurants prepare large portions, resulting in ďplate waste,Ē leftovers that often go uneaten.
ďSOMETHING IS VERY WRONGĒ
    According to research by the British advocacy group WRAP using statistics from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), about one third of all food produced in the world is lost or wasted.
    ďBecause we know that 800 million people go to sleep every day without food, we have to admit that something is very wrong,Ē said Yolanda Kakabadse, a former Ecuadorian environment minister.
    WRAPís chief executive Marcus Gover told the conference that about 10 million tonnes of food is lost or wasted in the UK each year, enough to fill St. Peterís Square to the top of the basilica 10 times over.
    He illustrated a study showing that, of 100 potatoes ordered by a London restaurant, only 25 were actually eaten.
    Selina Juul, founder of the Denmark-based consumer group Stop Wasting Food, called on governments to establish specific departments to combat food loss, ďotherwise the work falls on the shoulders of volunteers and foundations
    Roy Steiner, senior vice president of the Rockefeller Foundation, said waste prevention programmes in the United States had identified 100 million pounds of surplus food each year that could be redistributed to needy families.
    The final statement called for better education, behavioral change by consumers, and alliances among governments, business, environmental and religious groups.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Gareth Jones)

11/13/2019 Catholic cardinal Pell gets last chance to overturn Australia sex offences conviction by Sonali Paul
FILE PHOTO: Cardinal George Pell attends news conference at the Vatican, June 29, 2017. REUTERS/Remo Casilli/File Photo
    MELBOURNE (Reuters) Ė Catholic cardinal George Pell will have one last chance to overturn his conviction for sexually assaulting two teenaged choirboys after the Australian High Court on Wednesday agreed to hear the former Vatican treasurerís appeal.
    Pell, 78, the most senior Catholic official worldwide to be jailed for child sex offences, is currently serving a six-year sentence handed down in March. He is not eligible for parole until 2022, when he will be 81.
    The High Court hearing, to be presided over by a full bench of five or seven judges, will be held in March 2020 at the earliest, a court spokesman said.    Pell will remain in prison until the appeal is heard.
    Lawyers for Pell declined to comment on Wednesdayís decision, which is the cardinalís final avenue to clear his name after an earlier appeal upheld his conviction by a lower court.
    Prosecutors also declined to comment.
    The lawyer for Pellís accuser, whose identity has been protected, said her client respected the appeals process despite the ups and downs he had been through.
    ďSo we will be respectfully waiting for the outcome, but we do understand the anguish a lot of people in the community are feeling,Ē lawyer Vivian Waller told Australian Broadcasting Corp.
    The cardinal was found guilty in the Victorian County Court in December of abusing two 13-year-old boys at St Patrickís Cathedral in the late 1990s when he was archbishop of Melbourne.    A first appeal was heard by the Victoria Court of Appeal, where judges upheld his conviction in a 2-1 majority in August.
    The Australian Catholic church lamented the case dragging on due to the High Court ruling.
    ďThis will prolong what has been a lengthy and difficult process, but we can only hope that the appeal will be heard as soon as reasonably possible and that the High Courtís judgment will bring clarity and a resolution for all,Ē Archbishop Mark Coleridge, head of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, said in a statement.
    The High Court on Wednesday ordered Pellís lawyers to file their arguments for appeal by Jan. 8, with the crown prosecutorsí response due on Feb. 5.
LEGAL ARGUMENT
    Pellís lawyers took the case to the High Court on the basis the Court of Appeal was wrong to have found that the juryís verdict was not unreasonable.    Lawyers also argued the majority judges had erred in shifting the burden of proof to the defense to show that it would have been impossible for Pell to have committed the offenses.
    Prosecutors said in their filing to the High Court last month there were no grounds for the appeal.    They argued that the majority of the Court of Appeal made no error in their approach to evaluating the facts of the case and that the proposed appeal raised ďno question of law of public importance
    High Court cases are decided by a majority.
    Legal experts said the move by two judges of the High Court to refer Pellís bid to appeal to the full bench was unusual.    Effectively the bid to appeal and the actual appeal will be heard together.
    The outcome is very hard to predict, said Ben Mathews, a law professor at Queensland University of Technology, who had expected the court to refuse to hear the appeal.
    ďItís a really tricky one.    The fundamental question is really whether the court decides it was open to the jury to reach the guilty verdict,Ē Mathews said.
    Pell was relieved of his position as Vatican treasurer after he was convicted, but remains a cardinal.    The Pope has declined to comment on the case until the appeals process is exhausted.
    For Pell to be dismissed from the priesthood, the Vaticanís Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith would have to find him guilty following a separate canonical trial or a shorter process.
(Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Jane Wardell)

11/14/2019 Singapore activists challenge gay sex ban in court after India ruling by John Geddie
FILE PHOTO: File picture of participants at Pink Dot, an annual event organised in support of the LGBT community, gathering in
formation to call for the repeal of Section 377A of Singapore's Penal Code, in Singapore, June 29, 2019. REUTERS/Feline Lim -/File Photo
    SINGAPORE (Reuters) Ė Singaporeís top court has heard challenges to its colonial-era gay sex law, a thorny issue in the socially-conservative city-state, for the first time since similar legislation was scrapped in India last year.
    The initial hearing of the cases was held on Wednesday and will continue over the next few weeks.
    Three activists are arguing that Section 377A, a rarely-used law under which a man found to have committed an act of ďgross indecencyĒ with another man could be jailed for up to two years, is unconstitutional, according to their lawyers and local media reports.    The law does not apply to lesbians.
    Previous efforts to repeal the law in 2014 failed, but activists have been emboldened by the landmark ruling in India in September last year, by polls suggesting attitudes toward homosexuals are changing, and a perceived softening in tone from some establishment figures.
    ďHomosexual males are not lesser Singaporeans.    TheyÖdeserve the same respect and legal protection under the Constitution. Section 377AÖviolates those fundamental constitutional protections,Ē Bryan Choong, one of the three, said in a written submission provided by a lawyer to Reuters.
    Wednesdayís hearings were not open to the public.    The Attorney-Generalís Chambers, acting as defendant, did not respond to a request for comment.
    The verdict will take a few months, said Remy Choo of Peter Low & Choo, one of the lawyers representing Choong.
    The cases will be watched closely in neighboring Malaysia where gay sex is also a crime and led to the conviction of former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim.    Anwar has since been released and is expected to take over from current leader, 94-year-old Mahathir Mohamad.
GROWING MINORITY
    Gay sex is criminalized in about 70 countries globally, according to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association.
    Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has previously said that Singapore society ďis not that liberal on these matters
    However, following the Indian decision, a prominent Singaporean diplomat called for challenges to the local legislation while law minister K. Shanmugam said a ďgrowing minorityĒ wanted it repealed and that laws should keep pace with societal change.
    Recent surveys show there is growing acceptance of homosexuality.    In a poll released in May by Singapore think-tank Institute of Policy Studies, opposition to gay marriage fell to 60%, down from 74% in 2013.
    In his submission, Choong also argued that recently declassified documents from the UK National Archives show that the original purpose of the law was to stamp out male prostitution and it should therefore not apply more broadly to all male homosexuals.
(Reporting by John Geddie; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

11/14/2019 Pope tells tech companies they are responsible for child safety by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis blesses a child as he arrives for the general
audience at the Vatican, October 9, 2019. REUTERS/Remo Casilli/File Photo
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Ė Pope Francis said on Thursday that technology company executives and investors must be held accountable if they put profit before the protection of children, including from easy access to pornography on the web.
    Francis spoke at the start of a Vatican conference on ďPromoting Digital Child DignityĒ that brought companies like Apple Inc, Alphabet Incís Google, Microsoft Corp and Facebook together with child protection groups and law enforcement and judicial officials.
    ďCompanies that provide (internet) services have long considered themselves mere suppliers of technological platforms, neither legally nor morally responsible for the way they are used,Ē Francis said.
    ďThere is a need to ensure that investors and managers remain accountable, so that the good of minors and society is not sacrificed to profit
    Francis said the Churchís ďpainful and tragic experienceĒ with its own sexual abuse crisis gave it a ďduty to approach these issues with a long-term vision
    Last month, the United States, Britain and Australia called on Facebook to suspend plans to encrypt its messaging service, saying it would hinder the fight against child abuse and terrorism.
    Child predators have increasingly used messaging applications to groom their victims and exchange explicit images and videos.    The number of known child sexual abuse images has soared from thousands to tens of millions in just a few years.
    Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said he was ďoptimisticĒ Facebook would be able to identify predators with the same tools it uses to combat election interference.
    One prominent attendee at the conference is Queen Silvia of Sweden, a long-time activist for childrenís rights.
    Citing studies that show the average age of first access to digital pornography is 11, Francis said companies must make greater efforts to identify the age of users and intensify cooperation with law enforcement to combat child pornography.
    ďI make an urgent appeal to them to assume their responsibility towards minors, their integrity and their future,Ē Francis said.
    ďIt will not be possible to guarantee the safety of minors in the digital world without the full involvement of companies in this sector and without a full awareness of the moral and social repercussions of their management and functioning
    This year, Britainís National Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children proposed that technology company directors be made legally responsible for child safety.
    The conference at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences is the Vaticanís latest foray into moral issues related to technology.    In September, another Vatican department brought together Silicon Valley heavyweights, Nobel laureates and cyber experts on to discuss the ethical use of artificial intelligence (AI).
    On Thursday, Francis urged computer engineers to strengthen ways of using AI and algorithms to protect children on the internet.    He said they should feel ďpersonally responsible for building the futureĒ
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Catherine Evans)

11/14/2019 Pope names new economic chief to succeed disgraced cardinal
Pope Francis greets people as he leaves after the general audience at the Vatican, November 13, 2019. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Ė Pope Francis on Thursday named the Vaticanís new economy minister to succeed Cardinal George Pell, who is appealing a conviction in his native Australia for sexually assaulting two teenaged choir boys.
    The post, formally known as Prefect for the Secretariat of the Economy, has been vacant since Pell took leave of absence in 2017.
    The new head is Spanish Father Juan Antonio Guerrero, 60, a Jesuit like the pope.
    His appointment was announced a day after Australiaís High Court agreed to hear a final appeal from Pell.
    Pell, who is serving a six-year jail sentence handed down by a lower court in March, turned to the High Court after a first appeal upheld his conviction.
    His absence had left one of the Vaticanís most important economic departments without a leader.
    The Secretariat of the Economy, created by Pope Francis in 2014 to help oversee the implementation of financial reforms, coordinates the Vaticanís economic and administrative affairs.
    The post of auditor-general has also been vacant since 2017, when Libero Milone resigned, saying he was forced to step down with trumped-up accusations after discovering evidence of possible illegal activity.
    The Vatican denies this and says he was spying on co-workers.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Toby Chopra and Andrew Cawthorne)

11/15/2019 Pope compares politicians who rage against gays to Hitler by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis waves as he arrives for the weekly general audience at the Vatican, November 13, 2019. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Ė Pope Francis said on Friday politicians who rage against homosexuals, gypsies and Jews remind him of Hitler.
    ďIt is not coincidental that at times there is a resurgence of symbols typical of Nazism,Ē Francis said in an address to participants of an international conference on criminal law.
    ďAnd I must confess to you that when I hear a speech (by) someone responsible for order or for a government, I think of speeches by Hitler in 1934, 1936,Ē he said, departing from his prepared address.
    ďWith the persecution of Jews, gypsies, and people with homosexual tendencies, today these actions are typical (and) represent Ďpar excellenceí a culture of waste and hate.    That is what was done in those days and today it is happening again
    During the 1933-45 Nazi regime in Germany, six million Jews were killed and homosexuals and gypsies were among those sent to extermination camps.
    Pope Francis did not name any politicians or countries as the targets of his criticism.     In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro had a history of making homophobic, racist and sexist public remarks before he took office on Jan. 1. He told one interviewer he would rather have a dead son than a gay son.     In May, Bruneiís Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah 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 United Nations had warned Brunei it would be violating human rights by implementing Islamic laws that would allow death by stoning for adultery and homosexuality.     In recent weeks, Pope Francis has also denounced a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe.
    On Wednesday, in improvised remarks at his general audience, he said: ďToday the habit of persecuting Jews is beginning to be reborn.
    Brothers and sisters: this is neither human nor Christian; the Jews are our brothers and sisters and must not be persecuted!    Understood?
Ē
    Last week, a Vatican cardinal said he was ďdisgustedĒ by anti-Semitic abuse directed at an 89-year-old Italian senator and Holocaust survivor, who was given police protection after receiving death threats.
    In July, a European Union study said young Jewish Europeans experience more anti-Semitism than their parents, with a rise in abuse coming in emails, text messages and social media postings.
    More than 80% of Jews of all ages said they felt anti-Semitism had increased on the Internet over the past five years and around 70% said they faced more hostility in public, the study found.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
[Pope, sin is sin whether you are Hitler or a homosexual, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, gay or a normal human being!    And to you Pope if you continue with your statements that are anti-biblical then I will start considering if you and your faction are the SCARLET WOMAN of Revelation and riding on the Beast.]

11/16/2019 Ohio GOP floats ban on abortion - Jessie Balmer, Cincinnati Enquirer USA TODAY NETWORK
    COLUMBUS, Ohio Ė One-third of Republicans in the Ohio House of Representatives have signed onto a bill to ban all abortions in the state Ė and charging doctors who perform them with murder.
    The proposed legislation, which has not yet been introduced, would almost certainly trigger a lawsuit.    A federal judge temporarily blocked similar legislation in Alabama last month.
    Butler County Rep. Candice Keller, who is running for a state Senate seat in a competitive primary, will co-sponsor the ban.    Keller is the executive director of a Christian pregnancy center and was a supporter of Ohioís ďheartbeat bill,Ē which bans abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected.
    The proposed legislation would ban medical, surgical and medication abortions and allow murder charges against doctors who perform them, according to a release from Right to Life Action Coalition of Ohio, a group of local ďpro-lifeĒ organizations.    Under the changes, doctors can perform life-saving procedures on the pregnant woman if the treatment unintentionally results in the death of the fetus.
    Proponents of abortion access said the new proposal could lead to women being charged with murder for abortion as well.    They also worry that the bill could outlaw some birth control.
    ďEvery abortion ban and medically dubious regulation shares the same goal as this bill Ė to outlaw abortion and strip Ohioans of their reproductive freedoms,Ē NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland said.

11/16/2019 Catholic devotees in Thailand join choir for visit of Pope Francis by Juarawee Kittisilpa
FILE PHOTO - Pope Francis waves as he arrives for the weekly general audience at the Vatican, November 13, 2019. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
    BANGKOK (Reuters) Ė A choir formed of Catholic devotees training to join the church in Thailand were rehearsing on Saturday ahead of the visit of Pope Francis next week.
    The choir will perform for the pope at St. Peterís parish in Nakhon Pathom province, about 56 km (35 miles) west of Bangkok, during his trip to the kingdom from Nov. 20 to Nov. 23.
    It is the first papal visit to Thailand since the late Pope John Paul toured the region in 1984.
    ďIím really excited because Iíve never seen the real pope before,Ē said 18-year-old choir member Yowanna Nueajeen.    ďI only see him on TV.    I feel really overwhelmed and I might shed some tears while singing
    The 61-strong choir will perform songs with lyrics about following Christ and devoting lives to him, said conductor Sister Pornthip Trakunkasemsiri.
    ďWe are singing these songs [to the pope] to let him know that we will be following his footsteps,Ē she said.
    ďI feel quite nervous because a lot of the singers are in the choir for the first time and have never sung at big events such as this one.    But Iím certain they will pull through
    Chatri Buddeeduang, 50, another choir singer, said he is delighted about the popeís visit to Thailand and that he was chosen to join the choir.
    ďIím not sure when a pope will be visiting Thailand again,Ē he said.    ďIt makes me really proud to be born in this country as a Catholic
    Pope Francis will meet King Maha Vajiralongkorn, the supreme Buddhist patriarch, as well as Catholic leaders and students, before moving on to Japan.
(Wrtiting by Orathai Sriring; editing by Mike Harrison)

11/17/2019 Federal court approves ĎIM GODí license plate by Sarah Ladd, Louisville Courier Journal USA TODAY NETWORK
    After a three-year legal suit, a Kentucky man got the OK Wednesday by a federal court in Frankfort to get a license plate with the letters ďIM GOD.Ē    Court documents say Ben Hart applied in 2016 for a Kentucky license plate with those words through the stateís transportation cabinet, which allows people to request and pay for special plates ďi>with personal letters or numbers significant to the applicant.Ē
    Hartís request was originally denied, according to court documents, with the explanation that ďit does not meet the requirements of KRS ß 186.174 and 601 KAR 9:012.    Section 5.Ē    That rule imposes a list of guidelines, which include the stipulation that the letters not discriminate against anyone because of their sex, race, color, religion or nationality.
    According to court documents, other similar plates have been approved, such as ďGODLVS,Ē ďTRYGOD,Ē ď1GODĒ and ďNOGOD.Ē
    In an opinion published by a U.S. District Court in Frankfort Wednesday, the court argued ďvanity plates are private speech protected by the First Amendment
    A statement from the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which both backed Hart in the suit, celebrated the courtís decision that said, ďThe Commonwealth does not allow drivers to say anything they want with a license plate message.    Thatís fine, but the First Amendment also imposes limits on the Commonwealth. And in this case, as explained below, the Commonwealth went too far.Ē    ďAs the court affirmed, the denial of Ben Hartís choice of a license plate was pure discrimination,Ē FFRF Co-President, Annie Laurie Gaylor, said in a statement.    ďWe are delighted that the court realized the bias the state of Kentucky was displaying toward nonbelievers
    ďTodayís ruling makes clear that Mr. Hartís personalized plate request was denied based on reasons that violate the First Amendment of the United States Constitution,Ē ACLU of Kentuckyís legal director, Corey Shapiro, said in a statement.
    ďIn light of the courtís ruling, we expect the Transportation Cabinetís license plate review process will respect the First Amendment moving forward,Ē Shapiro said.
    ďIím thankful to finally have the same opportunity to select a personal message for my license plate just as any other driver,Ē Hart said in a statement.    ďThere is nothing inappropriate about my view that religious beliefs are subject to individual interpretation
    According to the ACLU and FFRF, Hart retired from the Postal Service and was raised in a religious family ďi>and now identifies as an atheist

    Reach breaking news reporter Sarah Ladd at sladd@courier-journal.com.    Follow her on Twitter at @ladd_sarah.    Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/ subscribe.

11/17/2019 New abuse claims from Vatican youths by Nicole Winfield, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    VATICAN CITY Ė A scandal over alleged sexual molestation and abuse at the Vaticanís youth seminary is growing, with more former papal altar boys alleging inappropriate behavior by priests inside the Vatican walls.
    ďLe Iene,Ē an Italian investigative television program, plans to air the new allegations Sunday; the show provided the broadcast to The Associated Press ahead of time.
    The Vatican announced in September that its criminal prosecutor was seeking to indict a former senior seminarian and the then-rector of the St. Pius X seminary on sexual abuse charges.
    The announcement came two years after ďLe IeneĒ first featured former seminarians who alleged that the senior seminarian, now a priest, had molested teenage boys who lived inside the Vatican and served as altar boys at papal Masses in St. Peterís Basilica.    The testimony suggested a series of priests, bishops and even a cardinal had covered up the case for years.
    In the new program, several unidentified former altar boys alleged at least two more priests affiliated with the seminary kissed and fondled three other altar boys in the 1990s.
    Coupled with previous testimony gathered by ďLe Iene,Ē the impression given is that of a closed, religious atmosphere in which sexualized touching and groping were normalized for boys as young as 11.
    In a statement ahead of the program provided to the AP, the Vatican press office said a decision on whether to issue indictments in the original case was ďimminent.Ē    The statement said any new elements or evidence of other crimes that emerge would be considered by Vatican prosecutors in a new investigation.
    The case concerns the closed world of the St. Pius X youth seminary, located inside a palazzo just a few steps from the Vatican hotel where Pope Francis lives.    It is home for about a dozen boys, aged 11 to 18, who serve as altar boys at papal Masses.
    The seminary is run by a small Italian religious order, the Opera Don Folchi.    The group has lashed out at the allegations as ďmud,Ē a ďviolent attack on the churchĒ and nothing more than ďcalumny and falsifications
Pope Francis poses for a photo Saturday. A scandal over alleged sexual abuse
at the Vaticanís youth seminary is growing. VINCENZO PINTO/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

11/17/2019 Guess whoís coming to lunch? Pope hosts meal for 1,500 needy people
Pope Francis attends a lunch with the poor after celebrating a Mass marking the Roman Catholic Church's
World Day of the Poor, in Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, November 17, 2019. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Ė Pope Francis hosted 1,500 homeless and needy people for lunch on Sunday as the Roman Catholic Church marked its World Day of the Poor.
    The menu for all in the Vaticanís large audience hall, including the pope, was lasagna, chicken in cream of mushroom sauce, potatoes, sweets, fruit, and coffee.
    The popeís guests were brought to the Vatican by volunteers of charity groups who help them daily.
    All last week, a mobile clinic was set up in St. Peterís Square where volunteer doctors have been giving the poor free specialist health care.    General care is available year-round nearby, another of Francisí initiatives.
    Earlier, at a Mass for Romeís needy in St. Peterís Square, Francis said those better off should not feel ďannoyedĒ by the poor but help them as much as possible.
    He said they should ask themselves: ďDo I, a Christian, have at least one poor person as a friend?Ē
    Francis established the yearly worldwide Catholic observance of the day in 2016.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Frances Kerry)

11/17/2019 Pope Francis to take anti-nuclear mission to Japanís ground zeros by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis leads a Mass marking the Roman Catholic Church's World Day of the Poor,
at Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican November 17, 2019. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Ė Pope Francis takes his mission to ban nuclear weapons this week to the only places where they were used in war, visiting the World War Two ground zeros of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as part of a tour of Japan and Thailand.
    The seven-day trip, one of his longest and most distant, gives Francis an opportunity to support and encourage the tiny but well respected Catholic communities, which make up less than 1% of the population in each country.
    In fact, the Catholic populations of each country Ė 389,000 in Thailand and 536,000 in Japan Ė are smaller than crowds he has attracted at single events in other countries.
    Francis, making the 32nd trip since he became pope in 2013, leaves on Tuesday for Thailand, where he arrives on Wednesday afternoon after an 11-1/2 hour flight to Bangkok.
    In his three days there, he will meet the supreme patriarch of Thai Buddhists, Somdet Phra Maha Muniwong, who at 91 is nearly a decade older than the pope, and King Maha Vajiralongkorn, 67.
    While in Thailand, he is expected to address the scourge of sex tourism and human trafficking.
    The number of human trafficking victims rescued in Thailand is set to hit a record high this year, with demand for cheap labor in neighboring Malaysia causing a jump in the illegal trade, according to government data.
    In an unprecedented personal note, the Argentine popeís translator from Spanish to Thai will be his cousin.    Sister Ana Rosa Sivori is a nun who has worked as a missionary in Thailand for more than 50 years.
A TOTAL BAN ON NUCLEAR WEAPONS
    After four days in Thailand, Francis moves on to Japan, where international and domestic politics will loom large, particularly on Nov. 24, when he visits Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
    About 400,000 people were killed, either instantly or from radiation illness or injuries resulting from the atomic bombs that the United States dropped on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945 and on Nagasaki three days later as it sought to end World War Two.
    Francis wants a total ban on nuclear weapons, going further than his predecessors when he said in 2017 that countries should not stockpile them even for the purpose of deterrence.
    This stance was criticized by conservatives within and outside the Catholic Church who say deterrence had worked for 75 years.
    Japan stresses its unique status as the only nation to have suffered atomic attacks and advocates disarmament, but nonetheless relies on the U.S. nuclear umbrella as an extended deterrent.
    Francis will meet blast survivors, pray, and read a major ďmessage on nuclear weaponsĒ at the bomb epicenter in Nagasaki. He later visits Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima.
    Nuclear energy will also feature in the trip when the pope meets victims of Japanís ďtriple disaster,Ē the 2011 earthquake that triggered a tsunami that in turn caused a meltdown at the Fukushima power plant.    Radiation forced 160,000 people to flee and thousands will never return.
    Following the Fukushima disaster, Japanís Catholic Bishops Conference issued a document calling for the abolition of nuclear power generation.
    They also oppose Prime Minister Shinzo Abeís moves to revise Japanís post-war pacifist constitution.
    Francis, who as a young priest wanted to be a missionary in Japan, will also meet with some of a dwindling number of Japanís ďHidden Christians,Ē descendants of those who preserved their faith in secret during centuries of persecution.
    Jesuits brought Christianity to Japan in 1549, but it was banned in 1614.    Missionaries were expelled and the faithful were forced to choose between martyrdom or hiding their religion.    The ban was lifted in 1873.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Additional reporting by Linda Sieg and Elaine Lies in Japan and Kay Murray, Patpicha Tanakasempipat and Pau Wongcha-um in Thailand; Editing by Frances Kerry)

11/18/2019 Vatican says financial regulator to leave; he says he resigned
FILE PHOTO: Rene Bruelhart, director of the Vatican's Financial Information Authority (FIA), attends a news conference
at the Vatican May 22, 2013. The Vatican's new financial watchdog said on Wednesday it had detected six possible attempts to use the
Holy See to launder money last year and held up the disclosure as proof it is committed to transparency. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi/
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Ė The Vatican said on Monday that Rene Bruelhart, the head of its financial regulator, would be leaving, and Bruelhart told Reuters he had resigned.
    The departure of Bruelhart, a Swiss lawyer who has been in the top job for five years, follows an unprecedented raid at the offices of the Financial Information Authority (AIF) and the Secretariat of State on Oct. 1.
    A brief Vatican statement said Bruelhart would leave at the end of his mandate on Tuesday and that Pope Francis had taken steps to name a successor, to be would be announced after the pope returns from a trip to Thailand and Japan on Nov. 26.
    ďI resigned,Ē Bruelhart told Reuters by phone shortly after the announcement was made.
    Five Vatican employees were suspended immediately after the police raids on Oct. 1, including AIF director Tommaso di Ruzza.
    Two weeks later, Domenico Giani, the Vaticanís longtime security chief and Pope Francisí personal bodyguard, resigned over the leak of a document related to a magistrateís investigation of a real estate deal in London.
    The AIF has denied any wrongdoing and the Vaticanís Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, last month acknowledged that the deal was not transparent and promised to shed light on it.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Catherine Evans)

11/19/2019 Small in numbers, Thai Catholics preserve centuries-old traditions by Panu Wongcha-um
FILE PHOTO: A tourist walks past a protrait of Pope Francis in Bangkok, Thailand November 13, 2019. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun/File Photo
    BANGKOK (Reuters) Ė The last time Vararunee Khonchanath was in the presence of a pope was before she was born just over 35 years ago, but when Pope Francis visits Bangkok later this week to bless Thailandís tiny Catholic minority she will be singing in the choir.
    A sixth-generation Catholic of Portuguese-Thai ancestry, Vararunee lives in a 250-year-old community that is as old as the Thai capital itself. During the previous papal visit, back in 1984, Vararuneeís pregnant mother was among the congregation.
    ďI was in my mumís tummy as she attended the mass when His Holiness John Paul II visited Thailand the last time,Ē Vararunee said, adding how honored she felt to be in the choir this time, when Pope Francis offers mass at the National Stadium.
    During his visit from Nov. 20-23, Pope Francis will also celebrate mass at Assumption Cathedral in central Bangkok.
    In overwhelmingly Buddhist Thailand, Catholics number just a little more than 380,000 in a country of more than 65 million.
MISSIONARIES, TRADERS
    Historians say more than 70 percent of Catholics in Thailand, like Vararunee, have foreign ancestry.
    Catholicism first arrived in Siam, the old name for Thailand, in the mid 1500s with Portuguese missionaries and traders.
    The Vatican formally established its ďMission de SiamĒ 350 years ago during the reign of King Narai, an anniversary that coincides with the visit of Pope Francis that begins on Wednesday.
    While missionaries failed to achieve mass conversions, they were largely tolerated by the Buddhist majority and particularly the royal court.
    ďIn the past, many Catholics from places like Japan and Vietnam, migrated to this land to escape religious persecution,Ē said Puttipong Puttansri, a historian at the Archdiocese of Bangkok Historical Archive.
    Catholics have over the years built schools and hospitals, some of which are still well known and respected today.     ďFor many Thais, Catholicism is synonymous with schools,Ē Puttipong said.
MARTYRDOM
    There were also spells of religious persecutions.    In the late 1600s, Catholic priests were arrested and some killed out of suspicion they were working with France to colonize the country.
    Similar hostility stirred in the 1940s when a nationalistic Thai government was at war with France in Indochina.
    The tension resulted in the closing down of schools, confiscation of properties and the arrest of some clergy.
    In 1940, seven Catholics, including three teenage girls, were killed by Thai police in the northeastern province of Nakhon Phanom. Pope John Paul II later declared them martyrs.
PEACE AND PASTRIES
    In the modern era, Thailand remains largely tolerant to Catholics.
    Catholics in Bangkokís historic Kudi Chin community along the Chao Praya River have mostly lived peacefully while maintaining their unique traditions and beliefs.
    The district is known locally not only for Santa Cruz Church, that is the focal point for its Catholic community, but for the traditional Portuguese-influenced cupcake that is still baked there.
    For the faithful such as Vararunee, the papal visit casts a light on their community and faith.
    ďI am very proud that we manage to hold on to our roots,Ē Vararunee said.
(Additional report by Juarawee Kittisilpa; Editing by Kay Johnson & Simon Cameron-Moore)

11/19/2019 Poland sees big state role in economy, more court reforms by Alan Charlish and Agnieszka Barteczko
FILE PHOTO: Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki arrives for the second day of the European Union leaders
summit dominated by Brexit, in Brussels, Belgium October 18, 2019. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw
    WARSAW (Reuters) Ė Polandís prime minister set out plans on Tuesday to strengthen the stateís role in the economy and deepen an overhaul of the justice system that has put Warsaw on a collision course with its European Union partners.
    Mateusz Morawiecki said the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party would continue increasing welfare spending and the share of Polish capital in domestic companies, underlining its break with the free-market reforms of liberal governments before it.
    ďNeoliberals have fueled a sense of confusion in our value system.    Many people were led to believe that the state is a ball and chain,Ē he said in a policy speech to parliament after an Oct. 13 election that gave PiS four more years in power.
    ďExtremes are not good.    We are building a normal state,Ē he said.
    Morawiecki spoke repeatedly of a return to ďnormality,Ē referring both to PiSís economic policies and its conservative vision of the traditional family which has won over voters but has been criticized by opponents for encouraging homophobia.
    He promised new welfare programs to help families with at least three children and the elderly.
    In separate comments, PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said: ďOur societyÖ must be based on the Polish family, the family in its traditional sense.    A family which takes the form of a relationship between a man and a woman
    Opposition lawmakers criticized PiSís vision of normality
.
    ďThe desire for normality means the rule of law and economic prudence, and you break those principles day after day,Ē said Grzegorz Schetyna, leader of the largest opposition party, Civic Platform.
CONCERNS OVER RULE OF LAW
    Since returning to power in 2015, PiS has introduced changes to how courts are run and altered some of the rules governing the Constitutional Tribunal and the Supreme Court.
    The European Commission, the EU executive, responded by launching legal action over reforms which it says threaten the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.
    The European Court of Justice ruled on Tuesday that it was up to Polandís Supreme Court to decide on the independence of the Disciplinary Chamber and the National Judiciary Council, offering some criteria on adherence to EU law.
    Morawiecki gave no details of the next steps PiS plans to take in its reforms of the judiciary.    The party says further reforms are intended to make the court system more efficient but opponents say the reforms made so far have politicized it.
    PiS has said it will keep a balanced budget in 2020, benefiting from one-off revenues and fast economic growth, although some economists say such plans are too ambitious at a time when the European economy is slowing down.
(Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko, Alan Charlish, Joanna Plucinska, Anna Koper and Pawel Florkiewicz, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

11/19/2019 Chick-fil-A to stop donating to alleged anti-LGBTQ charities by OAN Newsroom
FILE Ė This July 19, 2012, file photo shows a Chick-fil-A fast food restaurant in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart, File)
    After years of protests from LGBTQ groups, Chick-fil-A is saying it will stop donating to some Christian organizations who are against the community.
    In a Monday news release, the fast food chain said it would start donating to causes focused on education and homelessness in 2020.    Some of these initiatives will include donating $25,000 to local food banks near each of its new locations.
    The ongoing criticism of the company has stemmed from its CEO Dan Cathyís open expressions of his religious views, which has been instrumental in the companyís infamous Sunday closures.
    ďWeíre a business that has got a long track record of being respectful of other people,Ē stated Cathy. ďI personally expressed a view of support for the biblical definition of marriage ó it was not an anti-this or anti-that statement at all
    The three main organizations Chick-fil-A has said it would no longer donate to include the Salvation Army, Paul Anderson Youth Home and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.    Although the company has tried to reassure customers it donated to these organizations based on their philanthropic efforts and not their ideologies, LGBTQ activists found it difficult to make the distinction.
    Demonstrations took place at many Chick-fil-A grand openings across the United States. This prompted the U.K.ís only Chick-fil-A to announce its closure, after only six months of business.    Torontoís first location was also swarmed by protesters upon its opening.
    Not everybody was happy with Chick-fil-Aís latest decision to appease a possible new range of customers.    Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott implied he would visit a different fried chicken chain after hearing the news.
    Chick-fil-A projected it would give a total of $32 million to worthy charities under its new policies by the end of 2020.

11/20/2019 Majority of same-sex couples living together are married
    ORLANDO, Fla. Ė More than half of the same-sex couples living together in U.S. households are married, U.S. Census Bureau figures released Tuesday show.    The bureau said about 543,000 same-sex couples living together in households were married and 469,000 same-sex couples living together were unmarried.    The estimates from the bureauís 2019 Current Population Survey show 191,000 children living with samesex parents.    The estimates donít reflect non-cohabitating same-sex couples or single people.

11/20/2019 We are not drag queensí: What itís like to be transgender in 2019 by Susan Miller, USA TODAY
    2019 is the year Ash Penn, a passionate transgender resident of Spartanburg, South Carolina, was able to ďcome out as a wholeĒ and feel the warm embrace of acceptance.
    It has been a year that saw a wow moment in politics when transgender rights popped up in platforms of the Democratic presidential candidates.
    But 2019 is also the year in which transgender people were barred from the U.S. military.
    And it has been a year in which at least 22 transgender or gender-nonconforming people have died in unsettling acts of violence.
    This is the conflicted reality for the transgender community: progress and acceptance amid the old haunts of hate.     ďThere is a mix of incredible opportunities and advancement and also increased regression and hostility,Ē said Ineke Mushovic, executive director of the Movement Advancement Project, a think tank that researches LGBTQ issues.
    The visibility of trans people as backbones of communities has been remarkable in the past year, said Taylor Brown of advocacy group Lambda Legal.    ďWe are people doing normal things.    We are not drag queens.    We arenít doing this part-time
    Yet while itís significant that candidates are talking about civil rights, she said, ďItís odd that we have to even have this conversation
Where transgender people live
    A MAP report released Tuesday on the eve of Transgender Day of Remembrance Ė a day honoring transgender victims of violence Ė shows the diversity of the trans community, which numbers 1.4 million people in the U.S. or about .6% of all adults.
    And it puts a spotlight on the communityís presence, particularly in rural areas.    ďTrans people are ordinary people who mow the lawn, do the dishes, walk the dog Ė and want to have a normal life,Ē Mushovic said.
    About 1 in 6, or 16%, of all transgender people live in rural areas, according to the report, which thwarts misconceptions of where pockets of discrimination may be sown.
    Some of the reportís findings:     The struggles in rural areas mirror those elsewhere.
    About 27% of rural transgender residents have been harassed when their identity documents donít match their gender vs. 25% of all trans adults; 8% of rural trans residents reported being physically attacked in the past year because of their identity vs. 9% of all trans adults.
    The reportís findings flip stereotypes of rural areas as breeding grounds for bias, said Logan Casey, author of the MAP report.    But there is a ripple effect in a rural setting that can be amplified and cause harm.    ďIf you are in an urban area and you are harassed at a club or restaurant you might not ever see that person again,Ē he said.    ďBut in a rural area you might see that person over and over
ĎLove being from the Southí
    Penn, 34, a poet and motivational speaker devoted to LGBTQ advocacy work, left the U.S. military after eight years in 2016 ďso I could live my life as myself
    A licensed minister, Penn was the ďpreacher of my family, telling the story about Jesus. ... But I started preaching more about individuality and being true to yourself.    I went to my pastor and said ĎHey, I donít think Iím going to hell.íĒ    The pastor thought differently and soon expelled Penn: ďI was kicked out of my church on a text message
    When Penn fully came out in the past year, acceptance in the rural community of Spartanburg was overwhelming.    ďI thought Iíd be in this box again.    But I got so many personal messages from friends, family, people I served in the military with.    It was amazing. ... I love being from the South
ĎA long way to go,í but Ďhopefulí
    Lambda Legalís Brown, a black transgender woman, said the visibility of the transgender community in 2019 canít be denied.    ďTrans people are in your community.    They are lawyers and doctors, they are the same as everyone else
    Brown knows firsthand the challenges the community faces.    She came out at 18 and became the first person in her family to graduate college, then law school.
    Despite her successes, navigating her identity, especially in younger years, was ďvery difficult,Ē she said.    ďI was fired when one employer found out
    How distant is the goal of full equality?
    ďWe have had a lot of wins Ö but we have a long way to go.    But Iím hopeful, very hopeful.    And proud
Protesters in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 8 as justices hear cases involving workers
who claim they were fired because they were gay or transgender. JACK GRUBER/USA TODAY

11/20/2019 Pope Francis begins visit to Thailand as faithful jostle for selfies by Jiraporn Kuhakan
Pope Francis is greeted as he arrives at a military air terminal in Bangkok, Thailand November 20, 2019. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
    BANGKOK (Reuters) Ė Pope Francis arrived in Thailand on Wednesday to meet with its small but devoted Catholic minority on a seven-day Asian trip that will include a family reunion in Bangkok and take his anti-nuclear message to Japan.
    Waiting for a glimpse of the pontiff, excited Catholics thronged around the Vaticanís Bangkok embassy and St. Louis Hospital to take selfies.
    ďOnce in a lifetime, I want to see him and be able receive prayer from him,Ē said 60-year-old Orawan Thongjamroon outside the Vatican embassy, where she had been waiting since early morning for the papal motorcade.
    Catholics are a tiny minority in mostly Buddhist Thailand, accounting for less than 2% of the population.
    The popeís plane touched down outside Bangkok around midday and he descended to a red-carpet airport welcome from church leaders for a visit that coincides with the 350th anniversary of the first papal mission in Siam, the former name of Thailand.
    Among those welcoming him was his cousin and childhood friend from Argentina, 77-year-old nun Sister Ana Rosa Sivori, who has worked in Thai schools for more than 50 years and will be the popeís personal translator in Thailand.
    The pair, whose grandfathers were brothers, beamed as they made their way over the tarmac through crowds of clergy, children and government officials to a waiting motorcade.
    ďDear friends in Thailand and Japan, before we meet, let us pray together that these days may be rich in grace and joy,Ē read a message on the pontiffís official Twitter account before he left the Vatican.
    At Bangkokís St. Louis Church, a Thai Catholic woman proudly showed photographs of her and Pope Francis from a visit she made to the Vatican with her husband.
    ďI never thought that I would have another chance to see him again,Ē said Nuchnaree Praresri, 49.
    But when she was invited to be a cleaner at St. Louis Church for the papal visit, she seized the opportunity.
    ďThis might not be an important role for others, but Iím very proud,Ē she said.
    Catholicism first arrived in Thailand in the mid-1500s with Portuguese missionaries and traders, and Catholics have over the years built respected schools and hospitals.
    Pope Francis begins his official program on Thursday when he is scheduled to meet King Maha Vajiralongkorn as well as the supreme Buddhist patriarch before offering mass at the National Stadium.
    He will hold another mass at Bangkokís Assumption Cathedral before leaving on Saturday for Japan, where he will visit the nuclear ground zeros of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
(Reporting by Jiraporn Kuhakan; Writing by Kay Johnson; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

11/20/2019 Vatican says Israeli-Palestinian peace process at risk after U.S. move
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis leads a Mass marking the Roman Catholic Church's World Day of the Poor,
at Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican November 17, 2019. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Ė The Vatican said on Thursday the search for peace between Israelis and Palestinians had been put at risk after the United States backed Israelís building of settlements in the occupied West Bank.
    ďIn the context of recent decisions that risk undermining further the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the already fragile regional stability, the Holy See reiterates its position of a two-state solution for two peoples, as the only way to reach a complete solution to this age-old conflict,Ē the Vatican said in a statement.
    ďThe Holy See supports the right of the State of Israel to live in peace and security within the borders recognised by the international community and supports the same right that belongs to the Palestinian people, which must be recognised, respected and implemented,Ē it added.
(Reporting by Crispian Balmer)

11/21/2019 Visiting Thailand, Pope condemns exploitation of women and children by Philip Pullella and Kay Johnson
Pope Francis meets with Buddhist supreme patriarch Somdet Phra Maha Muniwong, at the Wat Ratchabophit Buddhist
temple in Bangkok, Thailand, November 21, 2019. Marco Tassi/Vatican Media/Handout via REUTERS
    BANGKOK (Reuters) Ė Pope Francis on Thursday condemned the exploitation of women and children in Thailand, which is notorious for its sex tourism, calling the violence, abuse and enslavement they suffer evils that must be uprooted.
    Francis started his first full day in Thailand by addressing politicians and diplomats gathered in Government House, an ornate palace that serves as the prime ministerís office.
    ďI think, too, of all those women and children of our time, especially those who are wounded, violated and exposed to every form of exploitation, enslavement, violence and abuse,Ē he said at Government House.
    Thailand attracts some 35 million tourists a year and the government has sought to shed the countryís reputation for sex tourism.
    But repeated crackdowns have not rid Bangkok and other tourist hubs of go-go bars and massage parlours that often offer sex.
    There are around 123,530 sex workers in Thailand, according to a 2014 UNAIDS report.
    Francis, expressed appreciation for the Thai governmentís efforts ďto extirpate this scourge, and for all those private individuals and organizations working to uproot this evil and to provide ways to restore their (victimsí) dignity
    He also spoke of the plight of refugees, saying they have had to endure ďa tragic exodus,Ē and still face many dangers.
    Thailand is home to some of Asiaís oldest refugee camps.
    About 100,000 refugees from Myanmar have been living in nine camps along the border for decades, many since the early 1980s.
    More recently, Thailand has been a major venue for human smugglers and traffickers of tens of thousands of Muslim Rohingya who have fled crackdowns in Myanmar.
    The number of human trafficking victims rescued in Thailand is set to hit a record high this year, with demand for cheap labour in neighbouring Malaysia causing a jump in the illegal trade, according to government data.
    In a gesture of inter-religious dialogue, Francis went to the gilded Wat Ratchabophit Sathit Maha Simaram Temple to pay his respects to the countryís 91-year-old Supreme Buddhist Patriarch, Somdet Phra Maha Muniwong.
    Thailandís Catholics number just a little more than 380,000 in a country of more than 65 million, but the small community has thrived and relations with Buddhists are generally good.
    Francis, who has come under criticism from ultra-conservative Catholics who accuse him of being too accommodating to other religions, praised the effects he said Buddhism has had on Thais.
    ďThe majority of Thais have drunk deeply from the sources of Buddhism, which have imbued their way of venerating life and their ancestors, and leading a sober lifestyle based on contemplation, detachment, hard work and discipline,Ē Francis told the patriarch.
    Later on Thursday, Francis was due to say a Mass for the Catholic community in Bangkokís National Stadium.    He leaves for Japan on Saturday.
(Writing by Philip Pullella and Kay Johnson; editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

11/21/2019 Activists hope Pope Francis will sway Japanese opinion on death penalty by Elaine Lies
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis waves from his popemobile at St. Louis Catholic Church in
Bangkok, Thailand November 21, 2019. REUTERS/Ann Wang/File Photo
    TOKYO (Reuters) Ė Japanese activists opposed to capital punishment hope the visit of Pope Francis this weekend will help to soften public opinion in a nation where most people still support the death penalty.
    Pope Francis, who will visit Japan from Nov. 23 to 26, said last year the death penalty is neither Christian nor humane.    The Vatican then formally changed its teaching to declare the death penalty inadmissible whatever the circumstances.
    Fewer than 1% of Japanese are Christian but activists say Francis is widely respected as a global moral leader. Opinion polls suggest about 80% of Japanese support the death penalty as a deterrent to crime.
    ďMost Japanese donít think of the death penalty as a legal or human rights issue,Ē said Shinji Oguma, secretary-general of a group of Japanese lawmakers discussing the future of the death penalty.
    ďI hope the pope will say something that echoes in peopleís hearts,Ē he told a news conference on Thursday.
    Echoing that view, Kazunori Saito, vice-president of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations said: ďWe believe itís important for the people of Japan to listen to the words of the pope and see what they feel in their own hearts
    Prisoners are hanged, and the condemned are not told when it will take place until the morning of the day their sentence is carried out.    For decades, the government did not even officially announce that capital sentences had been carried out.
    In Tokyo, Francis may meet Iwao Hakamada, an 83-year-old man who spent 48 years in prison, mostly on death row, until new DNA evidence led to a suspension of his sentence.    Hakamada, said to be suffering from dementia, was baptized in prison and is awaiting retrial.
    Some 120 prisoners are currently on death row and two were executed this year.    Fifteen were executed in 2018, the highest number for a decade, including 13 former members of the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult, who had been convicted of carrying out sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway.
    Japan is one of only two Group of Seven advanced nations, along with the United States, to retain the death penalty.
    ďI think that here, the pope will be speaking and showing how life and human dignity can be protected in any case,Ē Mario Marazziti, from the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, told Thursdayís news conference.     ďNo exceptionÖ up to the complete refusal of war, atomic weapons, and at the same time how to respect life even of the guilty ones
    A dedicated anti-nuclear campaigner, Pope Francis will also visit Nagasaki and Hiroshima, the only two cities in the world to have been targeted by atomic bombs. He is set to deliver a major anti-nuclear message in Nagasaki.
(Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Gareth Jones)

11/21/2019 Factbox: Anti-nuclear Pope Francis to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Japan trip by Elaine Lies
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis departs for Thailand at Leonardo da Vinci International Airport near Rome, Italy
November 19, 2019. Picture taken November 19, 2019. Vatican Media/¨Handout via REUTERS/File Photo
    TOKYO (Reuters) Ė Pope Francis visits Japan, where he once wanted to be a missionary, from the weekend for only the second papal trip there in history, following a tour by Pope John Paul II in 1981.
    A determined anti-nuclear campaigner, Pope Francis will visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the only cities in the world to suffer atomic bombing during wartime, as well as Tokyo.    In the Japanese capital he will meet with survivors of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
    Following are some facts about Christianity in Japan and the Popeís four-day visit.
CHRISTIANS IN JAPAN
    Japan is mainly Buddhist and Shinto, with just roughly 1% of the population of around 126 million identifying as Christian. Of this, some 536,000 are Catholic.
    Christians are disproportionately present among Japanís elite, some of whom may have also attended Christian private schools without adopting the religion.    Japanese Empress Emerita Michiko, mother of the current emperor, attended Sacred Heart schools for junior high school, high school and university.
    Two Japanese prime ministers have been Catholics, Takashi Hara from 1918-1921 and Taro Aso, currently Finance Minister, who was prime minister from 2008-2009.    Shigeru Yoshida, prime minister from 1948-1954, was baptized on his deathbed.
HISTORY OF CHRISTIANITY IN JAPAN
    Christianity was first brought to Japan by Portuguese missionaries in 1549, among them St Francis Xavier, but banned by the government in 1614.    Missionaries were expelled and Christians forced to choose between martyrdom and hiding their beliefs.
    Some became ďKakure Kirishitan,Ē or Hidden Christians, who kept their religion alive by blending it with Buddhist and Shinto practices until the ban on Christianity was lifted in 1873.
    A dwindling number of ageing Hidden Christians remain in southwestern Japan and some of them are expected to meet with Pope Francis.
    The 2016 Martin Scorsese film ďSilenceĒ is set in Nagasaki and deals with two priests who travel from Portugal to feudal Japan to search for a mentor who has gone missing, and to spread the Christian faith.
PLANS IN JAPAN
    In Nagasaki, Francis will meet with survivors of the August 9, 1945 nuclear bombing, the second after Hiroshima on August 6, and read a ďmajor message on nuclear weapons.Ē    Francis, who wants a total ban on nuclear weapons, will also visit Hiroshima.
    Francis, who has been vocal in opposition to the death penalty, may also meet Iwao Hakamada, 83, who was released from death row after 48 years when new DNA evidence led to a suspension of his sentence but is currently awaiting a retrial.    He was baptized in prison in 1984.
(Reporting by Elaine Lies; editing by Jane Wardell)

11/21/2019 In Thailand, Pope condemns exploitation of women, children for sex by Philip Pullella and Kay Johnson
Pope Francis meets with Buddhist supreme patriarch Somdet Phra Maha Muniwong, at the Wat Ratchabophit
Buddhist temple in Bangkok, Thailand, November 21, 2019. Marco Tassi/Vatican Media/Handout via REUTERS
    BANGKOK (Reuters) Ė Pope Francis condemned on Thursday the exploitation of women and children for prostitution in Thailand, which is notorious for its sex tourism, saying the violence, abuse and enslavement they suffer are evils that must be uprooted.
    Francis, on the first full day of his visit to mainly Buddhist Thailand, led a Mass in Bangkokís National Stadium for tens of thousands of exuberant Roman Catholics in a country where they make up less than one percent of the population.
    ďFor us, it is as if God himself is here,Ē said Nutaporn Kwanmuang, 27, who attended the Mass, the largest gathering of Catholics since Pope John Paul II visited in 1984.    Tens of thousands of others watched on screens in an adjacent stadium.
    In his homily, Francis mentioned the exploitation of women and children and the plight of refugees and migrants for the second time in one day.
    ďHere I think of children and women who are victims of prostitution and human trafficking, humiliated in their essential human dignity,Ē said the 82-year-old pope, who looked tired at the end of a long day.
    Thailand, which attracts some 35 million tourists a year, has sought to shed its reputation for sex tourism.    But repeated crackdowns have not rid Bangkok and other tourist hubs of go-go bars and massage parlors that often offer sex.
    There are around 123,530 sex workers in Thailand, according to a 2014 UNAIDS report.
    Earlier, in his first address on Thursday, Francis expressed appreciation for the Thai governmentís efforts ďto extirpate this scourge, and for all those private individuals and organizations working to uproot this evil and to provide ways to restore their (victimsí) dignity
    At both venues, he defended migrants and refugees and condemned human trafficking.
    The number of human trafficking victims rescued in Thailand is set to hit a record high this year.    Demand for cheap labor in neighboring Malaysia has caused a jump in the illegal trade, according to government data.
INTER-FAITH DIALOGUE
    Thailand is home to some of Asiaís oldest refugee camps.
    About 100,000 refugees from Myanmar have been living in nine camps along the border for decades, many since the early 1980s.
    More recently, Thailand has been a major venue for human smugglers and traffickers of tens of thousands of Muslim Rohingya who have fled crackdowns in Myanmar.
    In a gesture of inter-religious dialogue, Francis on Thursday morning visited the gilded Wat Ratchabophit Sathit Maha Simaram Temple to pay his respects to Thailandís Supreme Buddhist Patriarch, the 91-year-old Somdet Phra Maha Muniwong.
    Thailandís Catholics number around 380,000 in a country of more than 65 million, but the small community has thrived and relations with the Buddhists are generally good.
    Francis, who is accused by ultra-conservative Catholics of being too accommodating to other religions, praised the effects he said Buddhism has had on Thais.
    ďThe majority of Thais have drunk deeply from the sources of Buddhism, which have imbued their way of venerating life and their ancestors, and leading a sober lifestyle based on contemplation, detachment, hard work and discipline,Ē Francis told the patriarch.
Francis leaves for Japan on Saturday.
(This story fixes verb tense in paragraph 9)
(Writing by Philip Pullella and Kay Johnson; editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Gareth Jones)

11/22/2019 Vote on LGBTQ may split church - Methodists predict denominational divide by Lindsay Schnell, USA TODAY
    Nica Sy felt devasted as she stared at her laptop screen.    How could the church that had baptized her, raised her, nurtured her and encouraged her to explore ordained ministry say she was unworthy, just because of her sexuality?
    Sy, 20, a Filipino American college student who identifies as a lesbian, had watched a livestream of a global gathering of the United Methodist Church where church leaders voted to continue a ban on same-sex marriages and openly LGBTQ people from serving as clergy.     Liberal leaders within the church had pushed for giving individual churches and clergy autonomy over such issues but were narrowly outvoted.
    ďThat was a really monumental moment, the rejection of who I am,Ē Sy said.    ďBut I also had this feeling of, ĎIím not gonna let this happen to my church.í"    After years of debating gay rights, the United Methodist Church is probably headed for a big split.    Months after global Methodist leaders voted against LGBTQ rights this year, five bishops representing the Western Jurisdiction of the United     Methodist Church released a statement Nov. 6 in support of LGBTQ clergy.    Church leaders are debating whether to fracture into two organizations Ė one liberal and one conservative Ė before the denominationís next annual gathering in 2020.
    ďUnity is a high priority for many of us, and we watched it fall apart in front of our very eyes,Ē said the Rev. Erin Martin, the Columbia District superintendent who oversees more than 40 Methodist clergy in the Portland, Oregon, metro area, of the vote against LGBTQ rights in February.
    ďIt felt as though something died that day within the United Methodist communion,Ē she said, her voice cracking.    ďWe may not be able to hold together
Debate has gone on for years
    After Southern Baptists, Methodists make up the nationís second-largest Protestant denomination, totaling more than 6.8 million members, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Beyoncť.    Baby boomers make up the majority (38%) of the congregants, and 94% of them are white, according to the Pew Research Center.
    At the denominationís annual convention in 2016, Martin said, everyone could sense fissures over the subject of sexuality.    The church, she said, was ďstruggling for a consensus.Ē    She worried that the Methodist movement might be on the brink of a tipping point.    Februaryís vote confirmed it.
    ďFor those who arenít part of the church, this confirms their worst suspicions that Christians are narrow, critical and full of hate and condemnation,Ē Martin said.
    At the conference in 2004, delegates voted overwhelmingly (869-41) to remain united despite disagreements over human sexuality.    But leaders on both sides said the situation has become untenable, and separation is probably the only way forward.
    Legislation in favor of splitting the denomination has been submitted before next yearís global gathering, including a proposal calling for ďan amicable separationĒ that would divide the United Methodist Church in two.
    The Wesleyan Covenant Association, headquartered in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, is a group within the Methodist church that subscribes to what the Rev. Keith Boyette, president of the organization, calls a commitment to the ďhistoric Christian faith,Ē or a more traditional take on Methodism.    At the meeting in February, the Wesleyan Covenant Association endorsed the ban on LGBTQ clergy and same-sex marriage.
    Boyette, 66, said heís sad to think about a Methodist church split, but ďit would be sadder to me if we remained mired in continual escalating conflict, which prevents the church from focusing on its primary mission, which is to make disciples of Jesus Christ
    ďWeíre distracted from that in many ways because weíre consumed by this conflict,Ē Boyette said.
    He said he believes the church will divide in spring 2020: Either itíll be a soft split, the result of an agreed plan of separation, or a hard split, in which some churches and pastors decide they no longer want to be part of the United Methodist Church.    Boyette roots for an amicable separation.
    ďWeíre done fighting,Ē he said.    ďLetís find a way to release each other and go forward, and pursue the vision we each have
Bishops rally for LGBQT rights
    Thereís been an outpouring of support for the LGBTQ community since the adoption of the ban in February.    Immediately after the vote at the conference, the Rev. Donna Pritchard, one of the lead delegates from Oregon, took a microphone and told everyone that Methodist churches in the West would ďcontinue to be a home for all of Godís people.Ē    That night, leaders opposed to the ban gathered in a St. Louis hotel ballroom to assure each other they had no intention of excluding the LGBTQ community.
    The loudest support came when bishops of the Western Jurisdiction Ė which covers Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming Ė released their letter Nov. 6.
    Bishop Elaine Stanovsky, one of the five bishops who signed the letter, attended the convention in February.    For her, the vote, and its potential long-term implications, are heartbreaking.
    ďFor many of us, there was a sense that the church that raised us and formed us and gave us our identity and our vocations abandoned us,Ē said Stanovsky, who has been ordained in the Methodist church since 1983.
    Stanovsky has put her career on the line.    By refusing to adhere to the ban on same-sex marriage and LGBQT clergy Ė which includes Stanovsky declining to process complaints against LGBTQ clergy Ė Stanovsky could be put on trial within the church.    Itís a risk sheís ďabsolutely willingĒ to take ďwithout a momentís hesitation,Ē Stanovksy said.
    ďThe (LGBTQ) people at risk, many of them Iíve known for decades.    Some of them Iíve ordained, Iíve appointed them to their churches,Ē she said.    ďThese are not nameless, faceless people, they are in my community.    I often ask them to do hard work under persecution, so I better have their back
    Thereís been no response from the church at large.
    The majority of Methodists support same-sex marriage, according to the Public Religion Research Institute.    In a survey in 2017, PRRI found that 54% of all Methodists ďfavor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally
Clergy Ďnot going backí in closet
    In Salem, Oregon, the Rev. Wendy Woodworth has been the pastor at Morningside United Methodist Church since 2013.    Woodworth, 56, who identifies as part of the LGBTQ community, spent most of her life closeted.
    Though Woodworth has been with her wife, Lori Alton, since 1993 Ė the same year she got ordained Ė Woodworth was once ďextremely cautious in terms of sharing within the United Methodist community.Ē    For years, Woodworth introduced Alton as her friend or roommate.
    But being married is not a private matter, Woodworth said, so shortly after she and Alton tied the knot in 2016, she shared the news in a letter signed by other Methodist LGBTQ clergy.    Her honesty, she said, deepened her relationship with her congregation.    She received no hate mail or pushback.
    ďRather than my sexual orientation being a hindrance,Ē Woodworth said, ďwhat Iíve been asking is, what does it mean for this to be an asset in my ministry?Ē
    Woodworth, who was in St. Louis during the vote in February, said it was difficult to watch her peers vote against inclusion, but sheís undeterred, based on the bishopsí letter and decades of support from her fellow Methodists.
    ďItís not about whether the church rejects me.    For me, itís about God loves me, God has called me into ministry.    Nothing the church says can change that,Ē she said.
    She has no intention of returning to a life of secrecy.
    ďWeíre not going back,Ē Woodworth said.    ďYou canít put a marriage certificate in the closet
Protesters object to the adoption of a platform rejecting same-sex marriage and
ordination of LGBT clergy in St. Louis on Feb. 26. SID HASTINGS/AP
From left, delegates Kimberly Woods, Sara Isbell and Andy Adams pray at the United Methodist
Church General Conference on Feb. 23 in St. Louis. HILLARY LEVIN/ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH VIA AP
Sy

11/22/2019 Pope says tech, globalization endanger youth individuality by Philip Pullella
A devotee holding a Thai flag peers through glass panels after Pope Francis walked into St. Peterís Parish
church in the Sam Phran district of Nakhon Pathom Province, Thailand, November 22, 2019. REUTERS/Ann Wang
    BANGKOK (Reuters) Ė Pope Francis warned on Friday that technology and globalization were homogenizing young people around the world to the point where their uniqueness and cultural individuality were becoming endangered species.
    The 82-year-old pope made his appeal for young people to hold on to the cultures handed down by their ancestors and cherish their roots at a meeting of leaders of other religions as he wrapped up the last full day of his visit to Thailand.
    He decried a ďgrowing tendency to discredit local values and cultures by imposing a unitary modelĒ for values on young people, referring apparently to Western influence from films, advertising and social media.
    ďThis produces a cultural devastation that is just as serious as the disappearance of species of animals and plants,Ē he said.
    The preservation of local culture was also a theme of a visit on Friday to the predominantly Catholic village of Wat Roman on the outskirts of Bangkok where he urged todayís Thais not to consider Christianity a ďforeignĒ religion.
    The dominant culture in Thailand is closely tied to Buddhism, although the Catholic minority of fewer than 1% were generally treated well in modern times.
    In a talk to priests and nuns gathered in the village church, Francis paid tribute to those killed to those killed for their faith in the past.
    Among them were seven Catholics, including three teenage girls, who were killed by Thai police in 1940 in the northeastern province of Nakhon Phanom.
    The World War Two period and other spells of persecution are considered aberrations and today relations between Buddhists and Catholics are generally very good.
    During the reign of Thailandís King Narai 350 years ago, the Vatican formally established its ďMission de Siam
    Although missionaries failed to achieve mass conversions, they were largely tolerated by the Buddhist majority and particularly the royal court.
THAI FACE ON CATHOLICISM
    Since the start of his pontificate in 2013, Francis has preached that the Church should grow by attraction and not by proselytizing, or conversion campaigns.
    This has provoked criticism from some conservatives who favor an aggressive approach and largely oppose what is known as ďinculturation,Ē or adapting Church teachings to local culture.
    Francis urged priests and nuns to find more ways to talk about their religion in local terms, saying he had learned ďwith some pain, that for many people, Christianity is a foreign faith, a religion for foreigners
    He added, ďLet us give faith a Thai face and flesh, which involves much more than making translations
    Meeting Thai bishops in the same shrine complex later, Francis once again talked about issues such as human trafficking and exploitation.
    On Thursday he condemned the exploitation of women and children for prostitution in Thailand, which is notorious for its sex tourism, saying the violence, abuse and enslavement they suffer are evils to be uprooted.
    Francis leaves on Friday for Japan, where the main purpose of his trip is to appeal for the global abolition of nuclear weapons when he visits the World War Two atomic bomb sites of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Giles Elgood)

11/22/2019 Pro-government supporters attack Catholic church in Nicaragua as tensions flare
A man holds prayer beads as he prays during a mass at the Metropolitan Cathedral
in Managua, Nicaragua November 21, 2019. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas
    MANAGUA/MASAYA, Nicaragua (Reuters) Ė Supporters of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega tried to storm a church on Thursday, with a priest saying they hit churchgoers, as tension ratchets up between Roman Catholics and the government in the Central American country.
    Footage posted on social media showed protesters pressing against the barricaded door of the San Juan Bautista parish church in the western city of Masaya.    Parishioners had gathered for Mass, to be followed by a pilgrimage, in support of mothers in Masayaís cathedral who are on a hunger strike.
    The mothers are demanding the release of their children, detained by authorities for their part in anti-government protests.
    Nicaraguaís churches have been transformed into political battlegrounds in recent weeks as protests continue to roil a country deeply divided over the leadership of Ortega, a former Marxist guerrilla who has waged a brutal crackdown on his opponents.
    Both the Organization of American States and the United Nations raised alarms this week about human rights in Central Americaís largest country, as protests have intensified.
    At San Juan Bautista church, footage posted on social media showed parishioners and priests scrambling to hold back a group of Ortega supporters, pressing their bodies against the door and later stacking up pews to barricade the entrance.
    The Ortega supporters ultimately forced their way in to the church, according to the priest, prompting the priest to plead with the group to let his parishioners go home safely.
    ďFierce hyenas,Ē Father Harvin Padilla said in a sermon to churchgoers as the government supporters tried to push past the barricades, the footage showed.
    ďWe do not follow a dictator and a madwoman,Ē he continued, an apparent reference to Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo.
    The supporters struck altar boys and churchgoers as they attempted to enter the church, Padilla said.
    The Nicaraguan government did not immediately respond to a request for its version of events.
    Demonstrations erupted in April 2018, when Ortega tried to cut welfare benefits, and gradually spread into a broader protest movement against his rule.
    The Catholic Church tried to make peace in Nicaragua early on, mediating talks between Ortega and the opposition last year.    But in recent weeks, prominent churches have been overtaken by the countryís long-running political crisis.
    Earlier this week, the Church accused groups linked to the government of beating a priest and violently taking control of the cathedral in capital Managua.
    ďWe condemn these acts of desecration, harassment and intimidation, which are not contributing to the peace and stability of the country,Ē the Church said in a statement.
(Reporting by Oswaldo Rivas in Masaya and Ismael Lopez in Managua; writing by Julia Love; Editing by Rosalba OíBrien)

11/22/2019 Just in time for Christmas, wooden manger relics heading from Rome to Bethlehem: Palestinians by Nidal al-Mughrabi
FILE PHOTO: A clergyman holds a cross during Christmas celebrations at Manger Square outside the Church
of the Nativity in Bethlehem, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank December 24, 2018. REUTERS/Mussa Qawasma/File Photo
    GAZA (Reuters) Ė Wooden relics said to be from the manger that held the infant Jesus will be returned from Rome to Bethlehem in time for the Christmas season, Palestinian officials said on Friday.br>     Bethlehemís mayor, Anton Salman, told the Palestinian news agency WAFA the move followed President Mahmoud Abbasís most recent visit to the Vatican, when Abbas asked Pope Francis for the return of the fragments held in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.
    Salman said the relics were taken from Bethlehem around 1,000 years ago, and are now likely to be placed inside Saint Catherineís Church, adjacent to the Church of the Nativity in Manger Square, the reputed site of Jesusís birth.
    There was no immediate confirmation from the Vatican. But Amira Hanania, a member of Abbasís Higher Committee of Churches Affairs, said the relics would arrive on November 30, the day the Palestinian town traditionally lights its Manger Square Christmas tree.
    ďIt is an historic move.    It returns to its original place, and it will be a factor of attraction to believers from inside Palestine and to tourists from all over the world,Ē she said.
    ďTo celebrate Christmas with the presence of part of the manger in which Jesus Christ was born will be a magnificent and huge event
    Although the provenance of ancient relics is often questionable, they are revered by the Christian faithful, among whom are the coachloads of pilgrims who squeeze through a narrow sandstone entrance in the Church of the Nativity all year round to visit the birth grotto that is its centerpiece.
    The return comes amid a wider discussion over whether Western collectors and museums should return objects to their countries of origin.
    The website of Santa Maria Maggiore says the relics currently lie before the basilicaís main altar in a crystal reliquary shaped like a crib that ďcontains pieces of ancient wood which tradition holds to be part of the manger where the Baby Jesus was laidĒ
    It said that the crypt was constructed by Virginio Vespignani at the behest of the mid 19th century Pope Pius IX ďto contain the sacred relic of the Holy Crib
    Preparations for Christmas are under way in Bethlehem, especially for Christians who make up around one percent of the Palestinian population in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
    While the security situation has eased around the town in recent years, Israeli checkpoints guard the entrances to Bethlehem, which lies just south of Jerusalem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; additional reporting by Crispian Balmer in Rome; writing by Stephen Farrell; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

11/23/2019 Pope departs Thailand for Japan, bringing anti-nuclear message by Philip Pullella and Kay Johnson
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis leaves after leading the Holy Mass at the Assumption Cathedral
in Bangkok, Thailand, November 22, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
    BANGKOK (Reuters) Ė Pope Francis left Thailand on Saturday after a three-day visit and headed to Japan, where he is to visit the ground zeros of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as part of his campaign against nuclear weapons.
    The pope, 82, was accompanied to the airport by his cousin, Sister Ana Rosa Sivori, a nun who has worked in Thai schools for more than 50 years and was his translator on the trip.
    In Thailand, he celebrated Mass with the small Catholic minority in an overwhelmingly Buddhist country, and spoke out against human trafficking and sexual exploitation of women.
    In Japan, Pope Francis is expected to turn his focus to his anti-nuclear campaign, particularly on Sunday, when he visits Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the worldís only two cities to suffer nuclear attacks.
    About 400,000 people were killed, either instantly or from radiation illness or injuries resulting from the atomic bombs that the United States dropped on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945 and on Nagasaki three days later, as it sought to end World War Two.
    Francis will meet blast survivors, pray, and read a message on nuclear weapons at the bomb epicenter in Nagasaki.    He later visits Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima.
    In the Japanese capital, he will meet survivors of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
    Francis wants a total ban on nuclear weapons, going further than his predecessors, when he said in 2017 that countries should not stockpile them, even for the purpose of deterrence.
    Japan stresses its unique status as the only nation to have suffered atomic attacks and advocates disarmament, but nonetheless relies on the U.S. nuclear umbrella as an extended deterrent.
    Francis, who, as a young priest, wanted to be a missionary in Japan, will also meet some of a dwindling number of its ďHidden ChristiansĒ, descendants of those who preserved their faith in secret during centuries of persecution until a ban on Christianity was lifted in 1873.
    Japan is mainly Buddhist and Shinto and only about 1% of its population of about 126 million identify as Christian. Of this number, some 536,000 are Catholic.
    Christians are disproportionately present among Japanís elite, some of whom may have also attended Christian private schools without adopting the religion.
    Two Japanese prime ministers have been Catholics: Takashi Hara, from 1918 to 1921, and current finance minister Taro Aso, who was prime minister during 2008-2009.
(Additional reporting by Elaine Lies; Writing by Kay Johnson; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

11/23/2019 Pope Francis arrives in Japan to promote anti-nuclear message
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis attends a meeting with cardinals and bishops at the Blessed Nicholas
Boonkerd Kitbamrung Shrine in Bankgok, Thailand November 22, 2019. Vatican Media/Handout via REUTERS
    TOKYO (Reuters) Ė Pope Francis arrived on Saturday in Japan, the second leg of a week-long Asian trip whose main aim is to bring an anti-nuclear message to Nagasaki and Hiroshima, the worldís only cities to suffer atomic bombing in wartime.
    Francis, a determined anti-nuclear campaigner who will read a message on nuclear weapons in Nagasaki, will also meet survivors of the March 11, 2011 nuclear meltdown at Fukushima, the worldís worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.
    The pope touched down in Tokyo after flying from Thailand for a four-day visit that will be the first in 38 years and only the second in history.
    Another goal of his visit is to encourage the Catholic community in Japan, where just about 1 percent of the population identifies as Christian, about half of them Catholic.
    He will say two Masses, one in Nagasaki and one in Tokyo, as well as meeting Japanese officials and Emperor Naruhito.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Writing by Elaine Lies; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

11/23/2019 Pope Francis visits Japan, bearing anti-nuclear message by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis meets bishops from the Vatican embassy in Tokyo, Japan, November 23, 2019. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
    TOKYO (Reuters) Ė Pope Francis arrived on Saturday in Japan, the second leg of a week-long Asian trip whose main aim is to bring an anti-nuclear message to Nagasaki and Hiroshima, the worldís only cities to suffer atomic bombing.
    Francis, 82, a determined anti-nuclear campaigner who has in the past called for a total ban on nuclear weapons, will read a message on the theme in Nagasaki on Sunday and meet survivors.
    ďI wish to meet those who still bear the wounds of this tragic episode in human history,Ē the pope told Japanese bishops shortly after his arrival.
    More than 100,000 people were killed instantly by the two bombs dropped by the United States as it sought to end World War Two in August 1945 and tens of thousands of others died in later years from radiation illnesses and injuries.
    The pope will also meet survivors of the March 11, 2011 nuclear meltdown at Fukushima, the worldís worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.
    The popeís plane touched down in Tokyo in a light drizzle and windy conditions.    Francis flew from Thailand to start a four-day visit that will be the first by a pontiff in 38 years and only the second in history.
    His trip here is filled with memories of his youth because as a seminarian in his native Argentina more than 50 years ago he dreamed of being sent to Japan as a missionary.    But his superiors had other plans for him after he was ordained a priest in 1968.
    After a low-key reception at the airport Ė the official welcome will be on Monday Ė he immediately went to the Vatican embassy to address the bishops.
MESSAGES FOR CHINA, HONG KONG
    En route to Japan, the papal plane flew over Chinese, Hong Kong and Taiwanese airspace and he sent messages to their respective leaders as part of customary diplomatic protocol.
    The message to Carrie Lam, the embattled chief executive of Hong Kong, invoked ďwell being and peace.Ē    Francis made no mention of the months of the pro-democracy demonstrations in the Chinese-ruled special administrative region.
    The message to Chinese President Xi Jinping was similar.    It was the first time that Francis has flown over Chinese airspace since last yearís landmark accord between Beijing and the Vatican over the appointment of bishops.
    He also sent a message to Taiwan, which has diplomatic relations with the Vatican but which Beijing regards as a renegade province.
    Another goal of his visit to Japan is to encourage the Catholic community in Japan, where just about 1% of the population identifies as Christian, about half of them Catholic.
    He will say two Masses, one in Nagasaki and one in Tokyo, as well as meeting Japanese officials and Emperor Naruhito.
(Writing by Philip Pullella and Elaine Lies; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, Ritsuko Ando and Frances Kerry)

11/24/2019 Pope urges abolition of nuclear weapons at Nagasaki ground zero by Philip Pullella and Elaine Lies
Wellwishers wait in the rain as Pope Francis arrives at the Atomic Bomb
Hypocenter Park in Nagasaki, Japan, November 24, 2019. REUTERS/Issei Kato
    NAGASAKI, Japan (Reuters) Ė Pope Francis, speaking in one of only two cities hit by atomic bombs in history, appealed on Sunday for the abolition of nuclear weapons, saying their mere possession was perverse and indefensible.
    He restated his support for a 2017 treaty to ban nuclear weapons agreed by nearly two-thirds of U.N. members, but opposed by big nuclear powers who say it could undermine nuclear deterrence, which they credit with averting conventional war.
    ďThe possession of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction is not the answer (to longings for peace),Ē Francis said, after having closed his eyes in prayer and lighting a candle in memory of the victims.
    ďOur world is marked by a perverse dichotomy that tries to defend and ensure stability and peace through a false sense of security sustained by a mentality of fear and mistrust,Ē he said in a somber voice, amid driving rain and strong wind.
    ďPeace and international stability are incompatible with attempts to build upon the fear of mutual destruction or the threat of total annihilation
    Francis, who was speaking at Nagasakiís Atomic Bomb Hypocenter Park, ground zero of the bomb the United States dropped on Aug. 9, 1945, instantly killing 27,000 people, also decried what he called a dismantling of non-proliferation pacts.
    Nagasaki was the second city hit by an atomic bomb during World War Two.    Later on Sunday, the pope was due to visit Hiroshima, site of the first blast, which instantly killed about 78,000 people.
    About 400,000 more eventually died of radiation illness and injuries caused by the bombs dropped by the United States in an effort to end the war.
    ďHere, in this city, which witnessed the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences of a nuclear attack, our attempts to speak out against the arms race will never be enough,Ē Francis said in his emotional appeal.
    Resources spent on the ďarms raceĒ should be used for development and protection of the environment, instead.
    ďIn a world where millions of children and families live in inhumane conditions, the money squandered and the fortunes made through the manufacture, upgrading, maintenance and sale of ever more destructive weapons, are an affront crying out to heaven,Ē he said.
    Last August, the United States pulled out of one landmark strategic arms accord, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), citing violations by Russia that Moscow denies.
    Nuclear experts said it also appeared doubtful that agreement on a full-fledged replacement for the New START nuclear arms control treaty between Russia and the United States will be in place before it expires in February 2021.
COLLECTIVE MEMORY
    The bombing is seared in the collective memory of the people of the green and hilly harbor city of Nagasaki and has been passed on through the generations.
    ďWe canít have any more atomic bombings.    Itíd be great if that message would get across to the world.    Iíd like it if nuclear weapons were eliminated and there wasnít any more war,Ē said Chizuko Hisamatsu, 66, a housewife.    ďI think I may cry
    The pope delivered his appeal standing near a large print of a famous photograph taken by an American soldier shortly after the blast, showing a Japanese boy taking his dead younger brother to be cremated.
    After his address, Francis spoke at a monument to faithful martyred during the 250 years in which Christianity was banned in Japan, forcing believers to go underground or face death.
    ďHidden ChristiansĒ blended Christianity with Buddhism and native Shinto beliefs to survive, and Francis may meet several members of the aging, dwindling population later on.
    Jesuits brought Christianity to Japan in 1549, but it was banned in 1614.    Missionaries were expelled and the faithful were forced to choose between martyrdom or hiding their religion.    The ban was lifted in 1873.
(Writing by Elaine Lies; Editing by Frances Kerry and Clarence Fernandez)

11/25/2019 Pope voices concern over future energy as he comforts victims of Fukushima disaster by Philip Pullella and Elaine Lies
Pope Francis meets Japanís Emperor Naruhito at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Japan,
November 25, 2019. Vatican Media/¨Handout via REUTERS
    TOKYO (Reuters) Ė Pope Francis expressed concern about future energy sources as he comforted victims of the 2011 Fukushima
nuclear reactor disaster on Monday, noting a call by Japanís Catholic bishops to abolish nuclear power outright.
    Around 18,000 people died or were classified as missing after the so-called Triple Disaster, when a massive earthquake set off a tsunami Ė in some places 30 meters high Ė destroying a wide swath of Japanís northeastern coast and triggering a nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant.
    Radiation from the worldís worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl forced hundreds of thousands to flee the area and thousands will never return.
    ďImportant decisions will have to be made about the use of natural resources, and future energy sources in particular,Ē the pope said in an address to survivors in downtown Tokyo.
    ďUntil social bonds in local communities are re-established, and people can once more enjoy safe and stable lives, the Fukushima accident will not be fully resolved,Ē Francis said.
    ďThis involves, as my brother bishops in Japan have emphasized, concern about the continuing use of nuclear power; for this reason, they have called for the abolition of nuclear power plants,Ē he said.
    In a statement released following the Fukushima disaster, Japanís Catholic Bishops Conference said the cessation of all nuclear power generation in the country was ďimperativeĒ given the country was disaster prone.
    Resource-poor Japan has long pushed nuclear power as a solution despite being one of the worldís most earthquake-prone nations.    All nuclear power plants were shut after 2011 but several have since been re-opened.
    Francis listened intently as Toshiko Kato, the head of a Catholic kindergarten in Miyako City, told him: ďAlong with the rest of the town, my home was swept away by the tsunami
    Several Japanese Catholic officials at the meeting said Francis had repeatedly expressed a desire to go to see the disaster zone first-hand, but scheduling would not permit the trip so they brought some survivors to Tokyo to meet the pontiff.
    Teenager Matsuki Kamoshita, who was eight years old at the time of the accident, said radiation was still being emitted and demanded the truth from adults about the long-term effects of radiation.
    ďIt will take many times longer than my lifetime to restore the contaminated land and forests.    So, for us who live there, adults have a responsibility to explain without concealing anything about radioactive contamination, exposure, and possible damage in the future.     I donít want them to die before us, having lied or not admitting the truth,Ē he said.
    Despite the sombre nature of the meeting, held in a convention center in downtown Tokyo, a chamber orchestra played a tango in honor of the Argentinian-born pope to greet him as he walked in and he later thanked them for it.
    Francis, who is making the first trip by a pontiff to Japan since 1981, used visits over the weekend to the only cities ever hit by atomic bombs Ė Hiroshima and Nagasaki Ė to underscore his campaign to abolish nuclear weapons.    He reiterated his belief that their possession is indefensibly perverse and immoral and their use a crime against mankind and nature.
    After meeting with the Fukushima survivors, Francis met with Emperor Naruhito.    He is also scheduled to talk with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe later in the day.
(This story rephrases second paragraph to clarify sequence of disaster)
(Reporting By Philip Pullella and Elaine Lies; editing by Jane Wardell)

11/25/2019 Two priests in Argentina sentenced to more than 40 years in sex abuse case
Italian catholic priest Nicola Corradi is escorted by officers to a courtroom before the hearing of his verdict in a case in
which he is accused of sexual abuse, in Mendoza, Argentina November 25, 2019. REUTERS/Maximiliano Rios NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.
    BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) Ė An Argentine court on Monday convicted two Roman Catholic priests and the former gardener of a church-run school for deaf students in the province of Mendoza on 28 counts of sexual abuse and corruption of minors.
    Priests Nicola Corradi and Horacio Corbacho were sentenced to 42 and 45 years in prison, respectively, while the school employee, Armando Gomez, got 18 years.    The sentencings by Judges Carlos Diaz, Mauricio Juan and Anibal Crivelli of the Collegiate Criminal Court No. 2 were live streamed in Argentina.
    The sentences cannot be appealed.    The accusations against the three had been made by more than 20 alumni of Mendozaís Antonio Provolo Institute for the deaf.
    Monday marked three years since the first complaints in the case were announced.
    Earlier this month an Argentine prosecutor requested the arrest of a Roman Catholic bishop after officials said he ignored repeated calls and emails relating to an investigation of sex abuse allegations against him.
    The bishop, Gustavo Zanchetta, had been living in Vatican City, where he previously held a position in a church financial department, according to the prosecutorís office.
(Reporting by Marina Lammertyn, writing by Hugh Bronstein)

11/26/2019 Turning from nuclear message, Pope urges youth to fight for the earth by Elaine Lies and Philip Pullella
Pope Francis receives a flower after giving a speech at Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan November 26, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/Pool
    TOKYO (Reuters) Ė Pope Francis wrapped up a four-day trip to Japan on Tuesday by turning from the anti-nuclear message that was the backbone of his visit to other key campaigns of his, urging students to defend the earth and show greater compassion.
    Nuclear disarmament has been a key theme of the popeís trip to Japan, a country not only haunted by the memory of the two attacks that ended World War Two but also alarmed by the nuclear program and missile tests of nearby North Korea.
    But on Tuesday he turned to another message, telling students gathered at Sophia University, one of a handful of Catholic universities in Japan, that technology is worthless unless it is used to bring about a more humane and simpler society.     ďFor all the efficiency and order that mark Japanese society, I have sensed a yearning, too, for something greater: a profound desire to create an ever more humane, compassionate and merciful society,Ē he said in his last event before departing for Rome.
    Noting that Asian cultures are known for their love of nature, he urged them to fight for the future of the earth, echoing the major encyclical he issued in 2015 making environmental protection a moral imperative.
    Francis, in the first visit to Japan by a pope for 38 years, also sought to address a growing sense of isolation in Japan despite its wealth.
    Bullying remains pervasive in Japanese schools, as a group of young people described to Francis on Monday, and there is a growing number of people known as ďhikikomori,Ē who refuse to leave the safety of their houses, sometimes for years.
    ďMore and more we see that a person, a community or even a whole society can be highly developed on the outside, but have an interior life that is impoverished and under-developed, lacking real life and vitality,Ē he said in remarks on Monday at St. Maryís Cathedral in Tokyo.
    Japanís suicide rate, while improved, still remains high, and there has recently been an alarming jump in teen suicides.
    Combating this ďspiritual povertyĒ was something everyone was called to, Francis said.
    ďIt means recognizing that the most important thing is not what I have or can acquire, but with whom I can share it
    He also urged Japan accept more than the handful of refugees it does every year despite its falling, aging population.
    ďI ask you to extend the hand of friendship to those who come here, often after great sufferings, seeking refuge in your country,Ē he said.
    During his four days in Japan, Francis met with survivors of the atomic bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima as well as those of the March 11, 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, embracing a teenager forced to flee his home due to radiation.
    He also said two Masses and met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Emperor Naruhito, to whom he described the deep impression made on him as a nine-year-old boy in Argentina by his parentsí tears at news of the Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombings.
(Reporting by Elaine Lies and Philip Pullella. Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

11/26/2019 Pope says investigation of London building buy shows controls working by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis speaks during a news conference onboard the papal plane on his
flight back from a trip to Thailand and Japan, November 26, 2019. REUTERS/Remo Casilli/Pool
    ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (Reuters) Ė Pope Francis acknowledged on Tuesday that there had been suspected corruption in the Vatican related to the purchase of a building in London but its discovery showed that new internal financial controls were working.
    Speaking to reporters aboard the plane returning from a trip to Thailand and Japan, he sought to assure faithful who contribute to the Church that the Vatican was doing everything possible to guarantee that their money would be used properly.
    ďItís the first time that in the Vatican the lid was taken off the pot from inside, not from the outside,Ē Francis said in response to a question.
    He was referring to the fact that in the past, most Vatican financial scandals were unearthed by outsiders.
    ďMany times before it was uncovered from the outside when others told us Ďlookí and there was so much shame,Ē he said, bringing his hand to his forehead like someone with a headache.
    The popeís comments were his first in public since Vatican police raided its regulator, the Financial Information Authority (AIF), and the Secretariat of State, while investigating an investment the Secretariat had made in London real estate.
    Five Vatican employees were suspended after the Oct. 1 raids, including AIF director Tommaso di Ruzza.
    Domenico Giani, Vatican security chief and the popeís bodyguard, resigned later over the leak of a document related to the investigation, and AIF president Rene Bruelhartís five-year term was not renewed when it expired last week. [L8N27Y2SK]
    The pope said the Vaticanís acting auditor general told him earlier this year that he suspected impropriety in the deal.    Francis said he told auditor to file a complaint with the Vaticanís chief magistrate.
    ďAnd I was happy about this because it shows that the Vatican administration now has the resources to clear up the ugly things that happen inside,Ē Francis said.
    ďEven if there is the presumption of innocence, the money was not administered well, and there was (suspected) corruption,Ē he said.
    He said interrogations of the five suspended employees would start soon.
    ďItís a ugly thing that this happens inside the Vatican but it was brought to light by internal mechanisms that are starting to work,Ē he said, referring to financial controls introduced or strengthened since his election in 2013.
    He said the fact that the case had been uncovered internally and was being dealt with should assure faithful who may be wary about donating to a yearly collection for the popeís use known as ďPeterís PenceĒ
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Giles Elgood)

11/27/2019 47 Nigerian men plead not guilty to homosexuality charge by Alexis Akwagyiram and Libby George
A general view of the Federal High Court in Lagos, Nigeria, November 27, 2019. REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja
    LAGOS (Reuters) Ė Forty-seven Nigerian men pleaded innocent on Wednesday to a charge of public displays of affection with members of the same sex, an offence that carries a 10-year jail term.
    Homosexuality is outlawed in many socially conservative African societies where some religious groups brand it a corrupting Western import.
    The Nigerian men, who appeared at a court in the commercial capital Lagos, were among 57 arrested in a police raid on a hotel in the impoverished Egbeda district of the city in 2018.
    Police said they were being ďinitiatedĒ into a gay club, but the accused said they were attending a birthday party.
    The trial is a test case for a law banning gay marriage, punishable by a 14-year jail term, and same-sex ďamorous relationships.Ē    It caused international outcry when it came into force under former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014.
    Nobody has yet been convicted under the law, prosecution and defense lawyers in the case told Reuters.    But Human Rights Watch and other activists say it has been used to extort bribes from suspects in exchange for not pursuing charges.
    ďPolice officers will stop you and then get you arrested, extort money from you and begin to call you names,Ē Smart Joel, one of the defendants, told Reuters before the hearing.    ďI just wish the case will be quickly dismissed as soon as possible,Ē added Joel, 25, who runs a laundry and dry cleaning business.
    Spokesmen for Nigeriaís police and ministry of justice did not respond to text messages and phone calls seeking comment on the extortion allegations.
    Activists working to protect rights of sexual minorities in Nigeria said they were tired of harassment.
    ďThe vagueness of the law makes it impossible to get a conviction,Ē Xeenarh Mohammed, executive director of the Lagos-based Initiative for Equal Rights (TIERS), told Reuters.    ďWhat does Ďamorous showing of same-sex affectioní mean?Ē she added.
    The case was adjourned until Dec. 11.
    The judge granted each of the men bail, provided they can post 500,000 naira ($1,634.52) and provide a surety who is either a civil servant or resides in Lagos state and has a ďreasonableĒ income.
    Prosecutors told Reuters police would track down the other 10 men out of the 57 originally arrested who failed to appear in court.
(Reporting by Libby George in Lagos and Alexis Akwagyiram in London; Additional reporting by Camillus Eboh in Abuja; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

11/27/2019 Pope names new financial regulator chief following police raid by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis leads the weekly general audience at the Vatican, November 27, 2019. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Ė Pope Francis named a respected senior Bank of Italy official on Wednesday to head the Vaticanís financial regulator, following unprecedented police raids on the organization as part of an investigation into the purchase of luxury London real estate.
    Carmelo Barbagallo, 63, former head of supervision at Italyís central bank, succeeds Swiss lawyer Rene Bruelhart as head of the Vaticanís Financial Information Authority (AIF).
    Bruelhart left last week after five years in the post when the pope did not renew his mandate.
    Vatican police entered the offices of the AIF and of the Secretariat of State Ė the administrative heart of the Catholic Church Ė on Oct. 1, as part of their investigation of an investment the Secretariat had made in London real estate.
    The officers, operating under a search warrant secured by the Vaticanís own prosecutor, seized documents, computers and cellphones during the raids.
    The head of the Secretariat, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said last month the property deal had not been transparent and promised to shed light on it.    The AIF board has said it did nothing wrong when it looked over the property investment.
    The raids prompted concerns in the international financial community about the AIFís ability to keep confidential documents secure.
    The Toronto-based Egmont Group of financial intelligence units, an informal organization with about 165 members, then suspended the AIF from using its secure communications network.
    Two of the five members of the AIF board resigned to protest against what they saw as a weakening of the AIFís independence as a result of the raids.
    Bruelhart, who had presided over the board, is a former vice-chair of Egmont.    Egmontís acceptance of the Vatican six years ago was seen as a major step forward in cleaning up the Vaticanís negative image following years of scandals.
    The popeís choice of Barbagallo, a 40-year Bank of Italy veteran, appeared to be an attempt to assuage fears of instability in the AIF.
    ďI intend to reassure the international system of financial information that all cooperation will be given in full respect of the best international standards,Ē Barbagallo said in a statement.
    Pope Francis said at the weekend the Vatican was looking forward to a scheduled evaluation next year by Moneyval, a monitoring body of the Council of Europe which has recently given the Vaticanís financial reforms mostly positive reviews.
    Five Vatican employees remain suspended, including AIF director Tommaso di Ruzza.    Domenico Giani, Vatican security chief and the popeís bodyguard, resigned later over the leak of a document related to the investigation.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Crispian Balmer and Gareth Jones)

11/28/2019 St. Louis County: Missouri allows anti-gay discrimination
    CLAYTON, Mo. Ė Lawyers representing St. Louis County are challenging a $20 million verdict in a gay officerís lawsuit, claiming it is legal to discriminate against gay people in Missouri.    Police Sgt. Keith Wildhaber alleged in his lawsuit that he had been passed over for a promotion 23 times and was told to ďtone down your gayness.Ē    The verdict was announced in October.    The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the countyís new legal team, the Lewis Rice law firm, is asking a judge to amend the verdict or order a new trial.

11/29/2019 Pope taps former Bank of Italy exec to head watchdog agency
    VATICAN CITY Ė Pope Francis has tapped a Bank of Italy executive to take over the Vaticanís financial intelligence unit after a scandal that resulted in the Vatican being suspended from an international anti-money-laundering network.    Carmelo Barbagallo has been head of the Italian central bankís vigilance unit since 2014 and, until earlier this year, a consultant.    He replaces Rene Bruelhart, who was removed after an Oct. 1 raid on AIF headquarters as part of a corruption investigation by Vatican prosecutors into a real estate venture.

11/30/2019 A relic of Jesusí manger, Christmas gift from pope to Bethlehem
The Custodian of the Holy Land, Father Francesco Patton holds a wooden relic reputed to be part of Jesus's manger, upon arrival
at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank November 30, 2019. REUTERS/Mussa Qawasma
    BETHLEHEM, West Bank (Reuters) Ė A fragment of wood reputed to be from the manger where Jesus was laid after his humble birth arrived in Bethlehem as a gift from the Vatican on Saturday, kicking off Christmas season at the town revered as the place of Jesusí birth.
    The wood piece, just a few centimeters (inches) long, was once kept in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.    It was handed over earlier this week to the custodian of the Bethlehem church, who said it brought ďgreat honor to believers and pilgrims in the area
    The provenance of ancient relics is often questionable.    Still, they are revered by the Christian faithful, among them the many pilgrims who squeeze through a narrow sandstone entrance in the Church of the Nativity to visit the birth grotto that is its centerpiece.
    According to the Custos of the Holy Land for the Catholic church, Francesco Patton, the relic dates back more than 2,000 years and was sent to the Vatican in the 7th century.
    Encased in a silver-colored ornamental table-top stand, it was unveiled to the public on Friday at the Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center.    Marching bands greeted the relic as it arrived in Bethlehem on Saturday.    It was placed in Saint Catherineís Church, at the Church of the Nativity compound in Manger Square.
    ďWe are proud that part of the manger is back in Bethlehem because we feel that the soul of God is with us more than before,Ē said Chris Giacaman, 53, a Bethlehem homemaker, as she stood outside the church.
    Others were a little let down.
    ďItís a small piece, we thought it would be a bigger piece,Ē said Sandy Shahin Hijazeen, 32.    ďWhen we heard that the manger is coming back we thought it would be the whole manger, but then we saw it.Ē
    After night fell, the traditional lighting of the Christmas tree ceremony was underway as hundreds gathered at Manger Square to celebrate the start of holiday season.
    With a bright red star gleaming at its top, the giant tree was illuminated by hundreds of golden-white bulbs as fireworks lit up the night sky.
    Bethlehem, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, is usually particularly busy ahead of Christmas on Dec. 25, with tourists and pilgrims flocking to the Biblical city.    Christians make up around 1% of the Palestinian population in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.
(Reporting by Mohammad Abu Ganeyeh; Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Christina Fincher)

12/1/2019 As Christmas season starts, Pope defends nativity scenes in public places by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis arrives for a visit at the nativity scene of Greccio, where the first nativity scene was assembled
by St. Francis of Assisi in 1223, in the small Italian town of Greccio, Italy, December 1, 2019. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
    ROME (Reuters) Ė Pope Francis on Sunday defended the display of nativity scenes in town squares and other public places, which has become an annual contentious issue at Christmas time in countries such as the United States and France.
    The pope traveled to the town of Greccio, east of Rome, to visit the spot where St. Francis of Assisi started the tradition by setting up the first nativity scene in 1223.
    There, he signed a papal document known as an Apostolic Letter and titled ďAdmirabile Signum,Ē (Wonderful Sign) on the meaning and importance of the nativity scene.
    ďWith this Letter, I wish to encourage the beautiful family tradition of preparing the nativity scene in the days before Christmas, but also the custom of setting it up in the workplace, in schools, hospitals, prisons and town squares,Ē the document says.
    Nativity scenes depict the birth of Jesus as Christians believe it took place Ė the baby and his mother posed in a humble stable setting with animals and shepherds, and kings bearing gifts who arrived days later.
    The construction of such scenes in public squares or on government property is contested regularly by atheist, free speech or secularist groups.
    In the United States, groups opposed to nativity scenes in public places say they violate the first amendment of the Constitution, which prohibits the establishment of a state religion.
    In 1984, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of allowing nativity scenes in public places, saying that they were not an effort to establish or support a particular religion and also possessed what the court called ďlegitimate secular purposes
    Still, even after that ruling, American groups have regularly challenged their use or have demanded equal space on public property to promote their non-religious views.
    In 2014 in France, a court order to dismantle a nativity scene in a town hall because it violated the countryís secular tradition prompted a backlash, which won support from right-wing politicians.
    In other parts of the document, the pope said the purpose of the nativity scene was to teach ďthat we cannot let ourselves be fooled by wealth and fleeting promises of happinessĒ and that they were a reminder to help those less fortunate.
    ďFrom the manger, Jesus proclaims, in a meek yet powerful way, the need for sharing with the poor as the path to a more human and fraternal world in which no one is excluded or marginalized,Ē he wrote.
    Earlier, Francis urged people to resist the excesses of consumerism in the period leading up to Christmas, calling it a virus that attacks faith and offends the needy.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Frances Kerry)

12/1/2019 Between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, pope condemns Ďvirusí of consumerism
FILE PHOTO: People walk through the King of Prussia mall, one of the largest retail malls in the U.S., on Black Friday, a day that
kicks off the holiday shopping season, in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, U.S., November 29, 2019. REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger/File Photo
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Ė Pope Francis on Sunday urged people to resist the excesses of consumerism in the period leading up to Christmas, calling it a virus that attacks faith and offends the needy.
    ďWhen you live for things, things are never enough, greed grows, other people become obstacles in a race,Ē he said in the homily of a Mass, decrying that in many places in the world today ďconsumerism reigns supreme
    Francis spoke between the two biggest shopping days of the year in rich countries such as the United States Ė Black Friday and Cyber Monday.    Online sales in the United States reached $7.4 billion on Friday, up nearly 20% from last year.
    The pope said ďconsumerism is a virus that corrodes faithĒ because it makes people forget ďthe brother who knocks at your door
    He urged people to ďresist the blinding lights of consumerism, which will shine everywhere this monthĒ leading up to Christmas.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Mark Potter)
[Well this is hilarious, the Pope is condemning consumerism as a big sin which has existed since Nimrod and the Tower Of Babel, but he has never openly announced the sins of the LBGTQ: Lesbianism, Bi-Sexual, Gay-Homosexuality, Transgender, Queer which to me he approves which has been a sin since Sodom and Gomorrah.].

12/1/2019 Pope condemns Iraqís Ďharshí crackdown on protesters
A demonstrator throws tear gas towards Iraqi security forces during the ongoing anti-government
protests in Baghdad, Iraq November 30, 2019. REUTERS/Khalid al-Mousily
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Ė Pope Francis on Sunday criticized Iraqís crackdown on anti-government protests, which have led to the deaths of more than 400 people since they erupted in Baghdad and other cities in October.
    ďI am following the situation in Iraq with concern.    It is with pain that I have learned of the protest demonstrations of the past days that were met with a harsh response, causing tens of victims,Ē Francis said at his weekly Sunday blessing and message.
    Iraqi security forces have used live ammunition, tear gas and stun grenades against protesters and last week saw some of the bloodiest incidents since the demonstrations began, with scores of people killed particularly in the southern cities of Nassiriya and Najaf.
    Francis, who has said he wants to visit Iraq next year, told tens of thousands of people in St. Peterís Square that he was praying for the dead and wounded and invoking God for peace in the country.
    The unrest, which has killed mostly demonstrators, amounts to the biggest challenge for Iraq since Islamic State insurgents seized vast swathes of Iraqi and Syrian territory in 2014.
    It pits mostly young, disaffected Shiíite protesters against a Shiíite-dominated government backed by Iran and accused of squandering Iraqís oil wealth while infrastructure and living standards deteriorate.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Susan Fenton)

12/3/2019 READERSí FORUM - Photographerís refusal of same-sex weddings
    In defending her right to refuse to photograph gay couples during wedding celebrations (Nov. 23), Chelsey Nelson states, ďI strongly believe that photographers should be free to align their creative talent with their beliefs.    The government shouldnít force artists to express views they disagree with.Ē    As an artist, Ms. Nelson should, of course, never be forced to express views not in keeping with her own beliefs.    However, when she advertises her artistic talents as a professional offering to create a product for potential customers, she is obligated not to discriminate against them.    In the not-so-distant past, Realtors were allowed to discriminate freely against people of color, and businesses were allowed to discriminate freely in hiring (or firing) women.    More recently, such practices have been markedly reduced because both federal and local laws have allowed them to be challenged and overturned.    As a result, Ms. Nelson herself benefits from legal changes such as a womanís right to establish a line of credit in her own name.
    In creating art, Ms. Nelson can ó and must ó use her talent and imagination in any way she wishes.    In practicing her art as a service for which she is asking to be paid, she needs to rethink both her objectives and her logic.    In doing so, she could consider viewing photographs or reading accounts of same-sex weddings ó or talking with a participant in such a wedding.    She could consider the fact that something equally ďsignificantĒ might be happening between the individuals who are exchanging vows in those ceremonies.
Chelsey Nelson ALLIANCE DEFENDING FREEDOM
[Good job Chelsey you are brave and more honest than the Pope about calling out the sins of the world in God's eyes.].

12/4/2019 U.S. bishop accused of sex abuse cover-up steps down
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis leads the weekly general audience at the Vatican, November 27, 2019. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane/File Photo
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Ė A New York state bishop who had been at the center of a sex abuse crisis stepped down on Wednesday after learning the conclusions of a Vatican investigation, becoming the latest high-ranking prelate toppled by the decades-old scandal.
    Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo, New York, and named Albany Bishop Edward Scharfenberger, to administer the Buffalo diocese until a new bishop can be appointed.
    Malone, 73, who has been under pressure to resign for years, stepped down two years before bishopsí normal retirement date.
    A long line of priests and bishops have been toppled by the Roman Catholic Churchís abuse crisis, which exploded onto the international stage in 2002 when the Boston Globe newspaper revealed priests had sexually abused children for decades and church leaders had covered it up.
    Patterns of widespread abuse of children have since been reported across the United States and Europe, in Chile and Australia, undercutting the 1.2 billion-member Churchís moral authority and taking a toll on its membership and coffers.
    Malone, who met with the pope last month, has been accused of covering up or mishandling the abuse of dozens of minors by priests in his diocese in western New York.
    Last year, a whistleblower in his office released documents to WKBW, a New York news channel, indicating that Malone withheld scores of priestsí names from a list his office published of clergy accused of sexual abuse.     He has denied the accusations.
    His diocese is facing more than 200 child sex abuse lawsuits, according to the New York Times.    A new state law this year temporarily waived statutes of limitations for people who were victims of sexual abuse as children, allowing hundreds of people to sue over decades-old crimes.
    Malone acknowledged ďtremendous turmoilĒ in his diocese in a statement on Wednesday.
    He said he had made mistakes in not addressing what he described as personnel issues more swiftly.    He said the conclusions of the Vatican investigation, which have not been published, were a factor in his decision but that he was resigning ďfreely and voluntarily
    In September, a poll by the local newspaper, The Buffalo News, showed that about 85% of Roman Catholics or lapsed Roman Catholics in the area said he should resign.
    Scharfenberger said he supported Maloneís resignation.
    ďI think he made a prudent decision to withdraw as he did at the time that he did,Ē he said in a news conference.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Scott Malone)

12/5/2019 Buffalo bishop steps down amid sexual abuse scandal by Steve Orr, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle USA TODAY NETWORK
    ROCHESTER, N.Y. Ė The diocese of Buffalo has now felt the full effect of the Catholic Churchís roiling child sexual abuse scandal.
    Buffalo Bishop Richard J. Malone, who was beset by public criticism, internal leaks and outside investigations, is leaving his post early, the Vatican announced early Wednesday.
    Maloneís departure, coming just three weeks after a meeting with Pope Francis, was widely seen as a rebuke of his handling of abuse allegations.    He becomes the the sixth American bishop or cardinal in four years to leave office under the cloud of the churchís ongoing child sexual abuse scandal.
Malone defended response
    Malone, 73, had led New Yorkís fourth-largest Catholic diocese since August 2012. Albany Bishop Edward Scharfenberger will temporarily fill his role, first reported Monday by the Buffalo News.
    In a statement released by the diocese Wednesday morning, Malone defended his response to abuse allegations but said he had asked Pope Francis to accept his resignation.
    ďDespite the measurable progress we have achieved together, I have concluded ... that the spiritual welfare of the people of the Diocese of Buffalo will be better served by a new bishop who perhaps is better able to bring about the reconciliation, healing and renewal that is so needed,Ē Maloneís statement said.
    SNAP, an established advocacy group that supports survivors of child sexual abuse, said it welcomed Maloneís departure Ė though executive director Zach Hiner said it would have sent a strong signal to other bishops if Francis had fired Malone rather than allow him to resign.
    ďIt feels like the situation in Buffalo has sucked a lot of air out of the room, but itís clear that more scrutiny is needed in other dioceses too,Ē he said.
Fourth bishop ousted
    Malone is the fourth U.S. bishop since Francis became pope in 2013 to resign or seek early retirement because of their management of clergy credibly accused of sexual abuse, according to the tracking website BishopAccountability.org.
    2015 saw the resignations of Archbishop John C. Nienstedt and Auxiliary Bishop Lee A. Piche of the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese, and Bishop Robert W. Finn of the Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri, diocese.
    In September of that year, Finn was found guilty on a misdemeanor charge for failing to report a priest who later pleaded guilty to federal child pornography charges.    Mishandling of allegations against a former Minnesota priest led prosecutors to file criminal charges against that archdiocese, and Nienstedt also was accused of sexual misconduct.
    In addition, two American cardinals have lost their posts due to the child sex abuse scandal: In October 2018, Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, a former bishop of Pittsburgh who had received criticism in a Pennsylvania grand jury report over his handling of abuse cases over the course of nearly two decades, and in July 2019 Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, former archbishop of Washington, D.C. and auxiliary bishop in New Yorkís archdiocese who resigned after being accused of the sexual assault of a teenager in the 1970s.
1,100 claims and counting in New York
    This year New York state lawmakers adopted the Child Victims Act, which enables victims of child sexual abuse to file suit against their alleged tormentors and church leaders who shielded them.
    Lawsuits for most claims must be filed in a one-year window that opened Aug. 14.    Since then, about 1,100 Child Victims Act legal claims have been brought statewide.    More than 80 percent of them target Catholic dioceses and religious orders; about 250 people have filed CVA claims against the Buffalo diocese.
    In 2018, Malone released a list purporting to show all the diocesan priests there who had been credibly accused of child sexual abuse.    But a diocesan whistleblower made public internal records that showed there were many more accused priests who had been kept off the public list.    The disclosure triggered an FBI investigation that is ongoing.
    ďIt feels like the situation in Buffalo has sucked a lot of air out of the room...Ē Zach Hiner, SNAP executive director
Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo, speaking during a news conference last year
in Cheektowaga, N.Y., is leaving his post. FILE PHOTO BY FRANK FRANKLIN II/AP

12/5/2019 UK mulling gender-neutral passports by Adrianna Rodriguez, USA TODAY
    A landmark case in the United Kingdom will determine the future of genderneutral passports in the country.
    The U.K. government is being taken to court after the Home Office refused to issue passports that have a genderneutral, or ďX,Ē option.
    Non-gendered activist Christie Elan-Cane is appealing an original legal challenge that was rejected by Londonís High Court last year. The hearing started Tuesday.
    Elan-Cane argues that the governmentís refusal to issue gender-neutral passports is in breach of the European Convention for Human Rights, according to court documents, which ďprotects the privacy rights of transsexual peopleĒ and criminalizes ďthe disclosure of information relating to their gender history
[Oh give it to them that way we know that X means idiot since there is no such thing as a genderneutral in nature.].

12/7/2019 Pope meets with Maltese PM hit by scandal over reporterís murder
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis speaks during the weekly general audience in
Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican, December 4, 2019. REUTERS/Remo Casilli/File Photo
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Ė Pope Francis on Saturday gave a private audience to outgoing Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, ignoring an appeal to cancel the meeting with a premier engulfed in crisis over a probe into a murdered journalist.
    Francis met Muscat and his wife and family on Saturday morning, the Vatican said, in an audience that was far more low-key than those normally held with heads of government.
    Unusually, no journalists were allowed to cover the event, which a Vatican spokesman said had been scheduled months ago.
    Muscat said on Sunday he would resign as leader of the ruling Labour Party on Jan. 12 and in ďthe days afterĒ will quit as prime minister. Opponents said he should go immediately.
    A group of 22 Maltese academics sent a letter to the Vatican dated Nov. 27, before Muscat announced he would resign, urging the pope to cancel the meeting to avoid what they called a ďpropaganda exerciseĒ in favor of Muscat.
    The political stability of the tiny Mediterranean island has been rocked in recent weeks by the fallout from the 2017 murder of anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was blown up by a car bomb.
    Muscat is not directly implicated in the investigation, which has made rapid progress in the last few weeks, but the self-confessed middleman in the murder plan has linked people in the premierís inner circle to attempts at a cover-up.
(Reporting By Gavin Jones; Editing by Ros Russell)

12/8/2019 Pope appoints Philippine cardinal to global Vatican post
FILE PHOTO: Archbishop of Manila Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle celebrate mass at a solidarity campaign against
human rights abuses, in Quezon City, Philippines, February 16, 2019. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez/File Photo
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Ė Pope Francis named Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle on Sunday to a major global Vatican post in a move likely to increase the Filipinoís chances of one day being elected pope himself.
    The Vatican said the 62-year-old archbishop of Manila will move to Rome to become head of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, which oversees the Roman Catholic Churchís work in many developing countries.
    Tagle, who is popular at home and around the Catholic world, has been mentioned in the past as a potential candidate for the papacy, including in the conclave that elected Francis in 2013.
    By moving him to the Vatican, Francis gives Tagle the chance to gain experience at the heart of the Churchís central administration, which would round out his qualifications as a future candidate for the papacy.
    Tagle, a progressive who sees eye-to-eye with Francis on social issues from poverty to immigration, has already had decades of pastoral experience as a priest, as bishop of the Philippine city of Imus and later as archbishop of Manila.
    About 80 percent of Filipinos are Catholic, the highest proportion in Asia.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

12/10/2019 ACLU calls ultrasound requirement unethical by Chris Kenning, Louisville Courier Journal USA TODAY NETWORK
    LOUISVILLE, Ky. Ė The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal of a Kentucky law requiring doctors to perform ultrasounds and show and describe fetal images to patients before abortions, as well as play an audible heartbeat of the fetus.
    The justices did not comment in refusing to review an appeals court ruling that upheld the 2017 law after it was struck down as a violation of the constitutional right to free speech.    The refusal leaves the law in place.
    The American Civil Liberties Union challenged the law on behalf of Kentuckyís lone abortion clinic, EMW Womenís Surgical Center in Louisville.    The ACLU argued that the law has no medical basis and that its sole purpose is to shame and coerce a woman who has decided to end her pregnancy.
    ďBy refusing to review the 6th Circuitís ruling, the Supreme Court has rubberstamped extreme political interference in the doctor-patient relationship,Ē said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, senior staff attorney at the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.    ďThis law is not only unconstitutional but, as leading medical experts and ethicists explained, deeply unethical
    The Supreme Court has a 5-4 conservative majority, which could affect abortion cases.    Republican-sponsored measures to limit abortion have been enacted in a number of states.
    Mondayís decision marked a win on the last day in office for Gov. Matt Bevin, an anti-abortion Republican who defended the law after it was struck down by District Judge David Hale.    Bevinís general counsel argued that the law was meant to protect women who might regret abortions or might not fully understand the procedure.
    In April, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law on a 2-1 vote.    Judge John Bush, who was appointed by President Donald Trump, said the law provided ďrelevant information
Opponents of the law argued its sole purpose is to shame and
coerce women who decide to end their pregnancies. DREAMSTIME/TNS.

12/12/2019 Transgender bathroom bill prefiled in legislature - Act says itís about child safety, parental approval by Sarah Ladd, Louisville Courier Journal USA TODAY NETWORK
    A bill prefiled in the Kentucky legislature would keep transgender students from using restrooms that align with their gender identities.
    The proposed bill, prefiled Dec. 5 by state Rep. David Hale, R-Wellington, claims non-transgender students could suffer ďpotential embarrassment, shame and psychological injuryĒ by using the same restroom or changing room as their transgender peers.
    The bill, called the Kentucky Student Privacy Act, says such a situation carries ďa significant potential for disruption of school activities and unsafe conditions
    It would not allow a person who was born male and is transitioning to female to use restrooms designated for girls, and vice versa for students born female and transitioning to male.
    It asks that new sections be added to chapter 158 of the stateís revised statutes, which deals with school conduct.
    Hale could not be reached by phone and did not immediately return an email seeking comment.
    Chris Hartman, the director of the Fairness Campaign, called the proposal ďpolitical panderingĒ to ďan ultraconservative minority,Ē which he said he doesnít think there is appetite for in the legislature.    He also said itís ďdangerous legislationĒ that contributes to depression and suicide rates among transgender people.
    The bill argues itís about child safety and parental approval.
    ďParents have a reasonable expectation that schools will not allow minor children to be viewed in various states of undress by members of the opposite biological sex, nor allow minor children to view members of the opposite sex in various states of undress,Ē the bill says.    Under the bill, if a student brought written consent from a parent or guardian to the school explaining that they identified with a different gender than the one assigned them at birth, the school would need to provide them with ďthe best available accommodation,Ē but that would not include access to a bathroom opposite their birth gender.
    They may get access to a singlestall bathroom, a unisex bathroom or ďcontrolled useĒ of faculty bathrooms, locker rooms and showers, according to the bill.
    Hartman said the provision is just another way to ostracize trans students.
    ďAt the end of the day, what that says is that ĎYou are so different that the only accommodation we are willing to make is to make you use a special restroom, a different restroom,í which once more isolates the transgender youth and makes them additionally vulnerable targets,Ē Hartman said.
    ďSo if I am the only trans kid in school and I can only use the single-stall locking bathroom on the third floor, everybody knows that thatís where Iím gonna go to go to the restroom,Ē he added.    ďAnd, again, itís easy to target someone if thatís what youíre looking for
    School officials would be responsible for keeping transgender students from using facilities that donít align with their biological sex under the bill.    If they failed to do so, a student who encounters a transgender student in their bathroom could take legal action against the school.
    Hartman called this a ďjackpot clauseĒ and said itís ďcompletely inappropriateĒ to give what he sees as incentive for targeting a trans student.
    ďItís gross, itís disgusting, itís dangerous and itís deadly,Ē he said.    ďI wish legislators would mind their own business in the bathroom
    Kentuckyís 2020 legislative session convenes Jan. 7.
Reach breaking news reporter Sarah Ladd at sladd@courier-journal.com. Follow her on Twitter at @ladd_sarah.    Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/ subscribe.

12/13/2019 Woman denied morning-after pill because of pharmacistsí beliefs, now suing for sex discrimination by OAN Newsroom
File Ė A Plan B One-Step emergency contraceptive box is pictured. (REUTERS Photo/Shannon Stapleton)
    A woman in Minnesota is suing two pharmacies for sex discrimination after she claimed she was denied a morning-after pill.    According to the lawsuit, Andrea Anderson said she was first refused the pill at Thrifty White Pharmacy in McGregor.    The 39-year-old mother of five said the pharmacist there told her he couldnít fill the prescription due to his personal beliefs.
    When she tried a CVS that was located about 25 minutes away, she was allegedly told her prescription couldnít be filled there either.     The CVS pharmacist also allegedly attempted to prevent Anderson from attempting to get the pill at a nearby Walgreens by telling her that it didnít have the pill in stock.
File Ė The CVS logo is seen at one of their stores in Manhattan, N.Y. (REUTERS Photo/Andrew Kelly)
    ďI was flabbergasted, I couldnít believe that something like that was happening,Ē she explained.
    Anderson then called Walgreens and was told they did have the pill and could fill her prescription.    CVS said it is reviewing and investigating the allegations made in the complaint.    The company made the following statement regarding the case:
    ďCVS Pharmacy is committed to providing access to emergency contraception, whether it is at the pharmacy counter for patients who have a prescription for it, or in our store aisles where we have sold over-the-counter emergency contraception for several years

12/16/2019 Hallmark reverses position on same-sex couple ads after public outcry by Helen Coster
FILE PHOTO: A rainbow flag is waved during a protest against proposed changes to the constitution that would prevent future
recognition of same-sex marriages, in Bucharest, Romania, September 30, 2018. Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea via REUTERS
    (Reuters) Ė The chief executive officer of Hallmark Cards apologized on Sunday night and said the company would reverse an earlier decision to pull television advertisements featuring same-sex couples from the wedding registry and planning website Zola.
    In a statement, CEO Mike Perry said cable televisionís Hallmark Channel ďwill be reaching out to Zola to reestablish our partnership and reinstate the commercials
    Hallmark Channel faced a public outcry after it pulled the ads last week, under pressure from the conservative group One Million Moms.
    The One Million Moms website said the group had ďpersonally spoken with Crown Family Networks CEO Bill AbbottĒ who confirmed Hallmark pulled the commercial and said the advertisement aired in error.    Crown Media Family Networks is the parent company of Hallmark Channel.
    The decision to pull the ads prompted reactions from thousands of Twitter users as well as Democratic presidential contender Pete Buttigieg, comedian Ellen DeGeneres, California Governor Gavin Newsom and streaming company Netflix .
    On Saturday DeGeneres tweeted to her 79.1 million followers: ďIsnít it almost 2020? @hallmarkchannel, @billabbottHCÖ what are you thinking? Please explain. Weíre all ears
The Netflix U.S. Twitter account tweeted: ďTitles Featuring Lesbians Joyfully Existing And Also Itís Christmas Can We Just Let People Love Who They LoveĒ above the titles and images from the Netflix film ďLet It SnowĒ and sitcom ďMerry Happy Whatever,Ē which feature lesbian characters.
    Newsom tweeted a link to the ad, with the message ďSame-sex marriage is the law of the land.    There is no one way to love and be loved
    Saturday Night Live also weighed in with a skit about a fictitious Hallmark Channel matchmaking show, which ended with comedian Aidy Bryantís character saying: ďThis is Emily Cringle for Hallmark, reminding you to stay straight out there
    The LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD launched a boycott, and the #BoycottHallmarkChannel hashtag was featured in over 16,000 tweets as of Sunday afternoon.
    On Dec. 2, Zola began airing six ads on Hallmark, four of which featured a lesbian couple.    On Dec. 11 Crown Media notified Zola those four ads would no longer be airing, with the explanation that Crown Media is ďnot allowed to accept creatives that are deemed controversial
    Zola then pulled its remaining ads from Hallmark, according to a Zola executive.
    ďThe only difference between the commercials that were flagged and the ones that were approved was that the commercials that did not meet Hallmarkís standards included a lesbian couple kissing,Ē wrote Mike Chi, Zolaís chief marketing officer, in a statement prior to Hallmarkís reversal.
(Reporting by Helen Coster; Editing by Chris Reese)

12/17/2019 Church that called breastfeeding mom Ďimmodestí settles lawsuit by Kayla Daugherty, Livingston Daily USA TODAY NETWORK
    HOWELL, Mich. Ė More than a year after Amy Marchant was confronted by a staff member at The Naz Ė Brighton Nazarene Church Ė and told she was being ďimmodestĒ while breastfeeding her child, the church settled a lawsuit.
    The church issued an apology last year, an apology Marchant claimed was defamatory, invaded her privacy, violated the Breastfeeding Anti-Discrimination Act and committed a breach of contract.    In Marchantís lawsuit, filed in June, the 30-yearold woman accused the church of shaming her for breastfeeding her 1-year-old daughter while watching her 4-year-old twins in the worship area. The incident occurred in June 2018.
    Marchant and her family ďfelt compelled to leave the Church as a result to avoid future embarrassment and shame,Ē according to the lawsuit.
    The case was settled Dec. 2, according to court records.
    Marchant did not say how much she received as part of the settlement but said it was less than $25,000.    The settlement calls for the money to be donated to two breastfeeding organizations, Livingston County Birth Circle and Breastfeeding Center of Ann Arbor.
    The attorneys for the church did not respond to requests for comment.
    After the incident, Marchant met with Pastor Ben Walls and other church staff.
    The church agreed to issue an apology and implement a new breastfeeding policy.
    Marchant alleged the apology she was presented to approve after that meeting was different from the one published in various news outlets.
    In the published apology, the church stated both of Marchantís breasts were exposed and her actions made other parishioners uncomfortable.
    Attorneys for the church wrote in their response to the lawsuit that comments about lust were made only to Marchant, and they insisted Marchant was fully exposed ďbased upon eyewitness accounts
    Marchant denied she was fully exposed and claimed the church ďintentionally published the remarks to third parties with knowledge of the falsity

12/17/2019 Pope abolishes Ďpontifical secrecyí for sex abuse investigations by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis holds the weekly general audience in Paul VI Hall
at the Vatican, December 11, 2019. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Ė Pope Francis on Tuesday announced sweeping changes to the way the Roman Catholic Church deals with cases of sexual abuse of minors, abolishing the rule of ďpontifical secrecyĒ that previously covered them.
    Advocates for the victims of a sex abuse scandal that has rocked the church for nearly two decades applauded the move as being long overdue but said it had to be applied broadly.
    Two documents issued by the pope back practices that have been in place in some countries, particularly the United States, such as reporting suspicion of sex abuse to civil authorities where required by law.
    The documents, which put the practices into universal Church law, also forbid imposing an obligation of silence on those who report sex abuse or allege they have been a victim.
    ďThis is an epochal decision,Ē Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta and the Vaticanís most experienced sex abuse investigator, told Vatican Radio.
    The lifting of ďpontifical secrecyĒ in sex abuse investigations was a key demand by Church leaders, including Scicluna and German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, at a summit on sexual abuse held at the Vatican in February.
    They argued that secrecy in cases of sexual abuse of minors was outdated and some Church officials were hiding behind it instead of cooperating with authorities.
LOWER LEVEL OF CONFIDENTIALITY
    The new rules effectively strip internal Church proceedings, evidence and tribunal decisions of the secrecy protection they previously enjoyed.
    This, victims groups have said, will allow for more transparency and sharing of information with authorities while keeping a lower level of confidentiality similar to civil legal structures.
    Marie Collins, who was abused by a priest in her native Ireland as a girl and resigned in frustration from a papal commission on abuse because of what she saw as Vatican resistance, Tweeted that the changes were ďExcellent news Ö at last a real and positive change
    Anne Barrett-Doyle, co-director of the U.S. based abuse documentation group BishopAccountability.org, said the pope had taken ďan overdue and desperately needed stepĒ but that its impact will be determined by how broadly it is applied.
    Scicluna said the new provisions open up ways to communicate with victims and cooperate with the state.
    ďCertain jurisdictions would have easily quoted the pontifical secret Ö to say that they could not, and that they were not, authorized to share information with either state authorities or the victims,Ē Scicluna said.
    ďNow that impediment, we might call it that way, has been lifted, and the pontifical secret is no more an excuse,Ē he said.
    One of the documents also raises to 18 or under from 14 or under the age that pictures of individuals can be considered child pornography ďfor purposes of sexual gratification, by whatever means or using whatever technology
    Last year, a Vatican court sentenced a Catholic priest to five years in jail for possessing child pornography while he was based in the United States as a diplomat.
    On Tuesday, the pope accepted the resignation of Archbishop Luigi Ventura, the Holy Seeís ambassador to France, who has been accused of sexual molestation.
    The Catholic Church has been hit by scandal involving the sexual abuse of children by priests around the world in the past 20 years.    Francis has vowed zero tolerance for offenders but victims of abuse want him to do more and make bishops who allegedly covered up the abuse accountable.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; editing by John Stonestreet and Giles Elgood)

12/17/219 Liberal bishop becomes Archbishop of York, No. 2 in Church of England
FILE PHOTO: Archbishop of York John Sentamu applauds following the service where Reverend Libby Lane was consecrated as the
first female Bishop in the Church of England at York Minster in York, northern England January 26, 2015. REUTERS/Lynne Cameron/Pool
    LONDON (Reuters) Ė Anglican Bishop Stephen Cottrell, a supporter of women clergy and a strong opponent of nuclear weapons, is to be the new Archbishop of York.
    The 61-year-old Bishop of Chelmsford in eastern England will replace John Sentamu, who is retiring, and become the Church of Englandís second most senior clergyman behind the Archbishop of Canterbury.
    Cottrell has been outspoken in his support for women clergy and has said everyone is welcome in the Church regardless of their sexuality.
    He said he looked forward to being ďa voice for the NorthĒ and helping to address the discrepancies of wealth and opportunity that often favor the South of Britain.
    Ordained in 1985 after a brief stint in the film industry, Cottrell began his ministry in southeast London before moving to the dioceses of Chichester in southern England and Wakefield in the North.
    He replaced the openly gay priest Jeffrey John as bishop of Reading in 2004 after John was pressured to step down by then Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.
    Cottrell then went on to become bishop of Chelmsford in eastern England, a role he has held since 2010.
    In April, he co-signed a letter opposing a proposed service at Westminster Abbey to celebrate 50 constant years of patrols by the UKís nuclear deterrents, saying there was no circumstance in which they should ever be used.
    Sentamu, Britainís first black archbishop, welcomed Cottrellís appointment, saying he has ďthe Gospel in his belly and a tiger in his tank
(Reporting by Joanna Taylor, editing by Stephen Addison)

12/18/2019 Germany moves to ban gay Ďconversion therapiesí
FILE PHOTO: A reveller holds flags during the annual Christopher Street Day
gay pride parade in Cologne, Germany July 8, 2018. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay/File Photo
    BERLIN (Reuters) Ė Germany moved a step closer to banning so-called gay ďconversion therapiesĒ on Wednesday, as the cabinet backed a law that would punish bogus practitioners with up to a year in prison.
    Activists hailed the move, saying Germany would become the first major European power to outlaw attempts to change a personís sexual orientation with techniques including hypnotism and electro-shock treatment.
    ďHomosexuality is not an illness.    So the term therapy in itself is misleading,Ē Health Minister Jens Spahn Ė a member of Chancellor Angela Merkelís center-right Christian Democrats Ė said in a statement.
    The treatments Ė sometimes carried out by relatives or religious counselors Ė caused severe mental and physical harm, he added.    ďThis alleged therapy makes you sick and not healthy,Ē Spahn said.
    The legislation, which parliament is expected to pass by the summer, will punish violations with imprisonment of up to one year or a fine of up to 30,000 euros ($33,100).
    An estimated 1,000 people are subjected to ďconversion therapiesĒ every year in Germany, according to the Magnus Hirschfeld Foundation, a Berlin-based organization that fights discrimination.
    A spokesman for the foundation said that Germany was set to become the first major European country to ban ďconversion therapies,Ē adding that Berlinís decision could motivate other industrialized countries to follow suit.
    Brazil, Ecuador, Malta and just over a dozen U.S. states have outlawed conversion therapy, according to the ILGA, a network of LGBT+ rights groups. Countries including Britain, New Zealand and Australia are considering bans.
    About 700,000 Americans have been forced to undergo a form of conversion therapy, according to the Williams Institute at the University of California.
    In Britain, a fifth of gay, lesbian and bisexual people who have tried to change their sexuality have attempted suicide, according to a study by the Ozanne Foundation released in February.
(Reporting by Michael Nienaber, Editing by Andrew Heavens)

12/19/2019 Pope denounces Ďtorture, slaveryí in Libyan migrant camps by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis delivers a speech during an audience with refugees arriving from
Lesbos at the Vatican, December 19, 2019. ANSA/ETTORE FERRARI/Pool via REUTERS
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Ė Pope Francis called for the closing of migrant detention camps in Libya on Thursday, saying they were rife with torture and slavery.
    Francis, who has made defense of migrants and refugees a key part of his pontificate, made his comments in to a group of refugees, including women and children, brought to Italy by the Vatican from a transit camp on the Greek island of Lesbos.
    ďHow can we fail to hear the cry of so many brothers and sisters who prefer to face a tempestuous sea rather than die slowly in Libyan detention camps, places of torture and ignoble slavery?Ē he said.
    More than 5,000 refugees and migrants are held in 19 official detention facilities in Libya, some controlled by armed groups, as well as an unknown number in squalid centres run by traffickers, according to the United Nations.
    Rights groups say abuses are rife including beating and forced labor.
    ďWe need a serious commitment to empty out the detention camps in Libya, evaluating and activating all possible solutions,Ē Francis said, adding, without elaborating, that ďcomplicity by institutionsĒ should be denounced.
    In September, prosecutors arrested three people, a Guinean and two Egyptians, suspected of torturing migrants in a detention center in northwest Libya.    The three were found in a migrant registration center in Sicily.
    Francis spoke sombrely as he unveiled a cross bearing a battered red life jacket that was used by an unknown migrant who drowned in the Mediterranean in July.
    Detainees in the Libyan camps include those who left on boats for Europe and were brought back by the European Union- backed Libyan Coast Guard, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
    More than 1,100 migrants have died or are missing at sea after attempting to cross the Mediterranean this year, according to the International Organization for Migration.    The number of crossings dropped sharply from 2017 amid an EU backed push to block arrivals.
    ďThe problem is not resolved by blocking boats,Ē Francis said, adding that this left them at the mercy of unscrupulous human traffickers.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Nick Macfie)

12/20/2019 Pope and U.N. chief appeal for environment, religious tolerance
The Vatican's Secretary of State, Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, meets with Secretary-General of the United Nations,
Portugal's Antonio Guterres, at the Vatican, December 20, 2019. Filippo Monteforte/Pool via REUTERS
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Ė Pope Francis and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday appealed for nuclear disarmament, environmental protection and religious tolerance.
    The pope and Guterres met privately for about 40 minutes in the papal library.
    Francis denounced nuclear weapons, repeating his position that the mere possession of nuclear weapons is immoral, and Guterres praised the popeís disarmament efforts.
    Two years ago, nearly two-thirds of United Nations states agreed to a treaty to ban nuclear weapons but the talks were boycotted by the United States, France, Britain and others.
    Guterres called on nations to commit to carbon neutrality by 2050, ďin line with what the scientific community tells us is necessary to rescue the planet
    He spoke five days after a U.N. climate summit in Madrid closed with major states snubbing calls for tougher action to combat global warming, prompting sharp criticism from smaller countries and environmental activists.
    Both spoke of the need for inter-religious dialogue and condemned the concept of violence in Godís name.
    ďTragically we see Jews being murdered in synagogues, their gravestones defaced with swastikas; Muslims gunned down in mosques, their religious sites vandalized; Christians killed at prayers, their churches torched,Ē Guterres said.
    ďWe need to do more to promote mutual understanding and tackle rising hatred,Ē he said.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

12/22/2019 Iowa man to serve 17 year prison sentence for tearing down, burning LGBTQ flag by OAN Newsroom
File Ė The mugshot of Martinez from June 2019/ (Story County Police//handout/photo )
    An Iowa judge has ordered a man to serve 17 years behind bars after being found guilty of a hate crime involving an LGBTQ pride flag.    Adolpho Martinez was sentenced this week for tearing down and burning the flag back in June, which was hanging at the Ames Church of Christ.
    The 30-year-old became the first person in Story County to be convicted of a hate crime targeting a protected group.    Martinez previously said he was proud of them act.
    ďItís an honor to do that,Ē he stated.    ďItís a blessing from the lord
Martinezís sentence quickly made headlines for its severity, but prosecutors say there were other factors taken into consideration by the court.    The defendant also staked out the church for a number of months before committing the crime.    According to prosecutors Martinez even warned the court about his own behavior.
    ďI believe him to be very dangerous and thatís why my office recommended the maximum sentence,Ē said attorney Jessica Reynolds.    ďThe defendant stated that there was nothing the judge could do to stop him from continuing this behavior, and that he would continue to do this no matter what
    Martinez has a criminal record dating back years, which led the court to deem him a habitual offender and issue the stiff sentence.
File Ė An LGBTQ pride flag is pictured blowing in the wind. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
    Meanwhile, the incident has sparked concerns among those who attend the Ames Church of Christ.    While some churchgoers have said that they are thankful no one was physically harmed, it has worried them enough to discuss how they would respond to a gunman entering their church.
    ďNobody got shot, nobody was sexually assaultedÖit was a banner, how much does that hurt?Ē asked church member Eileen Gebbie.    ďBut I had to reflect on the fear it created in our sanctuary, people became afraid to go to church, weíve have to continue to talk about ó how do we prepare for an active shooter else is watching us now?Ē
    Despite Martinezís crime, the reverend said her church initially offered to lend a hand with Martinezís legal bills and will be supporting his three children while heís incarcerated.    Martinez will be eligible for parole after serving only three years of his sentence.

12/22/2019 Legionaires founder sexually abused 60 boys, religious orderís report says by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: Pope John Paul II (R) blesses Father Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, during
a special audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican November 30, 2004. REUTERS/Tony Gentile/File Photo
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Ė Sexual abuse of minors was rife among superiors of the Legionaires of Christ Catholic religious order, with at least 60 boys abused by its founder Father Marcial Maciel, a report by the group showed.
    The report is important because for decades until 2006, including during all of the pontificate of Pope John Paul, the Vatican dismissed accusations by seminarians that Maciel had abused them sexually, some when they were as young as 12.
    The order said the report, which was released on Saturday and covers the period since Maciel founded it in his native Mexico in 1941 to this year, was ďan additional attempt (by the Legionaires) to confront their history
    Maciel, who died in 2008, was perhaps the Roman Catholic Churchís most notorious paedophile, even abusing children he had fathered secretly with at least two women while living a double life and being feted by the Vatican and Church conservatives.
    Cardinal Angelo Sodano, 92, who was secretary of state under John Paul, was for years one of the Legionairesí biggest protectors in the Vatican.
    Pope Francis accepted his resignation as dean of the college of cardinals on Saturday and simultaneously changed church law to limit the deanís position to a five-year term, rather than for life.
    The Vatican first acknowledged Macielís crimes in 2006, when former Pope Benedict ordered him to retire to a life of ďprayer and penitenceĒ.    But Benedict resisted calls from some in the Church who said the order should be dissolved because it was toxic to the core.
    The Vatican instead took over the order in 2010 and began a process of reform.     The new report says that between 1941 and 2019, 175 minors were victims of abuse by 33 priests in the order.    At least 60, or about one-third, were abused by Maciel himself, it said.
    Most victims were boys between 11 and 16, it said.
ABUSE OF POWER
    While the report said the 33 amounted to only 2.44% of the 1,353 priests ordained by the order, it said that nearly 43% of those who committed the abuse were in positions of authority, making it difficult to report or punish the abuse.
    ď(Abuse) was linked to the abuse of power and conscience on the part of some who took advantage of their posts to abuse,Ē it said.
    Of the 33, six have died, eight have left the priesthood, and one had left the order.    Of the 18 who remain members, four have ďministerial restrictionsĒ to keep them away from minors and 14 have no public priestly ministry, the report said.
    Seventy-four seminarians studying for the priesthood also abused minors and 81% of them were not ordained.
    Father Christian Borgogno, a former member of the order, said that the numbers of those abused were ďclearly unlikelyĒ to be accurate and believed that they were much higher.
    ďIt is difficult to think that this is anything more than a whitewash of the (Legionairesí) image,Ē he said in a tweet. He said the reported lacked ďindependent sources
    After Macielís death, Vatican investigations found that he had also fathered several children with at least two women, visited them regularly and sent them money.    He also used drugs.
    Former members have said the order was run like a cult, with rules forbidding any criticism of the founder or questioning of his motives.
    They said Maciel gave huge contributions to the Vatican during the papacy of John Paul, who admired the Legionairesí orthodoxy and ability to produce vocations.
(Reporting by by Lizbeth Diaz and Philip Pullella; Editing by Catherine Evans and Alex Richardson)

12/23/2019 California church to pay off $5.3M in family medical bills
    LOS ANGELES Ė A Los Angeles church is paying off $5.3 million worth of medical debt for nearly 6,000 households in Southern California, according to one of the churchís pastors.    Christian Assembly purchased the debt for $53,000 and is working with a nonprofit organization to pay the outstanding bills for 5,555 families in 28 neighborhoods.    ďWe are able to give a Christmas gift to the people of Los Angeles, no strings attached,Ē co-lead pastor Tom Hughes said in a video posted online Thursday.
[The church is not helping the homeless but the families affected by California's liberal policies and may those who were helped may help the homeless.].

[THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE IS AN INSULT TO THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, ISSAC AND JACOB AND JESUS CHRIST TO CLAIM THAT YOUR SINS ARE ABOVE THE HOLINESS OF GOD AND YOU ARE ONE OF THE SCARLET WOMAN PROTEGES]
12/24/2019 LGBTQ faith leader is based in Louisville by Savannah Eadens, Louisville Courier Journal USA TODAY NETWORK
    With 2020 on the horizon, the Courier Journal peppered questions on a number of influential Kentuckians for their view on the new yearís priorities, opportunities and challenges. This is the second in the series.     Christian writer and activist Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons has made Louisville home.     A Texas-native, Graves-Fitzsimmons and his now-husband moved to Louisville in 2016, just before the presidential election. To sort through the chaos post-election, Graves-Fitzsimmons created a daily, online Christian devotional called ďThe Resistance Prays
    The free, uplifting newsletter has thousands of followers and gets new subscribers every day.    The goal?    To equip progressive Christians with theology and prayer in their activism. Graves-Fitzsimmons wants to dispel the false stereotype that all Christians are conservatives.    ďI was wanting a spiritual resource to get me through the crazy political landscape and the everyday barrage of attacks on every kind of person who wasnít a white, Christian, conservative person,Ē Graves-Fitzsimmons said of creating ďThe Resistance Prays
    He was inspired by resistance efforts, like the womenís and climate marches, and was desperate to find the people who were praying and acting, he said.    ďI hated how in regard to gun violence, Republicans would say Ďthoughts and prayersí and Democrats would say Ďwe need action, not prayers,íĒ Graves-Fitzsimmons said.    ďItís a false divide.    I think we need both.    Prayer and action
    Now, his work inspires Christians and the LGBTQ community across the country.    Graves-Fitzsimmons has degrees from American University and Union Theological Seminary. Heís worked in the White House, in churches and nonprofits, has written several op-eds for CNN and the Washington Post and has been listed as a faith leader to watch in 2020 by the Center for American Progress.    At Highland Baptist Church, Graves-Fitzsimmons leads a weekly study group with local church members.    Lately heís been discussing with the group his new book, coming out in 2020, called ďJust Faith: Reclaiming Progressive Christianity.Ē    ďThe point of my book is to encourage Christians to be loud and stand up against the hate thatís being used in the name of God,Ē he said.    We asked Graves-Fitzsimmons about his work, his vision and what to expect in 2020.
    Whatís your top priority for 2020?
    Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons: My priority for 2020 is to try my best to follow the example of Jesus Christ and co-create the kingdom of God here in Louisville, in our nation and in our world.    The most pressing moral concern for our nation in 2020 is defeating President Donald Trump.    And second to that is defeating Sen. Mitch McConnell.    Trump and McConnell seek to enrich the wealthy, demonize immigrants, deny the image of God in LGBTQ people, deny access to health care and profit off climate destruction.    They fail to live up to the most basic understanding of what it means to follow Jesus.
    Whatís the biggest obstacle to change in Louisville?
Graves-Fitzsimmons:
    Conservative Christians in Louisville have twisted the Gospel to serve their own agenda of greed, bigotry, and power.    Would Jesus build a wall?    How would Jesus react to climate change?    Who did Jesus exclude?    These basic questions are ignored because they canít be answered with Republican talking points.    The biggest obstacle to change is conservative Christians have become accustomed to controlling the narrative about Christianity in public life.    Thatís going to change, but they wonít give up without a fight.
    What are you most passionate about in Louisville?
Graves-Fitzsimmons:
    Iím deeply inspired by our cityís commitment to religious pluralism.    Weíre not just committed to religious freedom for all, but put that belief into practice by fostering a sense of appreciation for what other religions bring to our city.    At a time when weíre witnessing a rise in hate crimes and far-right violence targeting religious minorities, Lousivilleís compassion and inclusive policies are a beacon of hope.
    Why did you create ďResistance Prays,Ē and how will it serve the community?
Graves-Fitzsimmons:
    I created the ďResistance PraysĒ to equip progressive Christians to spiritually and politically defeat Trumpism.
    After the election of Donald Trump, I witnessed so many Christians putting their faith into action by resisting the white nationalism and anti-Christian policies of the Trump administration.    Several of our writers and many of our readers are in the Louisville area, and we will be continuing to follow Jesus by standing up for social justice and the common good in 2020.
    What does it mean to ďreclaim progressive ChristianityĒ in this political era?    What does that look like in Louisville?
Graves-Fitzsimmons:
    There is a long tradition of progressive Christianity in the United States.    Christians have been active in the movements for racial justice, immigration reform, reproductive rights, LGBTQ equality, global peace, and caring for the environment (just to name a few).    Sadly, most of what we hear about Christians today in the public square is conservatives making excuses for Trumpís immoral agenda.    Donít get me wrong: Louisville has its share of fundamentalists.    But we also have thousands upon thousands of Christians in this city who support social and economic justice.    Organizing and equipping progressive Christians will help us reclaim the narrative of what it means to follow Jesus.
    Tell us about your book ďJust FaithĒ
Graves-Fitzsimmons:
    ďJust FaithĒ is my love letter to progressive Christians.    As Iíve traveled across the country, Iíve met so many Christians who say a version of ďIím a Christian, but not that kind.Ē    We are so tired of conservatives betraying the message of love and radical inclusion that Jesus preached.    My book offers a word of encouragement by reminding us of our bold tradition, explaining how we ended up in such a bad situation, and offering a hopeful vision of ďChristianityĒ not being synonymous with ďconservativeĒ any longer.
    Reach culture and diversity reporter Savannah Eadens at seadens@courierjournal.com.    Follow her on Twitter at @savannaheadens.
    ďThe point of my book (ĎJust Faith: Reclaiming Progressive Christianityí) is to encourage Christians to be loud and stand up against the hate thatís being used in the name of God,Ē Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons, Christian writer and activist
Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons, a Louisville Christian writer and activist, launched The Resistance Prays,
a daily devotional for progressive Christians. Graves-Fitzsimmons is listed by
Center for American Progress as a faith leader to watch. ALTON STRUPP/COURIER JOURNAL

12/24/2019 Donít let Church failings distance you from God, Pope says on Christmas Eve by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis leads the Christmas Eve mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, December 24, 2019. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Ė Pope Francis led the worldís 1.3 billion Roman Catholics into Christmas on Tuesday, urging them not to let the Churchís failings lead them away from accepting Godís love.
    Francis celebrated a solemn Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peterís Basilica for thousands of people as hundreds of others watched on large screens outside.
    As is customary on Christmas Eve, the 83-year-old pope weaved his sermon around the spiritual and personal significance of the night that Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
    ďChristmas reminds us that God continues to love us all, even the worst of us,Ē Francis, presiding at the seventh Christmas season of his pontificate, said in his sermon.
    ďYou may have mistaken ideas, you may have made a complete mess of things, but the Lord continues to love you.    How often do we think that God is good if we are good and punishes us if we are bad.    Yet that is not how he is
    Without mentioning them specifically, Francis also referred to recent Church troubles, including its attempts to come to grips with continuing sexual abuse scandals around the world and financial irregularities closer to home at the Vatican.
    ďLet us contemplate the Child and let ourselves be caught up in his tender love.    Then we have no further excuse for not letting ourselves be loved by him,Ē Francis said.
    ďWhatever goes wrong in our lives, whatever doesnít work in the Church, whatever problems there are in the world, will no longer serve as an excuse.    It will become secondary, for faced with Jesusí extravagant love, a love of utter meekness and closeness, we have no excuse,Ē he said.
    In his latest attempt to confront a sexual abuse scandal, Francis last week announced sweeping changes to the way the Church deals with them, abolishing the rule of ďpontifical secrecyĒ that previously covered them.
    Advocates for the victims of a scandal that has rocked the Church for nearly two decades applauded the move.
    On Wednesday, Francis will deliver his twice-yearly ďUrbi et OrbiĒ (to the city and the world) message and blessing from the central balcony of St. Peterís Basilica to thousands of people in the square below.
    Unlike that on Christmas Eve, the Christmas day message is typically more about the significance of the Christmas message amidst the wars and conflicts of contemporary society.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Sandra Maler)

12/25/2019 Pope, religious leaders, send South Sudan rivals Christmas peace appeal by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: South Sudan's President Salva Kiir Mayardit speaks during a news statement with Riek Machar,
former vice president and rebel leader, after their meeting in which they have reached a deal to
form a long-delayed unity government in Juba, South Sudan December 17, 2019. REUTERS/Jok Solomun
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Ė Pope Francis and two other religious leaders sent out an extraordinary Christmas appeal on Wednesday to the leaders of South Sudan to keep their promise to form at least a transitional unity government early next year.
    The brief message was signed by Francis, worldwide Anglican leader Archbishop Justin Welby, and Rev. John Chalmers, former moderator of the Church of Scotland.
    The country, the worldís youngest, is mostly Christian, and a stable peace would allow the pope to visit, something which he has said he hopes to do next year.
    In the message, the three religious leaders said they were praying for ďa renewed commitment to the path of reconciliation and fraternity
    Last month, President Salva Kiir and former rebel leader Riek Machar delayed forming a unity government for 100 days beyond the Nov. 12 deadline, which itself was an extension of an original deadline last May.
    They agreed to form a transitional unity government if they fail to resolve all their differences before the end of February.
    The religious leaders said they wanted to show the political leaders ďour spiritual closeness as you strive for a swift implementation of the Peace Agreements
    The message is extraordinary because on Christmas day, the pope usually combines peace appeals in his ďUrbi et OrbiĒ (to the city and the world) address.
    Last April, weeks before the original deadline, the religious leaders brought Kiir, Machar and other politicians to the Vatican for a retreat.
    In a dramatic gesture on the last day of the retreat, Francis knelt at the feet of the previously warring leaders as he urged them not to return to a civil war that ended with a shaky peace deal in 2018.
    Sudan, which is predominantly Muslim, and the mainly Christian south fought for decades before South Sudan gained independence in 2011.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

12/25/2019 Pope defends migrants, calls for peace in Christmas message by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis delivers the "Urbi et Orbi" Christmas Day message from the main
balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, December 25, 2019. REUTERS/Yara Nardi
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Ė Pope Francis urged the world to let the light of Christmas pierce the ďdarkness in human heartsĒ that leads to religious persecution, social injustice, armed conflicts and fear of migrants.
    In his ďUrbi et OrbiĒ (to the city and the world) Christmas Day message, the 83-year-old pope called for peace in the Holy Land, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq, Venezuela, Ukraine and several African countries caught up in conflicts.
    The common thread of his address to tens of thousands of people in St. Peterís Square and millions watching or listening around the world was that change starts in the hearts of individuals.
    ďThere is darkness in human hearts, yet the light of Christ is greater still,Ē Francis said, as he marked the seventh Christmas of his pontificate.
    ďThere is darkness in personal, family and social relationships, but the light of Christ is greater.    There is darkness in economic, geopolitical and ecological conflicts, yet greater still is the light of Christ,Ē he said.
    Francis singled out the persecution of Christians by militant groups in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Nigeria, asking God to console those who suffer for their faith.
    On Dec. 1, at least 14 people were shot dead in an attack on a church in eastern Burkina Faso, where an Islamist insurgency has ignited ethnic and religious tensions.
ďBRIGHTEN THE DARKNESSĒ
    Francis, who has been scorned by populist politicians because of his defense of refugees and migrants, dedicated a section of his address to their plight.
    ďIt is injustice that makes them cross deserts and seas that become cemeteries.    It is injustice that forces them to endure unspeakable forms of abuse, enslavement of every kind and torture in inhumane detention camps,Ē Francis said.
    This month, Francis called for the closing of migrant detention camps in Libya.
    ďIt is injustice that turns them away from places where they might have hope for a dignified life, but instead find themselves before walls of indifference,Ē he said.
    Francis said that while there were many huge problems in the world, people did not have to look far to correct injustices.    They could make a difference in their own communities as a start to healing all the ďsuffering members of our human family
    ďMay (God) soften our often stony and self-centered hearts, and make them channels of his love.    May he bring his smile, through our poor faces, to all the children of the world: to those who are abandoned and those who suffer violence,Ē Francis said.
    To underscore his message, the two cardinals Francis chose to join him on the basilicaís central balcony were Renato Martino, president emeritus of the Vaticanís immigration office, and Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner who distributes aid to Romeís poor and homeless.
    ďThrough our frail hands, may he clothe those who have nothing to wear, give bread to the hungry and heal the sick,Ē he said, adding that through friendship, everyone could be close to the elderly, the lonely, migrants and marginalized people.
    ďOn this joyful Christmas Day, may he bring his tenderness to all and brighten the darkness of this world,Ē he said.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

12/27/2019 Pa. dioceses have paid $84M to abuse by Michael Rubinkam, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Pennsylvaniaís Roman Catholic dioceses have paid nearly $84 million to 564 victims of sexual abuse, a tally thatís sure to grow substantially in the new year as compensation fund administrators work through a backlog of claims, according to an Associated Press review.
    Seven of the stateís eight dioceses launched victim compensation funds in the wake of a landmark grand jury report on sexual abuse by Catholic clergy.    The funds were open to claims for a limited time this year.    They are independently administered, though each diocese set its own rules on eligibility.
    To date, the average payout across all seven dioceses has exceeded $148,000 Ė a fraction of what some adult victims of childhood abuse might have expected from a jury had they been permitted to take their claims to court. Under state law, victims of past abuse only have until age 30 to sue.    ďThese are all time barred claims, so itís not going to be the kind of numbers one sees in a courtroom,Ē said Camille Biros, who helps administer compensation funds for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and dioceses in Pittsburgh, Allentown, Erie and Scranton.    Lawmakers recently agreed to begin the lengthy process of amending the state constitution to allow a two-year window for civil suits otherwise barred by the statute of limitations, but thereís no guarantee that effort will bear fruit.
    Childhood abuse victim David Zernhelt was unwilling to gamble that state lawmakers will follow through and give people like him access to the courts.    Compensation fund administrators for the Diocese of Allentown recently offered $400,000 to Zernhelt, and he accepted it.    ďIt doesnít make me rich,Ē said Zernhelt, 45, of Easton.    ďIt creates a positive starting point for me. I can try to make my life a little bit better and put this behind me
    The AP does not typically name victims of sexual abuse, but Zernhelt agreed to be identified.
    Together, Allentown and the four other dioceses that hired Biros and veteran claims administrator Kenneth Feinberg to run their funds have received more than 1,500 claims, of which about 500 have been reviewed.    Of those, 41 claims were rejected for lack of evidence or because they didnít meet eligibility criteria, as some dioceses bar claims against religious order clergy, Catholic school officials and other lay leaders.
    Another 391 victims accepted financial settlements.
    ďWe try to be consistent with the claims in terms of the nature of the abuse, how long it went on, the age of the child, the effect of the abuse.    We consider all that and use our judgment to determine the settlement offer,Ē Biros said.    ďWe want to make sure everybody is treated as consistently as possible
    She said a torrent of claims arrived in the week leading up to a Sept. 30 deadline.    Biros expects it will take at least through June, and probably longer, to work through the backlog.    The dioceses agreed to pay victims after the grand jury concluded that more than 300 predator priests had molested more than 1,000 children since the 1940s Ė and that church leaders systematically covered it up.
A grand jury concluded that more than 300 priests had molested more than 1,000
children in Pennsylvania since the 1940s. JULIO CORTEZ/AP

12/27/2019 Montenegroís parliament approves religion law despite protests
Security rush into parliamentary hall after opposition tried to prevent the vote on a bill on religious freedoms and legal rights
of religious organizations in Montenegro's parliament in Podgorica, Montenegro December 27, 2019. REUTERS/Stevo Vasiljevic
    PODGORICA (Reuters) Ė Montenegroís parliament approved on Friday a law on religious communities despite street protests and a last-minute attempt in the chamber by deputies of the pro-Serb opposition to prevent the vote going ahead.
    Under the law, religious communities in the tiny Adriatic state would need to prove property ownership from before 1918, when predominantly Orthodox Christian Montenegro joined the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, the predecessor of the now-defunct Yugoslavia.
    The pro-Serb Democratic Front (DF) and other critics of the legislation say it is an attempt to promote the small Montenegrin Orthodox Church, which is not recognized by other major churches, at the expense of the Serbian Orthodox Church, the dominant church in the country of 620,000 people.
    They also accuse Montenegroís pro-Western president, Milo Djukanovic, and his ruling Democratic Party of Socialists of corruption, ties to organized crime and seeking to push the country further from Serbia, its much bigger neighbor.
    The DF deputies brawled with their opponents just before the vote, which took place in the early hours of Friday after a lengthy late-night debate.
    Police initially detained all 18 DF deputies but later released 15.    Among the three who remained in detention pending charges was DF leader Andrija Mandic.
    ďWe have said we are ready to die for our church,Ē Mandic told reporters after the fracas.
    Hundreds of opposition supporters and clergy had taken to the streets of Podgorica on Thursday to rally against the law.    Roads in the north of the country were also blocked for hours.
    The Serbian Orthodox Church has around 12 million followers, mainly in Serbia, Bosnia and Montenegro.    It owns 66 monasteries in Montenegro, most of them dating back to the Middle Ages, as well as dozens of churches and other real estate.
    Patriarch Irinej, head of the church, asked Montenegrin authorities to end what he called their ďbrutal terror
    ďHis Holiness .. demands an immediate release Ö of political representatives of the Serbian Orthodox people in Montenegro,Ē it said.
    Serbiaís President Aleksandar Vucic said Belgrade would seek to ease tensions through diplomatic means.
    ďWe will help our people (in Montenegro), but we will not destroy bridges with our neighbors,Ē Vucic said.
    The Church suspects the Montenegrin state of planning to seize its assets, something the government denies.
Djukanovic has accused the Church of promoting pro-Serbian policies with the aim of undermining Montenegrin statehood.
    Montenegro peacefully split from its former federal partner in 2006.    It is now a member of NATO and, like Serbia, a candidate for European Union membership.
(Reporting by Stevo Vasiljevic in Podgorica; Writing by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Gareth Jones)

12/29/2019 Hundreds left off lists of accused - Orders, dioceses argue about naming priests by Claudia Lauer and Meghan Hoyer, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Richard J. Poster served time for possessing child pornography, violated his probation by having contact with children, admitted to masturbating in the bushes near a church school and in 2005 was put on a sex offender registry.
    And yet the former Catholic priest was just this month added to a list of clergy members credibly accused of child sexual abuse, after The Associated Press asked why he was not included.
    Victims advocates have long criticized the Roman Catholic Church for not making public the names of credibly accused priests.    Now, despite the diocesesí release of nearly 5,300 names, most in the last two years, critics say the lists are far from complete.    An AP analysis found more than 900 clergy members accused of child sexual abuse who were missing from lists released by the dioceses and religious orders where they served.
    The AP reached that number by matching those public diocesan lists against a database of accused priests tracked by the group BishopAccountability.org and then scouring bankruptcy documents, lawsuits, settlement information, grand jury reports and media accounts.
    More than a hundred of the former clergy members not listed by dioceses or religious orders had been charged with sexual crimes, including rape, solicitation and receiving or viewing child pornography.
    The AP found nearly more 400 priests and clergy members who were accused of abuse while serving in dioceses that have not yet released any names.
    ďNo one should think, ĎOh, the bishops are releasing their lists, thereís nothing left to do,íĒ said Terence McKiernan, co-founder of BishopAccountability.org, who has been tracking the abuse crisis and cataloging accused priests for almost two decades.
    Church officials say that absent an admission of guilt, they have to weigh releasing a name against harming the reputation of priests who may have been falsely accused.    By naming accused priests, they note, they also open themselves to lawsuits from those who maintain their innocence.
    Some dioceses have excluded entire classes of clergy members from their lists Ė priests in religious orders, deceased priests who had only one allegation against them, priests ordained in foreign countries and, sometimes, deacons or seminarians ousted before they were ordained. Others, like Poster, were excluded because of technicalities.
    Posterís name was not included when the Davenport, Iowa, diocese issued its first list of two dozen credibly accused priests in 2008.    The diocese said his crime of possessing more than 270 videos and images of child pornography on his work laptop was not originally a qualifying offense in the churchís landmark charter on child abuse because there wasnít a direct victim.
    Less than a year after he was released from prison, he admitting to masturbating in the bushes on church property, which abuts a Catholic high school.    Still, the diocese did not list him. And he went on to violate the terms of his probation, admitting he had contact with minors.
    Child pornography was added to the churchís child abuse charter in 2011 and, though the diocese promised it would update its list of perpetrators as required under a court-approved bankruptcy plan, it never included Poster.
    ďIt was an oversight,Ē diocese spokesman Deacon David Montgomery told the AP.    He said the public had been kept informed about the case through news releases issued from Posterís arrest until his removal from the priesthood in 2007.
    Poster, who lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, declined to comment.
    Of the 900 unlisted accused clergy members, more than a tenth had been charged with a sex-related crime Ė a far higher percentage than those named publicly by dioceses and orders, the AP found.
    Dioceses varied widely in what they considered a credible accusation.    Like Poster, some of the priests criminally charged with child pornography werenít listed because some dioceses said a victim needed to report a complaint.
    Other dioceses created exceptions for a host of other reasons, ranging from cases being deemed not credible by a board of lay church people to the clergy members in question having since died and thus being unable to defend themselves.
    ďIf your goal is protecting kids and healing victims, your lists will be as broad and detailed as possible.    If your goal is protecting your reputation and institution, it will be narrow and vague.    And thatís the choice most bishops are making,Ē said David Clohessy, the former executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, who now heads the groupís St. Louis chapter.
    The largest exceptions were made for the nearly 400 priests in religious orders who, while they serve in diocesan schools and parishes, donít report to the bishops.    Richard J. McCormick, a Salesian priest who worked at parishes, schools and religious camps in dioceses in Florida, New York, Massachusetts, Indiana and Louisiana, has been accused of molesting or having inappropriate contact with children from three states.    In 2009, his order settled the first three civil claims against him. Yet he does not appear on any list of credibly accused clergy members.
    McCormick finally faced criminal charges after one of his victims spotted the priestís name on a very different list Ė one posted in 2011 by a Boston lawyer who represents church sexual abuse victims.
    Thirty years had gone by, but Joey Covino said he immediately recognized a photo of McCormick as the priest who had molested him over two summers at a Salesian camp for underprivileged boys in Ipswich, Massachusetts.
    When he and his brothers returned to the camp for a second year, ďI was petrified Ė petrified Ė and I couldnít say anything,Ē said Covino, now 49 and a police officer in Revere, Massachusetts.
    ďIíve always told myself I should have done something.    I should have fought back
Victims advocates have long criticized the Roman Catholic Church for
not making public the names of credibly accused priests. DOMENICO STINELLIS/AP FILE

12/29/2019 Put away phones at mealtimes and talk to each other, says pope
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis sends a message on a mobile phone at the end of a special audience with
altar servers in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican, July 31, 2018. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Ė Pope Francis on Sunday urged people to talk to each other at mealtimes instead of using their mobile phones, citing Jesus, Mary and Joseph as an example for families to follow.
    They ďprayed, worked and communicated with each other,Ē the pope told the faithful gathered in St. Peterís Square during his weekly Angelus address.
    ďI ask myself if you, in your family, know how to communicate or are you like those kids at mealtables where everyone is chatting on their mobile phone Ö where there is silence like at a Mass but they donít communicate,Ē the pope said.
    ďWe have to get back to communicating in our families,Ē Francis said in his unscripted remarks.    ďFathers, parents, children, grandparents, brothers and sisters, this is a task to undertake today, on the day of the Holy Family
(Reporting by Gavin Jones; Editing by Alison Williams)

12/31/2019 Disgruntled Pope Francis pulls himself free from womanís grasp
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis leads the Vespers and Te Deum prayer in Saint Peter's
Basilica at the Vatican, December 31, 2019. REUTERS/Yara Nardi
    ROME (Reuters) Ė A visibly indignant Pope Francis had to pull himself away from a woman in a crowd in St Peterís Square on Tuesday after she grabbed his hand and yanked him toward her.
    Pope Francis was walking through the square in Vatican City and greeting pilgrims on his way to see the large Nativity scene set up in the huge, cobbled esplanade.
    After reaching out to touch a child, the pope turned away from the crowd only for a nearby woman to seize his hand and pull her toward him.    The abrupt gesture appeared to cause him pain and Francis swiftly wrenched his hand free.
    The woman had made the sign of the cross as the pope had approached.    It was not clear what she was saying as she subsequently tugged him toward her.
(Reporting by Crispian Balmer, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

    This page created on 10/1/2019, and updated each month by 10/31/2019, 11/30/2019, 12/31/2019.

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