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

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

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12/31/2021 Pope Attends Year-End Service But Does Not Preside As Expected by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis leads the Vespers and Te Deum prayer in St. Peter's
Basilica at the Vatican, December 31, 2021. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis ended the year by attending a vespers service on Friday where he praised those who responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with responsibility and solidarity rather than an attitude of “every person for themselves.”
    The pope did not preside at the service as had been expected, leaving that to a senior Vatican cardinal.
    The Vatican did not explain why the change was made, seemingly at the last minute because the program for the ritual said Francis, 85, was to preside.
    Francis, who walked in unassisted and appeared to be in good condition, used a white chair to the side, sitting for most of the service.
    He later walked to a podium and read his homily, both without apparent difficulty.
    Last year, Francis had to skip the service because of a flare up of a sciatica condition that causes pain in his leg.
    Presiding would have required standing, kneeling and holding aloft a monstrance, a heavy gold vessel used to hold the communion host during vespers.
    The pandemic loomed large at the service, with a cap of several hundred on the number of people allowed into St. Peter’s Basilica for the traditional year-end thanksgiving service known as the “Te Deum.”
    COVID-19 also forced the pope to cancel his traditional visit to the nativity scene in St.
    Peter’s Square afterwards.    The Vatican announced that change on Thursday, saying it was to avoid a causing a crowd to gather.
    In his homily, Francis said the pandemic had caused many to feel lost and that in some cases “a temptation of every person for themselves” had spread.
    “But we rose up again with a sense of responsibility,” he said.
    Italy reported a record 144,243 coronavirus related cases on Friday and has recently imposed new restrictions, including wearing masks outdoors.
    With Rome Mayor Roberto Gualteri behind him, Francis, who is also bishop of Rome, also used his homily to lament the decay of the Italian capital.
    For several years Romans have been living with a garbage collection crisis and with bins overflowing, particularly in residential areas.    Herds of wild boars have invaded some neighbourhoods to feast on the rubbish.
    “Rome is a wonderful city that never ceases to enchant.    But for those who live here, unfortunately it is not always dignified,” Francis said.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Frances Kerry)

1/1/2022 Violence Against Women Insults God, Pope Says In New Year’s Message by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis celebrates Mass to mark the World Day of Peace in St. Peter's
Basilica at the Vatican, January 1, 2022. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) -Pope Francis used his New Year’s message on Saturday to issue a clarion call for an end to violence against women, saying it was insulting to God.
    Francis, 85, celebrated a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on the day the Roman Catholic Church marks both the solemnity of Holy Mary Mother of God as well as its annual World Day of Peace.
    Francis appeared to be in good form on Saturday following an unexplained incident on New Year’s Eve where he attended a service but at the last minute did not preside over it as he had been expected to.
    At the start of the Mass on Saturday, he walked the entire length of the central aisle of basilica, as opposed to Friday night, when he emerged from a side entrance close to the altar and watched from the sidelines.
    Francis suffers from a sciatica condition that causes pain in the legs, and sometimes a flare up prevents him from standing for long periods.
    Francis wove his New Year’s homily around the themes of motherhood and women – saying it was they who kept together the threads of life – and used it to make one of his strongest calls yet for an end to violence against them.
    “And since mothers bestow life, and women keep the world (together), let us all make greater efforts to promote mothers and to protect women,” Francis said.
    “How much violence is directed against women!    Enough!    To hurt a woman is to insult God, who from a woman took on our humanity – not through an angel, not directly, but through a woman,” he said, in a reference to Jesus’s mother Mary.
    During an Italian television programme last month, Francis told a woman who had been beaten by her ex-husband that men who commit violence against women engage in something that is “almost satanic.”
    Since the COVID-19 pandemic began nearly two years ago, Francis has several times spoken out against domestic violence, which has increased in many countries since lockdowns left many women trapped with their abusers.
    Public participation at the Mass was lower than in some past years because of COVID restrictions.    Italy, which surrounds Vatican City, reported a record 144,243 coronavirus related cases on Friday and has recently imposed new measures such as an obligation to wear masks outdoors.
    In the text of his Message for the World Day of Peace, issued last month, Francis said nations should divert money spent on armaments to invest in education, and decried growing military costs at the expense of social services.
    The annual peace message is sent to heads of state and international organisations, and the pope gives a signed copy to leaders who make official visits to him at the Vatican during the upcoming year.
(Reporting by Philip PullellaEditing by Peter Graff)

1/4/2022 Israel Lifts Restrictions On Same-Sex Surrogacy
FILE PHOTO: Protesters take part in a LGBT community members protest against discriminatory
surrogate bill in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, Israel, July 22, 2018. REUTERS/Corinna Kern/File Photo
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel on Tuesday lifted restrictions barring same-sex couples and single men from becoming parents through surrogacy within the country, upholding a Supreme Court ruling to end the ban.
    “It is a historic day for the LGBTQ struggle in Israel,” Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said at a news conference, announcing the ministry had issued a circular granting equal access for all to surrogate pregnancy.
    Israel’s LGBTQ+ community had demanded for years to be allowed to pursue surrogacy, which is already accessible to heterosexual couples and single women.
    In July, the Supreme Court, petitioned by gay rights activists, ruled that the surrogacy ban for same-sex couples and single men violated their rights and must be lifted within six months.
    The restrictions had applied only to surrogacy arrangements in Israel, and some of those barred from pursuing the process at home travelled abroad to do so.
(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Robert Birsel)

1/5/2022 Philippines Cancels ‘Black Nazarene’ Parade Again On COVID-19 Concerns
FILE PHOTO: A man sprinkles holy water among Catholic devotees attending a mass on the feast day of the
Black Nazarene, outside Quiapo Church in Manila, Philippines, January 9, 2021. REUTERS/Lisa Marie David
    MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine authorities have cancelled an annual procession, which normally draws millions of Catholic devotees accompanying a black wooden statue of Jesus Christ through the streets of Manila, for a second straight year due to coronavirus concerns.
    The government’s coronavirus task force cancelled the “Black Nazerene” procession, which is one of the country’s largest religious festivals, before celebrations related to the Jan. 9 procession, were due to start on Friday because of rising COVID-19 infections.
    Unlike last year, there will be no in-person masses in the church housing the centuries-old statue, and police will be deployed to discourage people from gathering outside the building, authorities said.
    “We understand (the cancellation) for our safety and health reasons,” Father Douglas Badong, Parochial Vicar of Quiapo Church, told a news conference.    He said physical masses will take place in other provinces and online masses for devotees in the capital.
    In prior years, devotees clad in yellow and maroon have thronged the life-sized tatute as it is paraded through the streets of Manila aboard a rope-pulled carriage.
    Daily COVID-19 cases in the Philippines jumped to more than 5,400 on Tuesday from less than 200 on Dec. 21, including some infections caused by the Omicron variant, forcing the government to tighten curbs this week.
    “We have seen how quickly COVID-19 spread after the holiday season…we are calling for a suspension of all mass gatherings,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque said late on Tuesday.
    The Philippines has so far detected 14 domestic and imported cases of the highly contagious Omicron variant that has driven up COVID-19 case counts and dampened New Year festivities around much of the world.
    With more than 2.86 million cases and 51,604 deaths, the Philippines has the second highest COVID-19 infections and casualties in Southeast Asia, next to Indonesia.
(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Ed Davies)

1/5/2022 Ex-Paramilitaries Stand Trial For Guatemala Civil War Rape Of 36 Indigenous Women
Indigenous women take part in the trial against five former members of the Civil Defense Patrol (PAC)
accused of raping 36 indigenous women of the Achi ethnic group between 1981 and 1985, at the
Supreme Court of Justice in Guatemala City, Guatemala January 5, 2022. REUTERS/Sandra Sebastian
    GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) – Five former Guatemalan paramilitaries went on trial on Wednesday on charges of raping 36 women from the indigenous Achi group from 1981 to 1985 during the Central American country’s decades-long civil war.
    The paramilitary Civil Self-Defense Patrols (PACs) were created by the Guatemalan army during the conflict to control the indigenous population.    Since the signing of peace agreements in 1996, they have been accused of serious human rights violations.
    “The debate is going to start today, we can’t postpone it,” said Judge Yassmin Barrios, who presides over a “high-risk court” dedicated to cases of organized crime and corruption where the hearing is being held.    She was speaking in response to a request of one of the defense attorneys that the hearing be delayed for another week.
    Such courts were created after a U.N.-backed anti-corruption commission CICIG pushed reforms to investigate organized crime and corruption.    CICIG itself was dissolved in 2019 after President Alejandro Giammattei did not renew its mandate.
    Prosecutors told the court they had at least 200 pieces of evidence, including testimonies and expert opinions, to present regarding the rapes, alleged to have happened in Baja Verapaz, a department north of Guatemala City.
    Several human rights groups hung up blankets and placed flowers outside the court in solidarity with the victims, of Maya origin.
    The five former paramilitaries were captured along with three others in 2018, though the magistrate who initially brought the case against them dismissed the evidence and released them.    One died before being released. After authorities re-captured the remaining ex-soldiers, two were acquitted.
    “Today is a historic day not just for the Achi women of Rabinal (in Baja Verapaz), but also for the thousands of women who were victims of sexual violence in the armed conflict,” said Virginia Valencia, who is representing five of the 36 alleged victims.
    In 2016, two former soldiers were sentenced to a combined 360 years in prison for crimes against humanity, including sexual slavery and murder, after 15 Q’eqchi women of Maya origin brought a case to the nation’s highest court.
(Reporting by Sofia Menchu; Writing by Kylie Madry; Editing by Raul Cortes and Alistair Bell)

1/5/2022 Senegal Rejects Bid To Toughen Strict Anti-LGBT Law
FILE PHOTO: The rainbow flag, commonly known as the gay pride flag or LGBT pride flag, is seen during
the first Gay Pride parade in Skopje, North Macedonia June 29, 2019. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski
    DAKAR (Reuters) – Senegalese lawmakers on Tuesday stopped from passing to parliamentary vote a draft bill that sought to toughen already severe laws against same-sex relations.
    Gay sex is punishable by up to five years in prison in Senegal, where arrests and prosecutions have risen sharply, according to a 2020 global review by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA).
    But in December, a group of lawmakers drafted a new bill to lengthen prison terms to up to 10 years and criminalise LGBT+ activities specifically.    The current law targets anyone who commits an act against nature with persons of the same gender.
    Lawmakers in the bureau of the national assembly, who decide which draft laws will be put to parliament’s vote, have rejected the proposed bill, the bureau said in a statement.
    The existing legislation is sufficiently clear and the resultant penalties are severe, it said.
    Nearby Ghana is also considering an anti-LGBT+ law that would lengthen jail terms and force some to undergo “conversion therapy” intended to change a person’s sexual orientation.
(Reporting by Diadie Ba; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Barbara Lewis)

1/6/2022 Vatican novelty to start New Year as pope urges adoption
    ROME – Pope Francis called Wednesday for simplified adoption procedures and urged couples to have more children as he presided over his first general audience of the New Year with a call for a less-clericalized Catholic Church.    For the first time, a layman and a nun provided the English and Spanish translations of Francis’ lesson rather than a cloaked monsignor, a small but revolutionary change for the Vatican.    Monsignors from the secretariat of state have always provided the translations at the Wednesday general audience.

1/6/2022 Pope Decries Church Conservatives Encased In “Suit Of Armour” by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis celebrates Mass for the Feast of Epiphany in Saint Peter's
Basilica at the Vatican January 6, 2022. REUTERS/Yara Nardi
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis took an apparent dig at conservatives resisting change in the Roman Catholic Church on Thursday, lamenting those whose religion he said was self-referential and encased in a “suit of armour.”
    On the Feast of the Epiphany, Francis seemed to direct specific criticism at those who have balked at his decision to restrict the traditionalist Latin Mass, saying the liturgy could not be trapped in a “dead language.”
    “Have we been stuck all too long, nestled inside a conventional, external and formal religiosity that no longer warms our hearts and changes our lives?,” Francis said.
    “Do our words and our liturgies ignite in people’s hearts a desire to move towards God, or are they a ‘dead language’ that speaks only of itself and to itself?
    The Latin Mass went out of general use after the 1962-1965 Second Vatican Council and was substituted by local languages.
    In July, having argued that the Latin Mass was being exploited by anti-reformists to harm the Church’s unity, Francis tightened regulations on when it could be celebrated, overturning decisions by his two predecessors.
    Since then some conservatives, including bishops, have openly defied the pope, resulting in the latest chapter of what some have dubbed the Church’s “liturgy wars
    Faith was not “a suit of armour that encases us; instead, it is a fascinating journey, a constant and restless movement, ever in search of God,” Francis said.
    The pope made his comments in the homily at a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on the day Christians commemorate what the Bible says was the arrival of the three wise men, or magi, in Bethlehem following Jesus’ birth.
    Participation was limited to about 1,500 people because of COVID-19 restrictions.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella)

1/6/2022 European Court Rules Northern Ireland Gay Cake Case Inadmissible
FILE PHOTO: Daniel McArthur general manager of Ashers bakery involved in a "gay cake" legal dispute arrives at a Supreme Court
hearing in Laganside courts in Belfast, Northern Ireland, May 2, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne/File Photo
    BELFAST (Reuters) – A complaint of discrimination previously dismissed by Britain’s highest court against a bakery that refused to make a cake with a pro-gay message was inadmissible, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on Thursday.
    Ashers Baking in Belfast was found guilty of discrimination in 2015 for refusing to make a cake for a customer iced with the words “Support Gay Marriage” because of the owners’ Christian beliefs.
    The bakery failed in an appeal to the local courts in 2016 but the Supreme Court, the UK’s highest judicial body, overturned that decision two years later, saying the bakers’ objection was to the message on the cake, not to any personal characteristics of the messenger, or anyone with whom he was associated.
    Gareth Lee, a gay rights activist who had ordered the cake, argued that the Supreme Court failed to give appropriate weight to him under the European Convention of Human Rights.    But the ECHR said it could not usurp the role of the local courts after Lee failed to exhaust all domestic remedies.
    It said this was particularly so in British-run Northern Ireland, “where there is a large and strong faith community and where the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTIQ) community has endured a history of considerable discrimination and intimidation.”
    While same-sex marriage was enacted in the rest of the United Kingdom in 2014, it was made legal in Northern Ireland only in 2020 amid opposition from the largest party in the region, the socially conservative Democratic Unionist Party.
    LGBTIQ support organisation, the Rainbow Project, said the decision brought the case to a close, but that there remained a number of questions around what protections exist following the 2018 Supreme Court decision.
    The Christian Institute, which supported the bakery owners through the courts, said the outcome was “good news for free speech and good news for Christians.”
(Reporting by Padraic Halpin in Dublin and Ian Graham in Belfast, Editing by William Maclean)

1/9/2022 Jerusalem Church Leader Says Israeli Extremists Threaten Christian Presence In City by Stephen Farrell
Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III arrives at the Church of the Nativity
to celebrate Christmas according to the Eastern Orthodox calendar, in Bethlehem in the Israeli
occupied West Bank, January 6, 2022. Picture taken January 6, 2022. REUTERS/Mussa Qawasma
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem has accused radical Israeli groups of threatening the presence of Christians in the holy city, in remarks that Israeli officials rejected as baseless.
    In a column in the Times of London on Saturday, His Beatitude, Theophilos III, said he believed the aim was to drive the Christian community from Jerusalem’s Old City, which has sites sacred to Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
    Israel captured East Jerusalem, including the Old City, along with the West Bank and Gaza Strip in a 1967 war.    It annexed East Jerusalem after the war in a move that has not won international recognition.
    “Our presence in Jerusalem is under threat,” the patriarch wrote in the article, published a day after the Greek Orthodox celebration of Christmas.
    “Our churches are threatened by Israeli radical fringe groups.    At the hands of these Zionist extremists the Christian community in Jerusalem is suffering greatly, he said.
    “Our brothers and sisters are the victims of hate crimes.    Our churches are regularly desecrated and vandalised.    Our clergy are subject to frequent intimidation.”
    By singling out extremists as Israeli, Theophilos’s criticism was more personal and trenchant than that of a collective statement issued by the heads of other churches in Jerusalem before Christmas.
    Their statement spoke of “frequent and sustained attacks by fringe radical groups” but stopped short of identifying them as Israeli.
    A U.S. State Department report published last year on religious freedom around the world said Christian clergy and pilgrims continued to report instances of ultra-Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem harassing or spitting on them.
    Church groups have for some time reported attacks of vandalism at religious sites in the city.    Theophilos did not accuse any radical groups by name or cite specific incidents.    He did not provide evidence that they were Israeli, or that their goal was to drive Christians from the city.
    On Sunday, an Israeli official said the reality on the ground for Christians was completely different from that described by the patriarch, citing a Foreign Ministry statement on Dec 22 that rebutted the earlier church leaders’ claims.
    “Since the day it was established, the State of Israel has been committed to freedom of religion and worship for all religions, as well to ensuring the freedom of access to holy sites,” the ministry statement said.
    “The statement by Church leaders in Jerusalem is particularly infuriating given their silence on the plight of many Christian communities in the Middle East suffering from discrimination and persecution.”
    In his column, Theophilos said the radicals that he criticised “are not representative of the state of Israel or the Jewish people,” and called on Jerusalem to remain a diverse “mosaic community” of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
(This story corrects to add dropped word in headline.)
(Reporting by Stephen Farrell; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel)

1/9/2022 Pope Calls For Dialogue, Justice To End Unrest In Kazakhstan
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis waves during the Angelus prayer on the Feast of Epiphany
in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, January 6, 2022. REUTERS/Yara Nardi
    MILAN (Reuters) – Pope Francis called on Sunday for dialogue and justice to put an end to violent unrest in Kazakhstan, adding he was saddened by news about deaths occurred in the country.
    “have learned with sorrow that there have been victims during the protests that have broken out in recent days in Kazakhstan,” the pope told hundreds of people in St. Peter’s Square for his noon blessing and address.
    “I pray for them and for their families, and I hope that social harmony will be restored as soon as possible through the search for dialogue, justice and the common good,” the pope said.
    Kazakhstan authorities said on Sunday they had stabilised the situation across the country after the deadliest outbreak of violence in 30 years of independence, and troops from a Russian-led military alliance were guarding “strategic facilities.”
    Russia’s Sputnik news agency cited Kazakhstan’s Health Ministry as saying a total of 164 people, including two children, were killed in Kazakhstan over the last week.
    Demonstrations began a week ago against a fuel price rise before exploding into a wider protest against the government.
(Reporting by Francesca Landini; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel)

1/10/2022 Pope Warns About Dangers Of ‘Cancel Culture’ by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis looks on during his "state of the world" address to diplomats from more than 180
countries, at the Vatican, January 10, 2022. Vatican Media/¬Handout via REUTERS
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis on Monday warned against attempts to cancel culture, decrying “one-track thinking” he said attempts to deny or rewrite history according to today’s standards.
    Francis made his comments in an address to diplomats, the main thrust of which was the condemnation of “baseless” ideological misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines, the backing of national immunisation campaigns and calling health care a moral obligation.
    He spoke of the crisis of trust in multi-lateral diplomacy, which he said has led to “agendas increasingly dictated by a mindset that rejects the natural foundations of humanity and the cultural roots that constitute the identity of many peoples.”
    Last month, the Vatican’s number two, Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, expressed concern over a draft European Union communications manual that suggested not using the term Christmas.
    The manual, which the Vatican saw as an attempt to cancel Europe’s Christian roots, was later withdrawn for revision.
    In his remarks on Monday, Francis warned of “a form of ideological colonisation, one that leaves no room for freedom of expression and is now taking the form of the ‘cancel culture’ invading many circles and public institutions.”
    He used the two words in English in the midst of a long speech in Italian.    The “cancel culture” controversy is particularly sharp in English-speaking countries, such as the United States and Britain.     This risked cancelling identity “under the guise of defending diversity,” Francis said, adding that a kind of “one-track thinking” is taking shape, one constrained to deny history or, worse yet, to rewrite it in terms of present-day categories.
    In the United States, there have been conflicts over the removal or decapitations of statues of historical figures such as Christopher Columbus and St. Junipero Serra.
    Serra, a Spanish Franciscan, founded a chain of missions in 18th century California that were a precursor to the state’s infrastructure.
    Besides the removal of statues, some have also demanded changing the names of institutions such as schools and hospitals named after the historical figures, saying they played a part in the destruction of native American cultures.
    While the pope did not mention any specific cancel culture examples, he said any historical situation must be interpreted in the context of its times and not by today’s standards.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella, editing by Ed Osmond)

1/10/2022 Pope Backs COVID Immunisation Campaigns, Warns Of Ideological Misinformation by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis delivers the Angelus prayer for the Epiphany of the Lord from the window of the Apostolic
Palace overlooking St. Peter's Square in Vatican City January 9, 2022. Vatican Media/Handout via REUTERS
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis on Monday condemned “baseless” ideological misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines, backing national immunisation campaigns and calling health care a moral obligation.
    Francis spoke in his yearly address to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Vatican, sometimes called his “State of the World” address because it is a broad survey of the global situation.
    His words to diplomats from nearly 200 countries marked the closest he has ever come to a de facto backing of vaccine mandates, which have become controversial in Italy and other European countries.
    “We have realised that in those places where an effective vaccination campaign has taken place, the risk of severe repercussions of the disease has decreased,” he said.
    “It is therefore important to continue the effort to immunise the general population as much as possible.”
    Francis, who dedicated about a fifth of his six-page address to the pandemic, warned against ideological statements regarding vaccinations.
    “Sadly, we are finding increasingly that we live in a world of strong ideological divides.    Frequently people let themselves be influenced by the ideology of the moment, often bolstered by baseless information or poorly documented facts,” he said.
    “Vaccines are not a magical means of healing, yet surely they represent, in addition to other treatments that need to be developed, the most reasonable solution for the prevention of the disease,” he told the diplomats gathered in the Vatican’s frescoed Hall of the Benedictions.
    By saying that “health care is a moral obligation” in the context of a speech supporting vaccinations, Francis appeared to be responding to Catholics and other Christians, particularly in the United States, who say they have a religion-based right of conscientious objection to vaccines.
    Francis, who is fully vaccinated, called for a global political commitment “to pursue the good of the general population through measures of prevention and immunisation.”
    He renewed his appeal for the equitable distribution of vaccines to poor nations, saying that “monopolistic rules” regarding patents should be put aside for the greater good.
    Francis also reiterated his defence of migrants, saying each country should accept as many as possible and that responsibility for their integration should be shared.
    On climate change, he said the results of last year’s COP26 summit in Glasgow were “rather weak in light of the gravity of the problem” and hoped that action on global warming could be consolidated at COP27 planned for Egypt in November.
    He repeated calls for dialogue in areas of conflict or crisis such as Lebanon, Ukraine and Myanmar as well as his call for a ban on the possession of nuclear weapons.
    The Vatican, the world’s smallest state, has diplomatic relations with 183 states.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella, editing by Ed Osmond)

    Rev. 6:12-17 (Sixth Seal), which I have proposed occurred because when John who was not a Jewish he was a Hebrew and what he saw he wrote it in symbolism that only the Hebrew would understand so the Roman Empire would not think his writings were overthrowing them and destroy what he wrote.    The following is a brief statement of the SYMBOLISM in the below verses, decide for yourself if they match todays times, and it's coming future.
Revelation 6:12-17 King James Version (KJV)
Revelation 6:12 "And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;"
Revelation 6:12 translate In the world a specific generation caused political and moral revolutions causing a society to erupt and changed everything that was holy and good in all aspects of life and the leaders of the time let it happen.    And this was seen and predicted in the Bible by a holy force.    The disasters and sorrow continued with no righteousness men not stopping it and led into great death and wars.
Revelation 6:13 "And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind."
Revelation 6:13 translate The men of the churches and governments continue to let it happen and in time the antichristian world became strong in their movements.
Revelation 6:14 "And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places."
Revelation 6:14 translate So this intellectual new philosophy and attitude became the status quo for all to abide or else and forced those who defied it to be persecuted, and heaven and its influence was not involved, and a new entity came among men and elevated itself and shook the world and shifted all in a new direction.
Revelation 6:15 "And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;"
Revelation 6:15 translate The leaders of the world and military officers, and all the rest of the people on the earth over time and realized what had occurred.
Revelation 6:16 "And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:"
Revelation 6:16 translate They had finally realized what they have done and worried about their lifes, but still did not pray to the God in heaven and still would not admit that Jesus Christ is returning to get his followers and do judgment to the world.
Revelation 6:17 "For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?"
    The verse above is what will be coming and it represents to me the ending of the year 2017, and what will continue for 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022.    Rev. 6:17 for the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand? (pp. who can survive it? The sixth seal brings us to the verge of the Lord’s coming.    The ungodly tremble at the signs of His immediate approach."
    Revelation 3:10Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.”

1/11/2022 Hungary Sets April 3 Election With PM Orban Facing United Opposition by Krisztina Than
FILE PHOTO: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban speaks as he arrives for an EU summit
in Brussels, Belgium December 10, 2020. John Thys/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary will hold an election on April 3 where nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban, one of Europe’s longest-serving leaders and a foe of immigration, will face a close race against an opposition united against him for the first time.
    The 58-year-old Orban, who rose to power in a 2010 election landslide, has transformed Hungary into a self-styled “illiberal democracy” with tightened controls on media and civil society groups that have put Budapest at loggerheads with European Union headquarters in Brussels.
    Voters will decide whether policies that prioritise national sovereignty, tax cuts for families, traditional Christian values and opposition to immigration and LGBTQ rights should continue, or whether a reset is in order due to what the opposition says has been an erosion of democracy and the rule of law.
    President Janos Ader set the parliamentary election for April 3 with a referendum on LGBTQ issues proposed by Orban’s Fidesz party to be held on the same day, the president’s office said on Tuesday.
    Fidesz and the opposition alliance are now running neck-and-neck in opinion polls in the central European country.
    The six-party opposition bloc encompasses the Democratic Coalition, the Socialists, liberals and the formerly far-right, now centre-right Jobbik.    It is led by Peter Marki-Zay, a Catholic conservative and father of seven, who in 2018 was elected mayor of the town of Hodmezovasarhely, ending 18 years of Fidesz rule.
    On his Facebook page on Tuesday, Marki-Zay launched a countdown to the election in which he said the opposition alliance would oust Orban’s “corrupt and greedy regime.”
    “Oligarchs close to the government have amassed incredible wealth while Fidesz politicians are writing the laws according to their taste,” he said, while millions of ordinary Hungarians were living on “humiliating wages.”
    With a border fence having relegated immigration to a secondary issue, the opposition has also tapped into Hungarians’ growing preoccupation with bread-and-butter issues rather than identity politics, including soaring pandemic-driven inflation.
    Orban has said Fidesz’s strong mandate earned in previous elections empowered him to rewrite laws, including the constitution. In efforts to shore up Fidesz against the opposition, he has introduced a $2 billion income-tax rebate for families, tax breaks for young people, pension hikes and a 20% rise in the minimum wage this year, swelling the budget deficit.
    “We will be there (on April 3),” Orban posted on Facebook.
    Marki-Zay says he has the skills to forge a broad spectrum of voters whom he describes as desperate for change, but faces the challenge of holding together the disparate six parties comprising his alliance.
    On Election Day the Hungarian people will be asked to vote on four government questions regarding LGBTQ issues, with Orban casting himself as the defender of traditional family values as a central plank of his campaign.
    Voters will be asked whether they support the holding of sexual orientation workshops in schools without parental consent, and whether they believe gender reassignment procedures should be “promoted” among children.    They will also be asked whether media content that could affect sexual orientation should be shown to children without restrictions.
    Orban and Fidesz have said the referendum aims to protect children from homosexual and transgender influences.
    Human rights and LGBTQ advocacy groups issued a joint statement on Tuesday saying the referendum plan damages the dignity of LGBTQ people and would incite anti-LGBTQ hatred and discrimination.    They urged Hungarians to invalidate the referendum by scrawling x’s across ballots.
(Reporting by Krisztina Than and Anita Komuves; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

1/11/2022 Pope Makes Surprise Visit To Rome Record Store, Gets Classical CD by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis celebrates Mass for the Feast of Epiphany in Saint Peter's
Basilica at the Vatican January 6, 2022. REUTERS/Yara Nardi
    ROME (Reuters) – Pope Francis, a lover of classical music, slipped out of the Vatican on Tuesday evening to visit old friends who run a Rome record shop and came away with a gift of a CD.
    The visit was to have remained private but Javier Martinez-Brocal, a reporter for the Rome Reports television news agency, was in the area by chance, filmed it with his smart phone, and posted it on Twitter.
    Francis stayed inside the StereoSound record shop near the ancient Pantheon for little more than 10 minutes.    A Vatican spokesman said Francis had gone there to bless the shop because it had been recently renovated.
    Martinez-Brocal told Reuters the shop’s owners told him that they had become friends with the pope years ago when he was Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires.
    He would visit their shop to buy classical music records and CDs when he was in Rome on Church business and stayed at a nearby residence for visiting clerics.
    They said they gave the pope a CD of classical music but declined to be more specific.    Francis is known to like Beethoven, Mozart and Bach — and even tango music from his native Argentina.
    The video showed the pope, who shuns bulletproof cars leaving the shop and getting into a simple white Fiat 500 with Vatican number plates.
    It was not the first time the pope has visited a Rome shop.    In 2015, two years after his election, he ordered a new pair of eyeglasses from a Rome optician.
    They were to have been delivered to the Vatican but he decided to go pick them up himself.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Sandra Maler)

1/11/2022 Serbian Orthodox Church Patriarch Tests Positive For COVID-19 – Statement
FILE PHOTO: Porfirije, the new Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church, leaves after a holy liturgy at
Archangel Michael Cathedral in Belgrade, Serbia, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Marko Djurica//File Photo
    BELGRADE (Reuters) – Porfirije, the 46th Patriarch of the influential Serbian Orthodox Church, the country’s largest Christian denomination, tested positive for COVID-19, his office said on Tuesday.
    Porfirije, 60, “remains with very mild symptoms and … will be treated at home,” his office said in a statement.
    “His Holiness has … has been prescribed appropriate therapy,” it said.    “He prays for doctors and medical staff and especially for everyone affected by the epidemic.”
    Last year Porfirije also went into isolation after being in contact with an infected priest.
    COVID-19 has so far infected 1,359,544 people and killed 12,936 in Serbia, a country of around 7 million.
    After a lull in December, infection rates in the Balkan country surged in January with the onset of more contagious Omicron strain of COVID-19.
    Last February, Porfirije succeeded Patriarch Irinej who died from COVID-19 in November 2020 at the age of 90.
    The Serbian Orthodox Church has about 12 million followers, mainly in Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia.
(Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)

1/14/2022 Spain’s Catholic Dioceses To Collect Abuse Allegations After Talks With Pope
Pope Francis holds the weekly general audience at the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican, January 12, 2022.
    MADRID (Reuters) – Spain’s Catholic Church is to set up local commissions to hear complaints from victims of abuse after holding talks with Pope Francis on Friday about allegations over eight decades detailed in a Spanish newspaper.
    El Pais in December published the results of a three-year investigation it said uncovered potential abuse by 251 priests and some lay people from religious institutions against at least 1,237 victims between 1943 and 2018.
    It said its correspondent gave a 385-page dossier to the pope on Dec. 2 while the papal entourage and journalists were flying from Rome to Cyprus.
    Cardinal Juan Jose Omella, the president of Spain’s Bishops’ Conference, discussed sex abuse issues with him at the Vatican and said each diocese would set up a commission to receive accusations and then investigate.
    They “will gather complaints, support those people who feel they have been harmed and prevent these things from happening again,” Omella told a news conference after their meeting.
    Sexual abuse scandals in the global Catholic Church first hit the headlines in 2002, when U.S. daily the Boston Globe wrote a series of articles exposing a abuse of minors by clerics and a widespread culture of concealment within the Church.
    Last June, the pope said the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse crisis was a worldwide “catastrophe.”    Since his election in 2013, he has taken a series of steps aimed at wiping out sexual abuse of minors by clerics.
    The Spanish church has rejected suggestions it set up an independent investigation body as has been done in France and has recently been announced in Portugal.
    Omella said it was better for victims to be handled by local dioceses and the commissions would “clarify and carry out all the necessary processes as required by the Holy See and civil courts.”
(Reporting by Inti Landauro; Editing by Alison Williams)

1/14/2022 You Caught Me: Pope Congratulates Reporter Who Saw Him At Record Shop by Philip Pullella
A screen grab taken from a video shows Pope Francis walking out of a record shop in
Rome, Italy, January 11, 2022. Video taken January 11, 2022. Rome Reports/Handout via REUTERS
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis has congratulated the reporter who caught him visiting old friends who run a Rome record shop this week, joking that it was his “bad luck” that the news got out.
    The visit on Tuesday night was to have remained secret but Javier Martinez-Brocal of the Rome Reports television news agency was in the area in central Rome by chance.    He filmed it with his smart phone, posted it on Twitter, and it went viral.
    In a letter sent to Martinez-Brocal on Thursday, Francis, 85, congratulated him on his work and lamented his own misfortune.
    “You can’t deny that it was a case of bad luck … that after taking all the precautions, there was a reporter there at the taxi rank,” Francis said in the letter Martinez-Brocal shared with colleagues on Friday.
    “One should not lose one’s sense of humour,” Francis said.    “Thanks for doing your job, even if it did put the pope in difficulty.”
    Francis, who shuns bulletproof cars and visible police escorts, arrived at the StereoSound record shop near the ancient Pantheon in a simple white Fiat 500 driven by a Vatican employee.    He stayed inside the for about 15 minutes.
    The shop’s owners later said they had become friends with him years ago when he was Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires.
    He would visit their shop to buy classical music records and CDs when he was in Rome on Church business and stayed at a nearby residence for visiting clerics.
    “What I miss the most (since he became pope) is not being able to walk around the streets, as I did in Buenos Aires, walking from one parish to another,” Francis wrote.
    The shop owners later said they gave the pope a boxed-set of classical music CDs but declined to be more specific.
    Francis is known to like Beethoven, Mozart and Bach — and even tango music from his native Argentina.
    It was not the first time the pope has visited a Rome shop.    In 2015, two years after his election, he ordered a new pair of eyeglasses from a Rome optician.    They were to have been delivered to the Vatican but he decided to go pick them up himself.
    He also once went to a store to pick up a pair of orthopaedic shoes.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella)

1/14/2022 We’re Still A Way From Equality, Says Germany’s First LGBTQ+ Commissioner by Fanny Brodersen
Sven Lehmann, 42, Germany's first ever LGBTQ+ commissioner, a role created under the
new coalition government's plans for cultural modernisation, poses for a picture
in Berlin, Germany, January 12, 2022. Picture taken January 12, 2022. REUTERS/Fanny Brodersen
    BERLIN (Reuters) – As Germany’s first ever LGBTQ+ commissioner, a role created under the new coalition government’s plans for cultural modernisation, Sven Lehmann believes he has his work cut out.
    The 42-year-old, a member of parliament for the Greens, was given the title of Commissioner for the Acceptance of Sexual and Gender Diversity by the new Social Democrat-Green-Liberal coalition, which took over last year after elections ended 16 years of conservative-led rule.
    “Since marriage for all became law, since it has been possible for everyone to marry the partner they want, many have believed that now absolute equality has been achieved,” Lehmann said.    “But it hasn’t.”     In a host of situations, laws continue to discriminate against same-sex couples.    Children born to two women still only have one legal parent until the other goes through a lengthy and expensive adoption process.
    Olaf Scholz’s government plans to change this as part of a host of social reforms including simplifying citizenship laws and immigration procedures and giving the vote to 16-year-olds, but Lehmann, who has been with his husband since coming out aged 22, lamented that the young still faced challenges.
    “We have come very far in Germany, but not far enough,” he said.    “When I think about the fact that many young people are afraid to come out at school or in their sports clubs.    Then we haven’t come far enough yet.”
(Writing by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

1/14/2022 Indian Court Acquits Roman Catholic Bishop Accused Of Raping Nun
FILE PHOTO: Bishop Franco Mulakkal (2nd R), accused of raping a nun, is escorted by police outside a crime branch office on
the outskirts of Kochi in the southern state of Kerala, India, September 21, 2018. REUTERS/Sivaram V/File Photo
    KOCHI, India (Reuters) – An Indian court on Friday acquitted a Roman Catholic bishop accused of repeatedly raping a nun for two years in the southern state of Kerala.
    “Praise the Lord,” Franco Mulakkal, who spent 25 days in judicial custody after his arrest in September 2018, exclaimed after his acquittal by Judge G Gopakumar in Kerala’s Kottayam city.
    The investigating officer in the case, S Harishankar, said afterwards that the authorities would appeal the verdict.
    Sister Anupama, who had campaigned for the bishop’s arrest, said she and her fellow nuns were surprised at his acquittal.
    Mulakkal, 57, was ordained as a priest in 1990 in the northern Indian state of Punjab and was elevated as the bishop of the Diocese of Jalandhar eight years ago.
    Peter Kavumpuram, the spokesman of the Jalandhar diocese, said Mulakkal’s acquittal proved his innocence.
    As protests and calls for his arrest grew in 2018, Mulakkal requested the Vatican allow him step down temporarily.    The Vatican had accepted his request.
    Mulakkal would not resume his duties, Kavumpuram said.
(Reporting by Jose Devasia; writing by Mayank Bhardwaj; Editing by Alex Richardson)

1/18/2022 Justices to hear dispute over Christian flag - Boston officials see church-state violation by John Fritze, USA TODAY
    WASHINGTON – For years, the city of Boston rotated dozens of flags on a pole outside City Hall to celebrate veterans, paramedics, sports teams and LGBTQ pride as part of what it describes as an effort to promote diversity and civic engagement.
    But when a group applied in 2017 to hoist a “Christian flag” up the 83-foot pole, city officials said it wouldn’t fly.    The blue and white flag, with a red Latin cross in one corner, would violate the long-held principle of separation of church and state, they said.
    Now, the Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday in that dispute, which turns on a fundamental First Amendment question: Who is conveying a message when a third-party group’s flag flies on a government flagpole?    The group or the government?
    Even some advocates sympathetic to Boston’s position acknowledge the city will likely be on defense, despite winning last year at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit.    The high court’s conservative majority often looks askance at government regulation of religion and some of the justices have fretted about what they see as “disfavored” religious rights.
    Camp Constitution, the group challenging the city, has picked up some notable allies, including the Biden administration, which says the federal government confronts similar issues when it permits protests on the National Mall or allows people to submit designs for special U.S. Postal Service stamps to celebrate community events.
    “What’s unusual about this case that’s hard for Boston to overcome is that they called it a public forum and they said it was open for all applicants and then, after 12 years of approving these applications with no denials, they censor one,” said Mathew Staver with Liberty Counsel, a Christian legal group representing Camp Constitution.
    Staver and his allies say Boston’s flagpole is a public forum, a key concept in First Amendment law used by courts to help analyze when the government may regulate speech on public property.    The government can’t restrict speech based on the speaker’s viewpoint in a public forum.    What that means in practice is that if the city allows one group to speak in that space, say an LGBTQ rights group, it can’t block a religious group that opposes those rights from speaking.
    Boston counters that the flag above City Hall is, in fact, a form of government speech – not a public forum for     First Amendment purposes – and that city residents perceive the flag as having the city’s stamp of approval.    Any other approach, the city argues, leads to absurd results: Boston might be forced to fly a New York Yankees flag a week after raising one for the Red Sox.
    Or, more seriously, it might be required to fly a flag from a neo-Nazi group.
    Instead, Boston officials say they choose which messages to endorse and that virtually all of the third-party flags they pick commemorate a day of observance, such as Juneteenth, a day that celebrates the Emancipation Proclamation, or St. Patrick’s Day.    Taken together, they say, it all means the messages the flags convey are the city’s.
    “It’s well settled that when governments speak they can say what they want,” said Douglas Hallward-Driemeier, a veteran lawyer who will argue the case Tuesday on behalf of Boston.    “Certainly, the people of Boston who walk past City Hall Plaza every day would understand that this is where the city is speaking.”
    If Boston wins on that point, the issue of religion may not enter the picture.    And that would likely increase the city’s odds of success.
    In all sorts of contexts, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the high court has looked favorably on religious freedom claims, from churches and synagogues successfully challenging coronavirus restrictions to religious entities that beat back requirements that they provide health insurance coverage for contraceptives.
    In 2019, the court ruled that a massive Latin cross on government property outside of Washington, D.C., did not have to be moved in the name of churchstate separation.    In 2014 the court upheld a centuries-old tradition of offering prayers to open government meetings, even if those prayers are overwhelmingly Christian.
    On the other hand, a 5-4 court in 2015 held that specialty license plates promoting everything from “Choose Life” to “Conserve Water” could prohibit such images as the Confederate flag because license plates are government speech.    The decision drew a sharp dissent from Associate Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and two others who have since left the court.
    “Messages that are proposed by private parties and placed on Texas specialty plates are private speech,” Alito wrote.
    Boston’s guest flag program appears to be relatively rare.    Perhaps anticipating lawsuits, more than 7 in 10 cities do not fly third-party flags at all, according to a survey by the International Municipal Lawyers Association.
    Even if Boston loses, it’s unlikely Camp Constitution’s flag will ever fly at City Hall.    What’s more likely is that the city, and others with programs like it, will just stop raising anyone’s flag, experts said. Boston already has discontinued its guest flag program until the Supreme Court hands down a decision, likely later this year.
    Lisa Soronen, executive director of the State & Local Legal Center, said that outcome would be a missed opportunity.
    “It’s a small thing but there is some value in flying them,” Soronen said.    “We have all these conversations about democracy in decline and I think there’s something lost by the possibility of that for a city building up its worldview, its perspective, its friends.”
Boston has halted its guest flag program pending a Supreme Court

1/19/2022 Benedict Denies He Knew About Legionaries Of Christ Abuse When Cardinal by Thomas Escritt
FILE PHOTO: Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI gestures at the Munich Airport before
his departure to Rome, June 22, 2020. Sven Hoppe/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    BERLIN (Reuters) – Former Pope Benedict XVI denied that he was given information about child abuse in the Legionaries of Christ religious order when he was a top Vatican official, in a case that has tarnished the reputation of his predecessor, John Paul II.
    Founded by Mexican cleric Marcial Maciel in 1941, the Legionaries of Christ order was heavily favoured during the conservative papacy of John Paul II, who praised Maciel’s work in reaching out to and evangelising young people.
    Maciel turned out to be one of the Catholic Church’s most notorious paedophiles, 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.
    The former pope’s denial was made to Germany’s Die Zeit newspaper in response to allegations it had published from filmmaker Christoph Roehl, who said he had found evidence that two Chilean priests had presented the then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger with a dossier listing abuse victims in the order.
    At the time, Ratzinger was head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith and John Paul II’s right-hand man, the Polish pope’s ideological and doctrinal enforcer.
    But Benedict, 94, who retired in 2013, denied this had happened.
    “No, this is not correct,” his long-time personal secretary and fellow German cleric Georg Gaenswein said in a statement to Die Zeit on behalf of Benedict.
    Although allegations were made against Maciel as early as 1954, the Vatican and the order only began slowly acknowledging Maciel’s abuse in 2006, when Benedict, as newly-elected pope, ordered him to retire to a life of “prayer and penitence.”
    Maciel died in 2008, aged 87. Pope Francis, Benedict’s successor, in 2020 told the Legionaries they still had a long road of reform ahead of them.
    John Paul II was made a saint in 2014, nine years after his death, effectively a declaration by the Church that his life was so exemplary that he was sure to be in heaven.    Allegations that he failed to discipline abusers have tarnished that legacy, with many now saying his canonisation was too hasty
(Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Toby Chopra)

1/21/2022 Colombia Judges Split On Removing Abortion From Penal Code by Julia Symmes Cobb
Women demonstrate in front of Colombia's constitutional court in support of removing abortion
from the penal code, in Bogota, Colombia January 20, 2022. REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez
    BOGOTA (Reuters) – Eight judges from Colombia’s constitutional court were evenly split on Thursday over whether abortion should be eliminated from the penal code, the coalition of pro-choice groups which brought the long-running lawsuit said.
    Abortion was partially legalized in Colombia under a 2006 ruling that allows it in cases of rape, fatal fetal deformity, and health of the mother.
    Pro-choice groups estimate that around 90% of abortions in the Andean country take place clandestinely.
    A coalition of more than 90 pro-choice organizations, Causa Justa, brought the suit in 2020, saying prosecutions of women who sought or obtained abortions worsen stigma and scare potential patients, even in cases when one of the three legal conditions applies.
    A possible ruling in favor of elimination from the penal code would not widen the circumstances in which women and girls can seek abortions, but it would immediately guarantee that no more people are imprisoned, Causa Justa has said.
    A ruling on the suit had originally been expected late last year, but a ninth judge requested a recusal.
    That recusal was granted on Thursday, Causa Justa said.    The coalition later shared a list of how magistrates had voted and said the court agreed to appoint a new ninth judge for an eventual re-vote.
    A spokesman for the court said it did not yet have official comment.
    Some 350 women were convicted or sanctioned for abortions between the original 2006 ruling and mid-2019, including at least 80 girls under age 18, according to Causa Justa.
    “The fact that abortion exists as a crime does not dissuade women from seeking an abortion, it just pushes them to seek clandestine and often unsafe abortions, putting their lives and health at risk,” Catalina Martinez Coral, regional director of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said outside the court earlier on Thursday.
    Anti-abortion groups and politicians in the broadly conservative country have urged justices to vote against elimination, saying abortion amounts to murder.
(Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb; additional reporting by Luisa Gonzalez; Editing by Leslie Adler)

1/21/2022 Conservatives Defend Ex Pope After Report But Experts See Legacy Dented by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI gestures at the Munich Airport before his
departure to Rome, June 22, 2020. Former Pope Benedict traveled to his native Germany
last week to visit his ailing older brother. Sven Hoppe/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Conservatives on Friday defended former Pope Benedict against charges of mishandling sexual abuse cases decades ago, but victim groups and experts said the findings of a German report had tarnished the legacy of one of Catholicism’s most renowned theologians.
    The report, commissioned by the German Church and published on Thursday, said the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger failed to take action against clerics in four cases when he was the archbishop of Munich from 1977 to 1982.
    Benedict denied wrongdoing over the cases in an 82-page written statement sent to the investigators but Martin Pusch, one of the lawyers who presented the report, said that while the former pope claimed ignorance of some events “in our opinion, that is difficult to reconcile with the documentation.”
    Benedict, 94, infirm and living in the Vatican, said through his secretary that he had not yet read the entire report, but would give it “the necessary attention.”
    Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, a fellow German and former Vatican doctrinal head himself, told the Corriere della Sera newspaper that there were people “in Germany and elsewhere who want to damage” the former pope.
    “It’s obvious that if there were errors, he didn’t know about them,” said Mueller, who has been very critical of Pope Francis.    He said Benedict “did not deliberately do anything wrong.”
    Benedict, who resigned in 2013, remains a hero to conservatives who are at odds with Francis’ style of a more open and welcoming Church.
    Conservative Italian newspapers ran editorials on Friday defending Benedict and attacking the report.    Libero said Benedict had been “abandoned” by today’s Vatican officials and Il Foglio cast doubt on the evidence in the German investigation.
    But Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of the abuse tracking group, said in an email that Munich prosecutors should follow up on the report.
    “They should subpoena abuse files, and collect testimonies from victims and witnesses.
Former archdiocesan officials, including Pope Benedict, should be compelled to testify under oath
,” she said.
    As pope, Benedict enacted stronger measures than his predecessors against sexual abuse, issuing new guidelines and defrocking many abusers during his papacy.
    He punished Father Marcial Maciel, the late Mexican founder of the Legionaries of Christ religious order, who was one of the Church’s most notorious abusers.    The previous pope, John Paul, refused to believe numerous reports about Maciel’s crimes.
    “It (the German report) certainly sheds some bad light on his legacy in regard to dealing with cases of abuse (while in Germany but) it is not a judgement on the whole of his legacy as a theologian, as head of the CDF (the Vatican’s doctrinal office) and as pope,” said Father Hans Zollner, a German expert on child protection at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University.
    “It is one element in this, it is an important one, and the danger is that … the other very important and highly esteemed elements of his legacy would be put in question or at least will not shine as brightly as they could,” Zollner told Reuters.
    Zollner said that after reading the nearly 2,000 page report, the former pope should make a statement and, if necessary, “ask for forgiveness for whatever he has to ask for.”
    Thomas Schüller, a professor of Church law at Muenster University, told Der Spiegel that the report had caused lasting damage to Benedict’s reputation.
    “This is his personal Waterloo,” Schüller said.
    Alberto Melloni, a Church historian and university professor, told Reuters that in today’s highly polarised Church, the report would only confirm existing views of the former pope and his legacy.
    “His defenders will continue defending him and his detractors will continue throwing mud,” Melloni said.
    In an address on Friday, Pope Francis promised to push ahead with punishing abuse and said the Church remained “committed to bringing justice to its victims.”    He did not mention the German report.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

1/21/2022 ‘Second-Class Citizens’? Namibia Rules Against Gay Couples by Nyasha Francis Nyaungwa
Namibian-born Anette Seiler-Lilles and German-born Anita Seiler-Lilles pose for a photograph
ahead of Namibia's High Court ruling against two gay couples fighting for their marriages to be
recognised under domestic law, in Windhoek, Namibia, January 20, 2022. REUTERS/Sharon Kavhu
    WINDHOEK (Reuters) - Namibia’s High Court ruled on Thursday against two gay couples fighting for recognition of their marriages, with the judge saying she agreed with them but was bound by the nation’s prohibition of same-sex relations.
    Like Namibia, many other African nations still ban same-sex liaisons, with couples risking jail and public scorn.
    Daniel Digashu and Johan Potgieter had married in South Africa, and Anette Seiler-Lilles and Anita Seiler-Lilles in Germany – but both couples now live in Namibia.
    Digashu, a South African, and German-born Anita Seiler-Lilles had applications for a work permit and residency denied respectively based of their same-sex marital status.
    In court, they argued that the word “spouse” in Namibian immigration law should include same-sex couples or the clause be declared unconstitutional.
    Judge Hannelie Prinsloo said she agreed but was bound by a more than 20-year-old Supreme Court ruling saying Namibia does not recognise same-sex relationships.    “Only the Supreme Court can correct itself,” she said, adding it was high time the constitution reflected social reality.
    Namibian-born Anette Seiler-Lilles said while the decision was disappointing, it also gave hope things could change, and that they would now discuss an appeal.
    “It impacted us emotionally,” she said of the ordeal, adding that she and Anita, partners for over 20 years and married for 18, felt discriminated against.
    Ian Southey-Swartz, a Namibian citizen and programme manager at the Open Society Foundations-Africa which backed the couples, said he was devastated with the judgement.
    “The current legal position has turned me, and many others in my position, into second-class citizens, forced to choose between our country and our family,” he said in a statement.
    The case marked the latest legal challenge aimed at improving LGBTQ+ rights in Namibia.
    In a verdict hailed as a big win for gay couples, in October Namibian Phillip Luhl and husband Guillermo Delgado won citizenship by descent for their son, born to a surrogate in South Africa in 2019.
(Reporting by Nyasha Francis Nyaungwa; Writing by Emma Rumney; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Andrew Cawthorne)

1/23/2022 With Roe in doubt, states split on abortion debate - Fight over the future of procedure escalating by Lindsay Whitehurst, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    SALT LAKE CITY – It didn’t take long for abortion to reemerge as a flashpoint in state legislatures.
    Less than a month into the 2022 legislative sessions, fights over the future of abortion are setting up across the U.S. Republican lawmakers are proposing new restrictions modeled after laws in Texas and Mississippi that present a direct challenge to the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, and some Democraticled states are working to preserve or expand access.
    The activity in state legislatures was anticipated after the U.S. Supreme Court, with its conservative majority, signaled it was ready to make seismic changes to the nationwide right to abortion that has stood for nearly a half-century.
    If the court overturns Roe v. Wade entirely, the decision on whether to keep abortion legal would fall to the states.
    More than 20 states already have laws on the books to ban or dramatically restrict abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned.    As legislative sessions begin, several are considering new bans.
    “This could be a really, really dramatic year in terms of people’s ability to access abortion care and to decide if, when and how they become a parent,” said Kristin Ford, vice-president of communications and outreach at NARAL Pro-Choice America, a pro-abortion rights group.    “At this time next year, we could be looking at a scenario in which more than half of the country has lost access to abortion. ...It will have consequences for everyone.”    Against that backdrop, California lawmakers will consider plans this year to become a “sanctuary” for those seeking reproductive care.    That could include paying for travel, lodging and procedures for people coming from other states.
    Susan Arnall, director of outreach for the anti-abortion Right to Life League, said other Democratic-led states are likely to follow California’s lead.    Her organization is fighting the legislation introduced in the nation’s most populous state.
    Even so, she said abortion opponents have gained the upper hand throughout the U.S.
    “Life is winning … and the abortion industry is losing,” Arnall said.
    Other Democratic-leaning states are not yet copying California, though New Jersey recently became the 15th state to protect the right to abortion in state law, according to the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights think tank.
    Meanwhile, at least seven states could follow Texas, which has effectively banned abortions after six weeks with a law strategically written to avoid a federal court challenge.
    The Supreme Court has allowed the law to remain in effect, even though it appears to contradict the Roe decision.
    Similar proposals have been introduced in Ohio, Alabama, Oklahoma, Missouri, Florida and Arizona.    South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a possible 2024 presidential contender, released a proposal on Friday modeled after the Texas law.    She said it would “ensure that both unborn children and their mothers are protected in South Dakota.”
State-by-state fights over the future of abortion in the U.S. are setting up across the country as
lawmakers in Republican-led states propose new restrictions modeled on laws passed in Texas and
Mississippi even as some Democratic-controlled states work to preserve access. JOSE LUIS MAGANA/AP

1/23/2022 Pope Confers Lay Ministries On Women, Formalising Recognition Of Roles by Philip Pullella
A new lector receives a gospel from Pope Francis during a Holy Mass held every year on the third Sunday of January to celebrate
and study the Word of God, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, January 23, 2022. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis on Sunday for the first time conferred the lay Roman Catholic ministries of lector and catechist on women, roles that previously many had carried out without institutional recognition.
    He conferred the ministries at a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, where, in an apparent reference to resistance to change by some conservative, he criticised those who need to have rigid regulations and “more rules” in order to find God.
    Last year, Francis changed Church law on the ministries of lector and acolyte, which mainly had been reserved to seminarians preparing for priesthood, saying he wanted to bring stability and public recognition to women already serving in the roles.
    Lectors read from scripture, acolytes serve at Mass, and catechists teach the faith to children and adult converts.
    The ministries of lector and acolyte existed before but were officially reserved to men.    Francis instituted the ministry of the catechist last year.
    At Sunday’s Mass the pope installed six women and two men as lectors and three women and five men as catechists.    Francis gave a bible to each lector and a crucifix to each catechist.
    The formalisation, including a conferral ceremony, will make it more difficult for conservative bishops to block women in their dioceses from taking on those roles.
    The change will be particularly important as a recognition for women in places such as the Amazon, where some are the de facto religious leaders of remote communities hit by a severe shortage of priests.
    The Vatican stressed that the roles are not a precursor to women one day being allowed to become priests.    The Catholic Church teaches that only men can be priests because Jesus chose only men as his apostles.
    Supporters of a female priesthood say Jesus was conforming to the customs of his times and that women played a greater role in the early Church than is commonly recognised.
    Francis has appointed a number of women to senior jobs in Vatican departments previously held by men.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

1/23/2022 Pope Calls For World Day Of “Prayer For Peace” Over Ukraine Crisis by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis celebrates a Holy Mass, held every year on the third Sunday of January to celebrate
and study the Word of God, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, January 23, 2022. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis on Sunday called for an international day of “prayer for peace” on January 26 to stop the Ukraine crisis from worsening, saying the tensions were threatening the security of Europe and risking vast repercussions.
    Francis announced the prayer day and made the appeal for dialogue to defuse the crisis during his weekly address and blessing to pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter’s Square.
    Top U.S. and Russian diplomats failed on Friday to make a major breakthrough in talks to resolve the crisis over Ukraine, although they agreed to keep talking.    On Sunday, Britain accused Russia of seeking to install a pro-Russian leader in Ukraine.
    “I am following with concern the rising tensions that threaten to deliver a new blow to peace in Ukraine and put the security of Europe in doubt, with even more vast repercussions,” he said.
    He appealed to “all people of good will” to pray next Wednesday so that all political initiatives “be for the service of human fraternity” rather than partisan interests.    The Vatican gave no immediate details on how the pope would mark the day.
    “Those who pursue their interests by damaging others are in contempt of his vocation as a man, because we were all created as brothers,” he said, without elaborating.
    On Friday U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and warned of a "swift, severe” response if Russia invades Ukraine after massing troops near its border.
(Reporting by Philip PullellaEditing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

1/25/2022 Abortion foes rally downtown for Roe V. Wade anniversary From staff reports
    Dozens of abortion opponents rallied on the steps of Louisville’s Metro Hall Friday as part of a rally commemorating the 49th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the historic U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld a woman’s right to end her pregnancy.
    The rally, hosted by Right to Life of Louisville, took place at noon in downtown Louisville, with scheduled speakers that included Kelly Craft, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; Republican Metro Council member Anthony Piagentini; Rob Givens, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s state director; Irina Baptiste of the Cuban-American Association of Kentucky; and deacon Stephen Smith of the Archdiocese of Louisville.
    Kentucky has taken steps in recent years to curb or eliminate access to abortion, requiring patients to visit a doctor or other health provider to obtain medication to terminate an early pregnancy.
    A Kentucky lawmaker is also seeking to outlaw abortion medication by mail — as Texas did Dec. 1 — a move that would further blunt any impact of recent action by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration lifting a requirement for an in-person medical visit.
    America is bracing for a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court in a Mississippi abortion law dispute that has sparked speculation the court’s new, conservative majority is ready to reverse Roe v. Wade.
    A decision is expected later this year.
People held up signs during a Right to Life rally Friday at Louisville Metro Hall.
Right to Life of Louisville hosted the rally to commemorate the 49th anniversary
of Roe v Wade. photos by Jeff Faughender/Courier Journal
Metro councilman Anthony Piagentini spoke out against abortion, Friday

1/25/2022 Former pope discussed priest move by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    BERLIN – Retired Pope Benedict XVI has acknowledged that he did attend a 1980 meeting at which the transfer of a pedophile priest to his then-diocese was discussed, saying an editorial error was responsible for his previous assertion that he wasn’t there.
    Authors of a report on sexual abuse between 1945 and 2019 in the Munich archdiocese – which Benedict, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, led from 1977 to 1982 – on Thursday faulted his handling of four cases during his time as archbishop and said his claim that he wasn’t present at the meeting lacked credibility.
    Benedict, who provided lengthy written testimony, denies any wrongdoing on his part.
    One case involved the transfer to Munich of a priest to undergo therapy, which was approved under Ratzinger in 1980.
    The priest was allowed to resume pastoral work, a decision that the church has said was made by a lowerranking official without consulting the archbishop.    In 1986, that priest received a suspended sentence for molesting a boy.    In a statement to Germany’s KNA Catholic news agency on Monday, Benedict’s longtime secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, said the retired pope wants to clarify that he was in fact at January 1980 meeting of local church officials in which the priest’s transfer to Munich was discussed. He said Benedict apologizes for the error.
The statement to KNA was reported by the Vatican’s in-house Vatican News portal.

1/25/2022 All 100 lab monkeys rounded up after crash by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    DANVILLE, Pa. – The last of the escaped monkeys from the crash of a pickup truck towing a trailer load of 100 of the animals was accounted for by late Saturday, a day after the pickup collided with a dump truck on a Pennsylvania highway, authorities said.
    Several monkeys escaped following Friday’s collision, Pennsylvania State Police said.    But only one had remained unaccounted for as of Saturday morning, prompting the Pennsylvania Game Commission and other agencies to launch a search for it amid frigid weather.
    Kristen Nordlund, a spokesperson with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in an email Saturday night that all 100 of the cynomolgus macaque monkeys had since been accounted for. Three were dead after being euthanized.
    The email did not elaborate on why the three were euthanized or how all came to be accounted for.    But Nordlund said those euthanized were done so humanely according to American Veterinary Medical Association guidelines.
    The shipment of monkeys was en route to a CDC-approved quarantine facility after arriving Friday morning at New York’s Kennedy Airport from Mauritius, an Indian Ocean island nation, police said.    The Atlanta-based CDC said the agency was providing 'technical assistance' to state police in Pennsylvania.
    The collision occurred Friday on a state highway near an Interstate 80 exit in Pennsylvania’s Montour County, Trooper Andrea Pelachick told The Daily Item newspaper of Sunbury.
    The location of the quarantine facility and the type of research for which the monkeys were apparently destined weren’t known, but cynomolgus monkeys are often used in medical studies.
    Earlier, police had earlier urged people not to look for or capture any monkey, with troopers tweeting: 'Anyone who sees or locates the monkey is asked not to approach, attempt to catch, or come in contact with the monkey.     Please call 911 immediately.'
    The drivers of the trucks weren’t harmed and a passenger was transported to a medical center for treatment of suspected minor injuries, according to the state police’s crash report.
Crates holding live monkeys are scattered across the road near Danville, Pa., on Friday, after a pickup
pulling a trailer carrying them was hit by a dump truck. Jimmy May/Bloomsburg Press Enterprise via AP

1/25/2022 Cardinal Skips Vatican Trial To Boycott Talk Of Rumoured Liaison With Woman by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becci, speaks to the media a day after he resigned
suddenly and gave up his right to take part in an eventual conclave to elect a pope,
near the Vatican, in Rome, Italy, September 25, 2020. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane/File Photo
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – A cardinal who is a defendant in a Vatican corruption trial stayed away on Tuesday because he did not want to be in the room when lawyers spoke of rumours that he had an intimate relationship with a woman, which he has denied.     The trial, in which 10 defendants are accused of fraud and other crimes related to the Vatican’s 350 million euro ($400 million) purchase of a luxury building in London, resumed after a break of more than a month. All have denied wrongdoing.
    Lawyers for Cardinal Angelo Becciu on Tuesday contested the methods used by the prosecution when they questioned Monsignor Alberto Perlasca, a former Vatican official who was first a suspect and now a star witness.
    Becciu “did not wish to listen to the contents of the dialogue,” defence lawyer Maria Concetta Marzo told the proceeding.    She explained that he was not attending for the first time since the trial began in July because his morality should not be questioned and he had already denied the rumours.
    A co-defendant, Cecilia Marogna, 42, worked for Becciu, 73, when he was the deputy secretary of state.    She is charged with embezzlement, and he is charged with embezzlement, abuse of office and inducing a witness to perjury.
    His lawyers said that a recording of Perlasca’s questioning contained the prosecution prodding him insistently about rumours of a possible “intimate” relationship between Becciu and Marogna.    Perlasca told them he had not heard of it.
    Marzo said the exchange was missing from the transcription.    She asked that the questioning be stricken from the record, a request the court is expected to rule on at the next session, on Feb. 18.
    Marogna received 575,000 euros from the Secretariat of State, the Vatican’s most important department, in 2018-2019 when Becciu was working there.
    She has said that the money, sent to her company in Slovenia, was to ransom kidnapped missionaries in Africa. But the indictment request said much of it was used for “personal benefit,” including the purchase of luxury goods.
    Four of 10 defendants were temporarily removed from the indictment in October after the court president found fault with the original investigation.
    He ordered the prosecution to go back and question the four again because procedural steps designed to protect the defendants was not followed originally.
    They were effectively re-indicted on Tuesday after the prosecution presented the court with seven volumes of additional material, prosecutor Alessandro Diddi told reporters on the sidelines of the hearing.
    Pope Francis fired Becciu from another senior clerical post in 2020 for alleged nepotism, an accusation he also denies.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

1/27/2022 Bill barring transgender girls up for first vote by Olivia Krauth, Louisville Courier Journal USA TODAY NETWORK
    A bill barring transgender girls from playing on girls sports teams is moving in the Kentucky legislature.    Senate Bill 83, sponsored by Sen. Robby Mills, R-Henderson, is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Education Committee Thursday at 11:30 a.m. Similar measures have been filed in past sessions, but have not been heard in committee or received a vote.
    Under the bill, schools would need to identify each sports team as either “boys,” “girls” or “coed.”
    “An athletic activity or sport designated as ‘girls’ shall not be open to members of the male sex,” the bill reads.
    The bill, however, does not define “male sex,” say what constitutes a member of the male sex or explain how a student will be determined to be a “member of the male sex.”
    All students would be allowed to play on teams labeled as “boys” or “coed,” the bill says.
    The Kentucky Board of Education, the Kentucky High School Athletic Association, school districts or schools would not be allowed to entertain a complaint, open an investigation or take any adverse action against schools for locking transgender girls out of girls’ teams.
    The bill would also allow students “deprived of an athletic opportunity” or who otherwise suffer because of a violation of the bill to sue the offending school district.
    Mills’ bill is dubbed the “Save Women’s Sports Act.”    A similar measure with the same moniker is also filed in the House this year.
    KHSAA allows transgender student- athletes to compete in sports “free from unlawful discrimination based on sexual orientation.”
    But the existing KHSAA policy requires transgender athletes to undergo sex reassignment surgery in order to compete on the team aligned with their identity.
    Chris Hartman, executive director for the Fairness Campaign, previously said “few, if any” transgender students could meet the current KHSAA guidelines.
    Calling SB 83 “a solution in search of a problem that does not exist,” a spokesman for the ACLU of Kentucky said the bill violates the U.S. Constitution and the Civil Rights Act.
    “Senate Bill 83 is rooted in bigotry and hate, and seeks only to erase trans people from participating in all aspects of life,” Sam Crankshaw said.    “Fear mongering to score cheap political points at the expense of Kentucky children is shameful.”
    Mills has sponsored similar bills in previous sessions.
    The gender identities of athletes “is not an issue until your daughter is unfairly beaten by a biological male!” Mills tweeted at one of the bill’s critics in 2020.
    “I’ve been told of situations in KY last year and more will be coming,” he continued.
    Reporter Joe Sonka contributed to this story.
    Reach Olivia Krauth at okrauth@ and on Twitter at @oliviakrauth.

1/28/2022 Pope to parents: ‘Never condemn’ gay children by Nicole Winfield, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis urged parents on Wednesday not to condemn their children if they are gay, in his latest gesture of outreach to the LGBTQ community which has long been marginalized by the Catholic hierarchy.
    Francis spoke off the cuff during his weekly Wednesday general audience dedicated to the figure of St. Joseph, the father of Jesus.    Francis said he was thinking in particular about parents who are confronted with 'sad' situations in their children’s lives.
    Citing parents who have to cope with children who are sick, imprisoned or who get killed in car accidents, Francis added: 'Parents who see that their children have different sexual orientations, how they manage that and accompany their children and not hide behind a condemning attitude.'
    'Never condemn a child,' he said.
    Official church teaching calls for gay men and lesbians to be respected and loved, but considers homosexual activity 'intrinsically disordered.'    Francis, though, has sought to make the church more welcoming to gay people, most famously with his 2013 comment 'Who am I to judge?'
    The Argentine Jesuit also has spoken of his own ministry to gay and transgender people, insisting they are children of God, loved by God and deserving of accompaniment by the church.
    Francis has also made several gestures of outreach to the gay Catholic community and their advocates, including a recent letter congratulating an American nun once sanctioned by the Vatican, Sister Jeannine Gramick, on her 50years of LGBTQ ministry.
    That said, Francis also allowed the 2021 publication of a document from the Vatican asserting that the Catholic Church won’t bless same-sex unions because God 'cannot bless sin.'    Francis recently transferred the Vatican official widely believed to have been behind the document.
Pope Francis urged parents on Wednesday during his weekly general audience
not to condemn their children if they are gay. Alessandra Tarantino/AP

1/28/2022 Pope Says Fake News, Disinformation On COVID, Is Human Rights Violation by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis arrives to attend the weekly general audience at the
Paul VI Audience Hall, at the Vatican, December 1, 2021. REUTERS/Yara Nardi
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis said on Friday that spreading fake news and disinformation on COVID-19 and vaccines, including by Catholic media, is a violation of human rights.
    It was the second time in less than month that the 85-year-old pope has spoken out on the subject.    Three weeks ago, he condemned “baseless” ideological misinformation about vaccines, backing national immunisation campaigns and calling health care a moral obligation.
    Francis made his comments in an address to members of, a consortium of Catholic media whose website says its aim is to “clarify fake news and misleading information” about vaccines against COVID.
    “To be properly informed, to be helped to understand situations based on scientific data and not fake news, is a human right,” the pope told the group.    “Correct information must be ensured above all to those who are less equipped, to the weakest and to those who are most vulnerable.”
    Francis decried a spreading “infodemic,” which he said was a distortion of reality based on fear, falsified or invented news and “allegedly scientific information.”
    Believers of fake news should not be placed in “ghettos” but attempts should be made to try to win them over to the scientific truth.
    “Fake news has to be refuted, but individual persons must always be respected, for they believe it often without full awareness or responsibility,” Francis said.
    It was significant that the pope made the address to a Catholic media group.    Some right-wing Catholic outlets, blogs and websites have been shut down by social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter for spreading COVID disinformation.    Many have moved to other platforms.
    Some right-wing Catholic media regularly host Francis’ most severe critics, such as Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, an Italian who has been in hiding for nearly three years since issuing a broadside against Francis demanding his resignation.
    In a letter to followers this month, Vigano said the virus was produced in a lab was part of a global plot “to erase all traces of our identity as Christians.”
    He has also denied the pandemic exists and has called it the work of Satan.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

2/1/2022 Church leader steps down, will fight charge of concealing abuse by Asha C. Gilbert, USA TODAY
    Hillsong Church founder Brian Houston announced Sunday he was “completely” stepping down from church leadership as he prepares to defend himself against a charge of concealing child sex abuse.
    Houston, 67, was charged in August 2021 after being accused of knowing his preacher father, Frank, allegedly abused a boy in the 1970s, but he did not come forward with the information to police and allowed his father to retire quietly.
    “These allegations came as a shock to me, and it is my intention to vigorously defend them,” Houston said in a statement on the Hillsong website.    During a board meeting in December, Houston was advised by Hillsong’s external legal counsel that it would be best to step aside during court proceedings, according to the statement.
    “I have said, including in a prior statement, that I intend to fight the charge and welcome the opportunity to set the record straight,” he said.
    Houston and his wife, Bobbie, founded Hillsong Church in Australia in 1983.    For nearly four decades, the church has grown to include celebrity attendees at locations in 30 countries.
    Hillsong Church pastor Carl Lentz was fired in November 2020 after he displayed leadership issues and narcissistic behavior, Houston told “Today” in an exclusive interview last May.    Lentz had relationships with celebrities including Justin Bieber, who lived at his home.
    “I have reflected many, many times, and I’m acknowledging that mistakes have been made and that there are things where we need to get far better, much better.    I’m not shrinking back from that,” Houston said during the interview.
    Houston and his wife plan to remain “fully engaged in church life.”
    Contributing: The Associated Press

2/3/2022 Poll: Americans more satisfied with acceptance of gay and lesbian people by Marina Pitofsky, USA TODAY
    The percentage of Americans who say they are satisfied with the acceptance of gay and lesbian people in the country has reached a new peak of 62%, according to a poll released Wednesday.
    Gallup’s annual Mood of the Nation poll asks people about their satisfaction with aspects of U.S. life and policy areas, ranging from the overall quality of life to the nation’s military strength and environmental issues.
    Americans’ satisfaction with the acceptance of gay and lesbian people stood out in the 2022 poll because it reached the highest level the nation has seen since Gallup started tracking the trend in 2001, though the peak is statistically similar to 2016 levels.
    Poll respondents also reported a greater level of satisfaction with acceptance of gay and lesbian people than any of the 20 other issues Gallup tracked this year.
    And while satisfaction on many of the other issues decreased this year, the numbers on gay and lesbian individuals grew substantially: In 2022, 62% of survey respondents said they were very or somewhat satisfied with the acceptance of gays and lesbians in the nation, up from 55% in 2021 and 56% in 2020.
    Jeff Jones, a senior editor at Gallup, told USA TODAY that the question shows whether gay and lesbian people are “being considered not an outsider group but a normal, mainstream group of people in the U.S.
    He said this data demonstrates a shift from a time “where the public was kind of opposed to treating them the same as everybody else to one where that’s definitely the norm.”
    “It just speaks to changes in societal norms that we’ve seen over the past, really, two decades,” Jones said.    “When we used to ask about same-sex marriage, in the 1990s and even in early 2000s, we would have majorities opposed.    And now we have solid majorities that seem to grow at least a little bit every year.”
    Fifty-nine percent of Democratic survey respondents said they were very or somewhat satisfied with the acceptance of gay and lesbian people, up from 48% in 2021.    Among Republican survey respondents, 64% said they were satisfied, an increase from 62% in 2021.
    But as the coronavirus pandemic continues and the nation faces other challenges, Americans’ outlook on a range of issues has dipped.
    Over the past year, satisfaction with energy policies in the U.S. saw the sharpest drop of the issues listed in the survey.    Twenty-seven percent of respondents said they were somewhat or very satisfied with the nation’s energy policies, down from 42% in 2021 and 44% in 2020.
    Jones blamed elevated gas prices for Americans’ bleak outlook on energy policies.
    “It’s hard for people to escape gas prices when they go up,” Jones said.        “Every time they fill the tank, they’re reminded of it.    So when you turn around and a survey asks about energy prices, or energy in general, it’s kind of top of mind for them.”
    Satisfaction with the state of the nation’s economy also saw a 10-point drop over the past year, from 43% to 33%.     Gallup in a news release said inflation, which has hit decade-spanning highs in recent months, is likely driving the dip.
    But despite survey respondents’ outlook on a slate of policy issues, 69% said they were satisfied with the overall quality of life in the country, which is up from 67% in 2021.    However, the outlook is still down from 84% in 2020.
    The survey also saw a drop in satisfaction with the country’s handling of abortion policies.    Twenty-four percent said they were satisfied with the state of the “nation’s policies regarding the abortion issue,” compared with 33% in 2021 and 32% in 2020.
    Gallup said in a release that the decline could be tied to restrictive abortion laws in Texas and Mississippi.    The Texas law bans abortions after six weeks, among other measures.    The Mississippi law bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
    Abortion rights are at a critical juncture in the U.S.    The Supreme Court heard oral arguments recently on the constitutionality of Mississippi’s ban, and dozens of states are poised to ban abortion in some form if the court OKs the ban or overturns Roe v. Wade, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights research and policy organization.
    And the retirement of Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, who has written some of the court’s most important decisions on abortion, also puts a national spotlight on this issue.
    Jones said “most of the drop” in the survey on abortion policies “is coming among Democrats.”
    It’s “partially a response to what’s happened in the last few months on abortion, but maybe also looking ahead and seeing that there could be major changes in there that Democrats really don’t approve of,” Jones said.
    The Gallup poll is based on telephone interviews conducted from Jan. 3-16.    It includes a sample of 811 adults in the U.S. and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Poll respondents reported a greater level of satisfaction with
acceptance of gay and lesbian people. GETTY IMAGES

2/3/2022 One Trans Woman’s Fight Against A Bill That Would Criminalise Ghana’s LGBT+ Community by Francis Kokoroko
Va-Bene Elikem Fiatsi, 40, (C) a trans woman who is an artist and LGBT+ activist, talks with
family members during the first visit back to her family's village in twenty years in Lume Atsyame,
Volta Region-Ghana, December 18, 2021. "There are some of my siblings and cousins who, for over five years,
we never spoke, even though I love and miss them so much," said Fiatsi. REUTERS/Francis Kokoroko
    KUMASI, Ghana (Reuters) – In a dimly-lit room with racks of women’s clothing, Ghanaian artist and LGBT+ activist Va-Bene Elikem Fiatsi flipped through photo self-portraits illustrating her transition to womanhood.
    Transitioning is not illegal in Ghana, but it will become so if a new law is passed, intended to tighten already strict anti-LGBT+ regulations which render same-sex relations illegal.
    Homophobia is pervasive in the West African country and trans people are generally considered to be gay.
    Fiatsi first exhibited the photographs, dubbed “Rituals of Becoming,” in 2017.    Supportive audiences flocked to see the show in Ghanaian galleries.
    Her work reflects how LGBT+ people in Ghana have navigated legal and social constraints to carve out a space to express their identities.
    But Fiatsi fears that even that limited space could now be closing with the new bill, which if it passes would see her risk prosecution every time she puts on a dress.
    “To say I’m afraid is an understatement, but I am what I am,” said Fiatsi, who runs an artist residence in Kumasi, Ghana’s second city.
    “It feels like waiting to be slaughtered,” she said.
    Ghana is one of more than 30 African countries that outlaw same-sex relations.    Guilty verdicts carry up to three-year prison sentences.
    A group of lawmakers from Ghana’s opposition introduced what they called a “Family Values Bill” in November, which would impose jail terms of up to 10 years for advocacy of LGBT+ causes and between three and five years for those who “hold out” as lesbian, gay, non-binary, transgender and transsexual, or who undergo or perform surgical procedures for gender reassignment.
    The bill, which has broad backing among lawmakers but has yet to be voted on, also includes a provision that would force some to undergo conversion therapy.    Amnesty International said this could violate Ghana’s anti-torture laws.
    No politician has come out publicly against it.    President Nana Akufo-Addo urged civil debate and tolerance when the bill was introduced but did not take a stance on its content.
    Opponents say its passage would be a major setback for a country whose reputation as a friendly and stable democracy attracts tourists and investors.
    Its backers say LGBT+ activities threaten the concept of family which is central to the structure of all Ghana’s ethnic groups.    No voting date has been set.
    “I call it the ‘Anti-Human’ bill,” said Fiatsi, who is a former Christian pastor.    “It takes away from our family values of being a tolerant country, and being hospitable and loving.”
    There have been no national opinion polls on the bill.    Advocates say LGBT+ people are often subject to physical abuse and blackmail in Ghana, and those who come out or are outed are frequently ostracised by friends and family.
    “There are some of my siblings and cousins who, for over five years, we never spoke, even though I love and miss them so much,” said Fiatsi.    “Most of them think I’m just a demon.”
    So do many of her former colleagues.    Christian leaders have been among the most outspoken champions of the bill.
    When public hearings began in November, Abraham Ofori-Kuragu, a spokesperson for the influential Pentecostal-Charismatic council, said he had never seen a law “so bold in its presentation of the Ghanaian agenda.”
    More than 70% of Ghana’s 30 million people are Christian, and billboards with the faces of popular preachers adorn most street corners in the capital Accra.    Some faith leaders condemn advocacy for LGBT+ rights as a Western imposition.
    No longer welcome at the churches where she used to preach, Fiatsi channels her evangelism into art and activism.
    Her studio compound, where she hosts LGBT-friendly artist residency programmes, is filled with sculptures carved from tree trunks or shaped from old electronics.    Murals and affirmations like “We Are All The Same” line the walls.
    She has a global network of allies but she insists she will stay in Ghana out of solidarity with those unable to leave.
    Even as the perils of life as a trans woman rise, Fiatsi takes comfort in small acts of humanity.
    Shortly after the bill was introduced, she travelled for a funeral to her family’s village, her first time back in 20 years.
    She stood nervously in her dress and heels.    Some people exchanged pleasantries, while others darted their eyes and quietly sniggered.
    Before too long, the awkwardness gave way to familial warmth.    A relative patted her back.    Another asked how life was going.    When someone made a snide comment, Fiatsi playfully stuck her tongue out before continuing her conversation.
    “There are many more of us that will be born, even far after I’m gone,” she said.    “What I do today is not for me, or even for those living today.    It’s for the future generation.”
(Reporting by Francis Kokoroko; Writing by Cooper Inveen; Editing by Aaron Ross, Alexandra Hudson)

2/4/2022 Pope Still Has Confidence In Me, Says Former Archbishop Of Paris by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: Archbishop of Paris Michel Aupetit blesses the French capital from the Sacre-Coeur Basilica
of Montmartre in Paris as part of Easter ceremonies during a lockdown imposed to slow the spread
of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in France, April 9, 2020. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – The former archbishop of Paris, who resigned in December after reports of a relationship with a woman, met Pope Francis and said the pope renewed his confidence in him, according to an interview published on Friday.
    “Pope Francis renewed his support for me … he repeated that he considered me a victim of hypocrisy and clericalism,” Archbishop Michel Aupetit told the official Vatican News website.
    Aupetit, who met the pope this week, said Francis wanted him to remain a member of the Vatican department that advises the pope on the appointment of bishops around the world. He would be taking part in meetings in that department every two weeks in Rome.
    Several days after accepting Aupetit’s resignation, Francis told reporters he had done so not because the archbishop had sinned but because the gossip about him had left him in a position where he could no longer govern the large archdiocese.
    Aupetit has denied any intimate relationship with the unnamed woman, though he acknowledged his behaviour may have been ambiguous.
    The pope told reporters in December that Aupetit had been condemned “by public opinion, by gossip .. .. he could no longer govern.”
    Aupetit also said the pope told him he was worried about the situation of the Church in France.    He did not elaborate.
    The Church in France is still reeling from a report in October that showed that clerics sexually abused more than 200,000 children in France over the past 70 years.
    Aupetit said he would still be involved in activities in the French Church, mentioning several projects to help the poor, the homeless and other vulnerable members of society.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

2/5/2022 Biden joins pope, imam in calling for ‘human fraternity’
    ROME – President Joe Biden joined Pope Francis and a leading Sunni imam on Friday in calling for global cooperation to fight the coronavirus, climate change and other world crises on the second anniversary of a landmark Christian-Muslim peace initiative.    The Vatican released a statement from Biden marking the International Day of Human Fraternity, a U.N.-designated celebration of interfaith and multicultural understanding.    The document called for greater mutual understanding and solidarity to confront problems.

2/6/2022 Clash over gay rights in Northern Kentucky - Union could be first in Boone County to pass fairness ordinance by Rachel Berry, Cincinnati Enquirer USA TODAY NETWORK
    UNION – To those who support it, a “fairness” ordinance in this Northern Kentucky city is a chance to make clear the city won’t tolerate discrimination against gay people.
    But to opponents – including the county’s Republican party and the local state senator – it’s a “big mistake” and the latest sign that “extremist progressives” are imposing their will.
    It’s a sign of just how divisive fights over gay rights can be.    Cincinnati, just 18 miles north, is now a model of gay rights, receiving the highest possible score in rankings by the Human Rights Campaign.    In Kentucky, 23 other cities have passed fairness ordinances, which prohibit discrimination surrounding employment, housing and public accommodations.
    But in Boone County, a county across the river where President Donald Trump won two-thirds of the vote in 2020, no city has passed such an ordinance.    With a proposed ordinance up for a vote Monday, Union could be the first.
    Residents, officials weigh in on the LGBTQ anti-discrimination ordinance.
    At the city’s Jan. 3 city commission meeting, a handful of residents spoke about the ordinance – with a local pastor supporting it and a Republican state senator opposing it.
    Rev. Lisa Stenner of Union Presbyterian Church spoke about how a fairness ordinance is needed to promote diversity and protect the LGBTQ community against discrimination.    If the commissioners vote against the ordinance, it could make Union look unfriendly to businesses looking to relocate to the city, she said.
    “I think it is a very dangerous message to send our community that it’s okay to discriminate against somebody because of something in their person,” Stenner said at the meeting.    “And as a faith community, obviously that’s rooted in what we believe.”
    State Sen. John Schickel, the only speaker at the meeting who opposed the ordinance, said the U.S. Constitution treats everyone equally and that everyone has access to the courts, making a fairness ordinance unnecessary.
    “I think to make a set of laws that just apply to one demographic group is a big mistake,” said Schickel, a Union resident, at the meeting.
    “To me, it is a matter of equality and equal, equal, equal protection under the law and not sort of some special protection law,” he added later at the meeting.
    What do residents think about the ordinance?
    Darnell Johnson, a Union resident, has been fighting for LGBTQ rights since the early 1990s.    He began organizing with the Fairness Campaign – an organization that promotes fairness ordinances across Kentucky – before Louisville became the first city in the commonwealth to pass an ordinance.
    Johnson, a gay man, recalled instances where he went to restaurants with a group of gay friends and they wouldn’t be served or would be served last.    It was experiences like these that made him want to become involved with community organizing.
    Johnson’s parents have lived in Union for more than 20 years, and last year, he moved to the city as well.
    “For Union to step forward and be one of the first Northern Kentucky cities to take this on and think about this in this real earnest way says a lot about the people of Union, and I am very proud that my parents have moved here and have lived here in a welcoming community,” Johnson said.
    The Enquirer requested emails from residents to the Union City Commission to gauge how residents feel about the ordinance.    The Enquirer received eight resident emails: four in favor of the ordinance and four against.
    Those in favor of the ordinance expressed a desire for inclusion for all Union residents, with one resident calling the ordinance a “relatively nominal symbol of tolerance.”
    Among those opposed: the Boone County Republican party.    Its chairman, Chet Hand, emailed Union City Commissioners a resolution passed at the party’s Jan. 24 meeting, in which the party nearly unanimously condemned the proposed ordinance.
    “The ordinance does not fix ( or) right any wrong, or protect anyone that isn’t already protected.    Rather it appears to be an unnecessary solution, in search of a problem,” he wrote.
    “Republicans stand for Equal Rights, not Special Rights.    This ordinance proposes a special rights class, which will open the door to future abuses by social activists and extremist progressives who are focused on social engineering rather than true equality.”
    How do commissioners stand on the proposal?
    Commissioner Brian Garner first proposed the ordinance in 2019 – as a citizen, before he was elected to the commission in 2020.    He emailed commissioners at that time and recommended they consider passing a fairness ordinance, emails obtained through an Enquirer records request show.    He said this ordinance was one of his reasons for running for the city commission.
    Union’s nonpartisan city commission is made up of four commissioners and the mayor.    The Enquirer contacted all the commissioners and the mayor regarding the fairness ordinance.
    Mayor Larry Solomon and Commissioner John Mefford both declined to comment on the ordinance before the Monday night meeting.    Commissioners Jeremy Ramage and Eric Dulaney didn’t respond to two emailed requests for comment.
    Emails obtained by The Enquirer provide some insight into the other commissioners’ mindsets.
    In 2019 in response to Garner’s email before he became a commissioner, Ramage wrote: “I don’t see how it applies to our operations or city function/ facilities/events at this time.”
    In June 2021, Solomon wrote in an email to Union’s city administrator, attorney and to Garner: “I support his belief; however, for this legislation we have to come up with something reasonable; and, Jeremy (Ramage) thinks this (draft of the ordinance) is reasonable.    To be clear, our position...Primary position; don’t want to do this legislation.    Secondary or legislation only if it is the (draft) attached.    Any other version will most likely have a hard time getting passed.”
    About the proposed ordinance What would it prohibit?
    While the ordinance addresses discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations, Garner clarified that the main change is regarding public accommodations.    Discrimination on the basis of sexual or gender orientation at public accommodations, including stores, restaurants, hotels and other public businesses, is not blocked by laws, court decisions or administrative rules.    In 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and transgender status in the workplace.
    In February 2021, President Joe Biden signed an executive order prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in housing.
    What would happen if someone violates the ordinance?
    Union’s proposed fairness ordinance is meant to create a process where if someone experiences discrimination, they can file a complaint with the city, and the city will investigate.    There will be a conciliation process, under which the two parties are brought together to discuss what happened.    Garner said from his research of other cities, typically the process ends at that point.
    If the city finds discrimination has occurred, it can impose a $500 fine.    Garner said the goal of this is not to harm local businesses but to act as a deterrent against discrimination.
    What other cities in Northern Kentucky have fairness ordinances?
    Twenty-three cities across Kentucky have fairness ordinances, including nine in Northern Kentucky.    Covington was the first city in the region to pass the ordinance in 2003 and was the third city across the commonwealth, following Louisville and Lexington, which passed ordinances in 1999.
    Other Northern Kentucky cities with fairness ordinances include Dayton, Bellevue, Highland Heights, Fort Thomas, Cold Spring, Newport, Crescent Springs and Fort Mitchell.
    “We’d be excited to see Union become the next city with fairness, ...” said Chris Hartman, executive director of the Fairness Campaign.    “It’ll certainly position Union in a place that makes it clear that everyone is welcome there, that everyone will be treated with dignity and respect.”
    How has this worked in other Northern Kentucky cities?
    According to communication obtained through a records request from Union, other Northern Kentucky cities get few discrimination reports.    Covington has one or two per year, and Bellevue has zero or one.    Dayton and Highland Heights hadn’t received any as of December 2021.
    What are Union’s demographics?
    Union is a suburban city with a population of 7,416, and it’s grown 37.9% since 2010, according to census data.    Almost 90% of its residents are white, and the median household income is $125,000.
If you go Union’s city commission will meet at 6:30 p.m. on Monday at the Union City Building, located at 1843 Bristow Drive.
    Northern Kentucky reporter Rachel Berry can be reached at
Follow her on Twitter @racheldberry.
Darnell Johnson, who used to work with the Fairness Campaign, now lives in Union, where a fairness
ordinance will be voted on by the city commission on Monday, Feb. 7. PROVIDED BY DARNELL JOHNSON

2/7/2022 Bill would dictate teaching of history - Senator: Focus should be on American principles by Olivia Krauth, Louisville Courier Journal | USA TODAY NETWORK
    In response to outcry over “critical race theory,” a top Kentucky Republican filed a bill outlining what and how kids should be taught about the nation’s history.    Touching on themes from measures in the House aimed at eradicating “CRT” from classrooms, Senate Bill 138 clarifies that teachers can discuss historical events such as slavery and oppression but should note such things ran counter to the country’s founding values.
    It would also prohibit schools from requiring educators to discuss current events with students or participate in race-related training.
    The bill from Sen. Max Wise, a Campbellsville Republican who chairs the chamber’s education committee, says lessons should be consistent with a set of American principles.
    Among them are the values that all people are created equal and individuals are not responsible for things those of the same race or sex did.    People should be judged by their character, not their race or sex, the bill says.
    Students should be taught slavery, segregation and racial discrimination are “contrary to the fundamental American promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” it says, but blaming racial disparities solely on the nation’s history is “destructive to the unification of our nation.”
    Teachers would need to remain consistent with the notion that any American can succeed when they are “given sufficient opportunity and is committed to seizing that opportunity through hard work, pursuit of education, and good citizenship,” the bill continues.
    The measure’s tone is “a little more positive” than two bills filed in the House aimed at curbing how teachers discuss race, Angela Billings, a spokeswoman for the Senate Republicans, said.
    It doesn’t preclude conversations from happening, she said, but provides some parameters for them.
    The House bills sparked outcry from educators, who said the broad list of banned topics would block them from teaching the ugly parts of the country’s history.
    SB 138 attempts to address those concerns, saying the bill should not limit “impartial” instruction on controversial topics and the oppression of marginalized groups.
    But school districts would not be allowed to require teachers to discuss controversial public policy topics or current events with students.    Educators who do take on these conversations would be required to do so from “diverse and contending perspectives” without deferring to any perspective.
    “It is clear from the bills that continue to be introduced that the Republicanled legislature is intent on limiting discourse about the realities of our history,” KY 120 United-AFT, a group of educators and public employees, said in reaction to the bill.    “We do not have to wonder whose reality counts when we see this kind of legislation.”
    If passed, around two dozen historical documents and speeches would be required to be taught in middle and high school history classes.
    Many of them — including the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and court opinions in Brown v. Board of Education — are likely already taught.    Others, including Ronald Reagan’s 1964 “A Time for Choosing” speech, are a little less common.
    Educators also couldn’t require or offer credit for students who lobby for legislation or do any sort of policy advocacy, the bill says.    Similar provisions have been found in anti-”CRT” bills filed in other states.
    School districts would not be allowed to require trainings that present “any form of race or sex stereotyping or blame on the basis of race or sex,” the bill says.
    Critical race theory is an academic concept that examines how systems, rather than individuals, perpetuate racial inequities.    It is not taught at the K-12 level, but conservatives have co-opted the phrase to cover a range of diversity and equity initiatives undertaken by schools.
    Billings said the bill is expected to get a committee vote Thursday.
    Reach Olivia Krauth at and on Twitter at @oliviakrauth.

2/9/2022 Ex-pope asks pardon in abuse cases by Nicole Winfield, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    ROME – Retired Pope Benedict XVI asked forgiveness Tuesday for any “grievous faults” in his handling of clergy sex abuse cases, but denied any personal or specific wrongdoing after an independent report criticized his actions in four cases while he was archbishop of Munich, Germany.
    Benedict’s lack of a personal apology or admission of guilt riled abuse survivors, who said his response reflected the Catholic hierarchy’s “permanent” refusal to accept responsibility for the rape and sodomy of children by priests.
    Benedict, 94, was responding to a Jan. 20 report from a German law firm that had been commissioned by the Catholic Church in Germany to look into how cases of sexual abuse were handled in the Munich archdiocese between 1945 and 2019.    Benedict, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, headed the archdiocese from 1977 to 1982.
    The report faulted Benedict’s handling of four cases during his time as archbishop, accusing him of misconduct for having failed to restrict the ministry of the four priests even after they had been convicted criminally.
    The Vatican on Tuesday released a letter that Benedict wrote to respond to the allegations, alongside a more technical reply from his lawyers, who had provided an initial 82-page response to the investigating law firm about his nearly five-year tenure in Munich.
    The conclusion of Benedict’s lawyers was resolute: “As an archbishop, Cardinal Ratzinger was not involved in any cover-up of acts of abuse,” they wrote.    They asserted that the report’s authors provided no evidence that Benedict was aware of the criminal history of any of the four priests in question.
    Benedict’s response was more nuanced and spiritual, though thanked his legal team at length before addressing the allegations or the victims of abuse.
    “I have had great responsibilities in the Catholic Church,” the retired pope said in his letter.    “All the greater is my pain for the abuses and the errors that occurred in those different places during the time of my mandate.”
    Benedict issued what he called a “confession,” though he didn’t confess to any specific sin or fault.    He recalled that daily Mass begins with believers confessing their sins and asking forgiveness for their faults and even their “grievous faults.”
    “And I have come to understand that we ourselves are drawn into this grievous fault whenever we neglect it or fail to confront it with the necessary decisiveness and responsibility, as too often happened and continues to happen,” he wrote.    “As in those meetings, once again I can only express to all the victims of sexual abuse my profound shame, my deep sorrow and my heartfelt request for forgiveness.”
    His response drew criticism from Eckiger Tisch, a group representing German clergy abuse survivors, who said it fit into the church’s “permanent relativizing on matters of abuse – wrongdoing and mistakes took place, but no one takes concrete responsibility,” the group said in a statement.
    “Joseph Ratzinger can’t bring himself simply to state that he is sorry not to have done more to protect the children entrusted to his church,” the group said.    “That would be an honest sentence.”
Retired Pope Benedict XVI issued what he called a “confession,” though he didn’t
confess to any specific sin or fault. GREGORIO BORGIA/AP FILE

2/10/2022 Biden slams Florida bill banning LGBTQ talk in school - Conservative advocates cite parental rights issue by Matthew Brown, USA TODAY
    WASHINGTON – The Biden administration has denounced a bill being advanced by Florida Republicans that would ban the discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation in schools.
    The bill orders that schools “may not encourage classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity” in primary schools “or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”
    The bill does not offer definitions on what would be appropriate.
    Conservative advocates have argued the bill advances “parental rights in education” by allowing parents to sue public schools they believe are discussing LGBTQ issues should the bill become law.    On Monday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis voiced his support for the bill.
    Opponents have called it “Don’t Say Gay” legislation that would create a more hostile environment for LGBTQ students in the state.    The bill would build upon a 2021 law dubbed the “Parents’ Bill of Rights” by its proponents, which bars government agencies from interfering with a parent’s right to “direct the upbringing, education, health care, and mental health” of their children.
    The Biden administration has come out strongly against the proposal on social media.
    “I want every member of the LGBTQI+ community – especially the kids who will be impacted by this hateful bill – to know that you are loved and accepted just as you are,” President Joe Biden wrote in a tweet on Tuesday that added to criticism tweeted out by the White House’s account.    “I have your back, and my Administration will continue to fight for the protections and safety you deserve.”     “This will kill kids,” Chasten Buttigieg, the husband of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and a former teacher, said in criticizing the bill on Twitter last month.    “You are purposefully making your state a harder place for LGBTQ kids to survive in.”
    At an event Monday in Miami, DeSantis, a Republican, said some schools have been “hiding” classroom lessons from parents and discouraging students.
    An analysis from the Florida House of Representatives found that some of the state’s counties, including Hillsborough, Broward and Palm Beach, have policies that say it’s inappropriate for educators to tell a parent about their child’s sexual or gender identity without the child’s consent.    The analysis found such policies would conflict with the proposed law.
    “They need to teach them science, history.    We need more civics and understanding of the U.S. Constitution, what makes our country unique, all those basic stuff,” DeSantis said.    “The larger issue with all of this is parents must have a seat at the table when it comes to what’s going on in their schools.”
    Four states – Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas – already have similar laws on the books banning the discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools, according to GLSEN, an LGBTQ advocacy group.
    Seven states – California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey and Oregon – have laws that promote LGBTQ issues in school curricula.
President Joe Biden tweeted his support Tuesday, telling the
LGBTQ community “you are loved and accepted.” ALEX BRANDON/AP

2/11/2022 Church sex abuse aired in Portugal by Barry Hatton, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    LISBON, Portugal – A lay committee looking into historic child sex abuse in the Portuguese Catholic Church said Thursday that during its first month of work it received allegations from 214 people.
    The allegations are from people born between 1933 and 2006 and tell of psychological torment kept secret for decades, the Independent Committee for the Study of Child Abuse in the Church said.
    “This suffering is associated with feelings of shame, fear, guilt and self-exclusion, reinforcing the idea of lives where the sensation of ‘standing on the sidelines’ was always present,” the committee said in a statement.
    Portuguese church officials said two years ago that authorities had investigated only about a dozen allegations of sexual abuse involving Portuguese priests since 2001.    More than half of those cases were dropped because church investigators decided there wasn’t enough evidence.
    The committee, which will report to the Portuguese Bishops’ Conference at the end of the year, says its task is to study what child sex abuse has occurred, not launch formal investigations.    Many of the allegations suggest a strong possibility that other children may have been victims of the same abuser, the statement said.
    Allegations came in from across the country and from Portuguese now living in the United States, Canada and various European countries.

2/12/2022 Abortions in Texas fell 60% in 1st month under new law by Paul J. Weber, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    AUSTIN, Texas – Abortions in Texas fell by 60% in the first month under the most restrictive abortion law in the U.S. in decades, according to new figures that for the first time reveal a full accounting of the immediate impact.
    The nearly 2,200 abortions reported by Texas providers in September came after a new law took effect that bans the procedure once cardiac activity is detected, usually around six weeks of pregnancy and without exceptions in cases of rape or incest.    The figures were released this month by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.
    In August, there had been more than 5,400 abortions statewide.    State health officials said more data will be released on a monthly basis.
    The numbers offer a fuller picture of the sharp drop in patients that Texas doctors have described in their clinics over the past five months, during which time courts have repeatedly allowed the restrictions to stay in place.
    It has left some Texas patients traveling hundreds of miles to clinics in neighboring states or farther, causing a backlog of appointments in those places.
    Planned Parenthood issued a statement calling the numbers 'the very beginning of the devastating impact' of the law.
    The Texas law conflicts with landmark U.S. Supreme Court rulings that prevent a state from banning abortion early in pregnancy. But it was written in a way that has essentially outmaneuvered those precedents.
    Under the law, any private citizen is entitled to collect $10,000 or more if they bring a successful lawsuit against someone who performed or helped a woman obtain an abortion after the limit – which opponents have condemned as a bounty.    So far, no anti-abortion supporters have filed any suits.
    With few options left, Texas abortion providers have acknowledged the law is likely to stay on the books for the foreseeable future.
    Since the Texas law took effect, similar measures have been introduced in GOP-controlled statehouses nationwide, but none have passed.    Arizona Republicans this month continued moving swiftly to outlaw abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
North Texas March for Life protesters in Dallas on Jan.15 celebrate
the passage of and court rulings upholding a state abortion law. Shafkat Anowar/AP

2/13/2022 NKY city votes against LGBTQ rights ordinance - Opponents say current law provides protections by Rachel Berry, Cincinnati Enquirer, USA TODAY NETWORK
    UNION – Union’s city commission has voted against a proposed LGBTQ rights ordinance.
    The ordinance would have prohibited discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations, which includes stores, restaurants, hotels and other public establishments.
    The ordinance, termed a 'fairness ordinance,' failed to pass Monday night, with Mayor Larry Solomon and Commissioners Eric Dulaney and Jeremy Ramage voting against it. Commissioner John Mefford abstained, and Commissioner Brian Garner, who proposed the ordinance, was the only vote in favor of it.
    A crowd of residents gathered at the meeting, overflowing from the meeting room and filling the lobby.    No public speakers were allowed, though, as the public was given time to speak on the ordinance at the January meeting.
    Commissioners one by one were given a chance to explain the reasoning for their vote.
    'Fairness to all Union residents is something that everybody should believe in,' Solomon said.    'On the surface, everybody wants to be treated fairly.    Everybody wants to treat others fairly.'
    Union passed a resolution guaranteeing fairness to all residents in 2020, he said.    The city also started a diversity public relations campaign last year, and Solomon said he thinks those are enough to address fairness in the city.
    Ramage said the overwhelming response he’s received from residents is that the current laws provide for equal rights, so he said he would vote in line with those residents.    Dulaney declined to give a reason for his vote at the meeting.
    Mefford said he was conflicted because Larry A. Ryle High School, his employer, promotes diversity, equity and inclusion on a school and district level.    He, like Ramage, though, had also heard from many residents who oppose the ordinance.    He said if he voted one way he would be voting against his employer, while if he voted another way, he would be voting against the wishes of those who elected him.
    Garner said he proposed the ordinance out of a desire for all people to be treated equally.    He said he was disappointed local Republicans took a stand against it.
    'I grew up (in Northern Kentucky) and this is not what I grew up in,' he said, speaking to the opposition to the ordinance.
    He said many people misunderstood the ordinance, calling it 'radical' or 'extreme' and said it merely filled in a gap in the existing law.
    The ordinance would have mainly addressed discrimination in public accommodations.
    In 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and transgender status in the workplace.    In February 2021, President Joe Biden signed an executive order prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in housing.
    Twenty-three Kentucky cities have passed fairness ordinances, including nine cities in Northern Kentucky.    Union is the first Northern Kentucky city that voted on an ordinance and failed to pass it.
    Union is located in Boone County and has a population of 7,416 according to the 2020 census.    No cities in Boone County have a fairness ordinance.

2/16/2022 Ariz. priest resigns after incorrect word invalidates baptisms by Marina Pitofsky, USA TODAY
    A priest in Arizona resigned after he incorrectly performed baptisms for decades, possibly derailing the rite for thousands of people.
    The Catholic Diocese of Phoenix on its website confirmed Andres Arango used the words “we baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” instead of the correct phrase “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” in English and Spanish.
    The diocese explained that the single incorrect word matters for worshippers because “it is not the community that baptizes a person and incorporates them into the Church of Christ; rather, it is Christ, and Christ alone, who presides at all sacraments.”
    “Therefore, it is Christ who baptizes,” the diocese said.    “If you were baptized using the wrong words, that means your baptism is invalid, and you are not baptized.”
    For Catholic worshippers, a baptism typically involves people, usually infants, having water poured on their heads during a religious ceremony.
    And shrugging off the invalid baptisms isn’t an option for many worshippers, because it affects sacred practices for Catholics such as confirmation, communion and more.    The Diocese of Phoenix said the confusion also could affect marriages.
    Arango has resigned as pastor of St. Gregory Parish in Phoenix.
    “I deeply regret my error and how this has affected numerous people in your parish and elsewhere,” he said in a statement.    “With the help of the Holy Spirit and in communion with the Diocese of Phoenix, I will dedicate my energy and full time ministry to help remedy this and heal those affected.”
    Arango has served as a pastor, parochial administrator, parochial vicar and other religious roles for more than 20 years in Brazil, California and Arizona.    All of the baptisms he performed “until June 17, 2021, are presumed invalid,” the Diocese of Phoenix said.
    The diocese confirmed to USA TODAY that “the number of baptisms Father Arango has performed in his priestly ministry” is in the thousands.
    The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s orthodoxy office, said in 2020 that baptisms performed by saying “we” instead of “I” are invalid.
    Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix said he does “not believe Fr. Andres had any intentions to harm the faithful or deprive them of the grace of baptism and the sacraments.”
    “On behalf of our local Church, I too am sincerely sorry that this error has resulted in disruption to the sacramental lives of a number of the faithful.”

2/18/2022 Fla. House passes ban on abortions after 15 weeks by James Call, Capital Bureau | USA TODAY NETWORK – FLORIDA
    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A ban on abortions in Florida after 15 weeks of pregnancy is another step closer to becoming law, after a late night, party-line vote early Thursday in the Florida House.
    Lawmakers debated, for 5 hours and 27 minutes, what would be the state’s most restrictive abortion law since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision established a woman’s constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.
    The exchange highlighted the partisan divide on the issue, including two lawmakers relating their own abortion experiences: Rep. Dana Trabulsy, R-Fort Pierce, expressed regret over her decision; Rep. Tracie Davis, D-Jacksonville, explained why she decided not to carry a pregnancy to term.
    Their stories and others about complicated pregnancies, miscarriages and rapes lengthened debate to the point where the House gallery, filled when the floor session began, was mostly empty when Republicans steamrolled Democrats and sent the bill (HB 5) to the Senate on a 78-39 vote just after midnight.
    On Thursday morning, records showed the House bill had been assigned to the Senate Appropriations Committee for review; a hearing date was not yet set.
    Twelve hours earlier, a crowd of nearly 60 women in black T-shirts had marched through the streets of downtown Tallahassee to protest the measure, chanting that 'abortion bans must go.'
    They called out the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, with shouts of 'Erin Grall is not my doctor' as they gathered in the Capitol courtyard.    The group arrived as lawmakers went into session to debate what has become the most contentious bill this legislative session, which ends March11.
    'This is about protecting human life,' said Rep. Kaylee Tuck, R-Lake Placid.
    Tuck recalled remarks by House Speaker Chris Sprowls about empowering families when he was designated to lead the chamber: 'He said, ‘Here we don’t kill babies, life matters.’ Members, today we have the opportunity to make good on that promise.'
    The measure has no exceptions for rape, incest, coercion or mental health.    It permits an abortion after 15 weeks only as an emergency procedure to save the woman’s life, or when there’s risk of a physical impairment to the mother if the pregnancy is carried to full term.
    It does allow a pregnancy to be terminated if two doctors certify that a baby would not survive after birth.    Otherwise, a physician who performs an abortion after 15 weeks would be guilty of a third-degree felony.
    In three prior committee meetings and in two nights of talking on the House floor, Democrats attacked the 15-week deadline for lacking any medical, logical, or ethical purpose.
    Grall said she patterned the proposal after a Mississippi law currently being challenged before the U.S. Supreme Court.    It shortens by more than two months the current window available for a woman in the U.S. to end a pregnancy legally.
    The Guttmacher Institute, a research organization, counts 22 states that have passed restrictive abortion laws in anticipation the justices will revisit the Roe ruling and allow states to impose stricter regulations.
    Olivia Solomon, a 20-year-old University of Central Florida student, skipped class to protest the bill in Tallahassee.
    'The fact that there are more regulations on my body then there are on a weapon that can actively kill hundreds of people in minutes is ridiculous to me,' Solomon said.
    'This is about protecting human life.'
    Rep. Kaylee Tuck, R-Lake Placid, Fla.

2/18/2022 Poll: Record 7.1% of US adults identify as LGBTQ by Susan Miller, USA TODAY
    The number of U.S. adults who identify as LGBTQ has rocketed to a record 7.1%, and young people are again steering the increase, a poll released Thursday shows.
    The 7.1% is double the percentage from 2012, when Gallup first measured identity, and is up over last year’s poll that showed 5.6% of adults identify as LGBTQ. In a 2017 poll, that number was 4.5%.
    The upswing is significant, Gallup senior editor Jeff Jones told USA TODAY.
    “I think it speaks to society changing in terms of acceptance of people with different sexual orientations and gender identities and people’s willingness to identify that way,” he said.
    And the trend is likely to continue, Jones said.
    “It’s not going to be too much longer before (LGBTQ identification) is in double digits in the U.S. population.”
    One of the most striking takeaways of polls in recent years is the wave of younger generations embracing their identity, Jones said.
    Now those youths are moving into adulthood, meaning more people are entering the 18+ world as LGBTQ.
    “That population change is what is driving this,” he said.
    About 21% of Generation Z Americans – those born from 1997 to 2003 – identified as LGBTQ in this year’s Gallup poll, which was based on aggregated 2021 data.
    Among Millennials – those born between 1981 and 1996 – 10.5% identified as LGBTQ.    The numbers dwindled in each older generation.
    Nearly 1 in 6 Gen Z adults also identifies as bisexual, the poll shows.
    That number is not surprising and again reflects the dynamic of youths transitioning into adulthood comfortable with their identity and orientation, Jones said.    “They probably never experienced a time where there was discrimination like in the past,” he said.
    The poll results give young people a direct and uplifting message, said Jen Grosshandler, executive director and founder of The GenderCool Project, a youth-led group that works to replace misinformed opinions with real experiences of young people who are transgender and nonbinary.    “America is changing,” she said.    “It’s opening up to reflect you.    You are seen.    Keep living your life, and everything else will follow.”
    As more youths come to grips with their identity at an earlier age, “this is driving societal change, much of which is positive,” she said.
    “This change, in turn, sends a message to young people that society sees them and welcomes them.    One fuels the other.”
    But the poll results land amid a legislative onslaught against the LGBTQ community, particularly transgender youths.
    In 2021, at least 100 bills were introduced to block trans youths’ participation in sports and at least 40 targeted youths’ gender-affirming medical care, according to the Equality Federation and the Movement Advancement Project, which track state laws.
    This year may be off to a similar troubling start.
    South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem signed a bill into law this month that bans trans youths from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity.
    Logan Casey, MAP senior policy researcher, said he already is tracking 220 bills in 2022 that would negatively affect the LGBTQ community – most focused on schools and curriculums.
    With increased visibility “comes backlash,” said Cathy Renna, communications director for the National LGBTQ Task Force.
    “But we are not going back and will fight using the best tool we have: our lives and our stories.”
    It is not surprising to see poll results showing young people leading the way in staking out their identity despite the blitz of anti-LGBTQ bills, Renna said.
    “If anything, this generation is getting more engaged, increasingly with family support,” she said.
    The LGBTQ community and its young people grasp an important concept, Renna said, that harmful legislation can “intersect across so many communities, from ‘don’t say gay bills’ to attacks on reproductive rights and sexual education to book bans,” she said.
    “Activists and Gen Z are working hard to help the larger culture connect the dots.”
Brockton High School Choir members help Mayor Robert Sullivan raise an
LGBTQ pride flag in Brockton, Mass., in 2021. ALYSSA STONE/USA TODAY NETWORK

2/21/2022 Kentuckiana Pride Parade and Festival returns on a new day by Kirby Adams, Louisville Courier Journal and USA TODAY NETWORK
    The annual Kentuckiana Pride Parade and Festival is back in Louisville for 2022 with some slight changes.
    The events, produced by The Kentuckiana Pride Foundation, will take place June 18. This will be the first time the parade has taken place on a Saturday, moving from its traditional Friday evening. After reviewing feedback from community members over the past two years, organizers decided to make the change to ensure more participation and community involvement.
    The annual Pride parade, which is free to attend, will kick off at noon from Campbell and Market streets in NuLu and end at the festival entrance at the Big Four Lawn at Waterfront Park in downtown Louisville, where the festival takes place from noon to 10 p.m.
    The annual Pride festival will feature over 125 vendors, food trucks, a kids/family area, and two stages with live music.    Entry is $5 with VIP packages starting at $125.
    Tickets will be available in April.    Past headliners have included Lizzo, Neon Trees, Todrick Hall, Big Freedia, Martha Wash, and more.
    The Kentuckiana Pride Foundation’s mission is to promote social, economic, and health equity of Kentuckiana’s sexual and gender minorities.    The organization advocates pride, celebrates achievements and educates leaders.
    For information, visit
Reach Kirby Adams at or Twitter @kirbylouisville.
Scenes from the 2019 Kentuckiana Pride Festival at the Big Four Lawn.
This year’s event is scheduled for June 18. Matt Stone/Courier Journal File

2/22/2022 New poll shows 7.1% of US adults identify as LGBTQ by Susan Miller, USA TODAY
    The number of U.S. adults who identify as LGBTQ has rocketed to a record 7.1%, and young people are again steering the increase, a poll released last week shows.
    The 7.1% is double the percentage from 2012, when Gallup first measured identity, and is up over last year’s poll that showed 5.6% of adults identify as LGBTQ. In a 2017 poll, that number was 4.5%.
    The upswing is significant, Gallup senior editor Jeff Jones told USA TODAY.
    'I think it speaks to society changing in terms of acceptance of people with different sexual orientations and gender identities and people’s willingness to identify that way,' he said.
    And the trend is likely to continue, Jones said.
    'It’s not going to be too much longer before (LGBTQ identification) is in double digits in the U.S. population.'
    One of the most striking takeaways of polls in recent years is the wave of younger generations embracing their identity, Jones said.
    Now those youths are moving into adulthood, meaning more people are entering the 18+ world as LGBTQ.
    'That population change is what is driving this,' he said.
    About 21% of Generation Z Americans – those born between 1997 and 2003 – identified as LGBTQ in this year’s Gallup poll, which was based on aggregated 2021 data.
    Among millennials – those born between 1981 and 1996 – 10.5% identified as LGBTQ.    The numbers dwindled in each older generation.
    Nearly 1 in 6 Gen Z adults also identifies as bisexual, the poll shows.
    That number is not surprising and again reflects the dynamic of youths transitioning into adulthood comfortable with their identity and orientation, Jones said.
    'They probably never experienced a time where there was discrimination like in the past,' he said.
    The poll results give young people a direct and uplifting message, said Jen Grosshandler, executive director and founder of The GenderCool Project, a youth-led group that works to replace misinformed opinions with real experiences of young people who are transgender and nonbinary.
    'America is changing,' she said.
    'It’s opening up to reflect you.    You are seen. Keep living your life, and everything else will follow.'
    As more youths come to grips with their identity at an earlier age, 'this is driving societal change, much of which is positive,' she said.
    'This change, in turn, sends a message to young people that society sees them and welcomes them.    One fuels the other.'
    But the poll results land amid a legislative onslaught against the LGBTQ community, particularly transgender youths.
    In 2021, at least 100 bills were introduced to block trans youths’ participation in sports and at least 40 targeted youths’ gender-affirming medical care, according to the Equality Federation and the Movement Advancement Project, which track state laws.
About 21% of Generation Z Americans – those born between 1997 and 2003 – identified as LGBTQ in
this year’s Gallup poll, which was based on aggregated 2021 data. Alyssa Stone/USA TODAY NETWORK file

2/22/2022 Top Colombia Court Decriminalizes Abortion Until 24 Weeks Of Gestation by Julia Symmes Cobb and Luisa Fernanda Gonzalez
Women react after Colombia's constitutional court voted to decriminalize abortion until
24 weeks of gestation, in Bogota, Colombia February 21, 2022. REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez.
    BOGOTA (Reuters) - Judges on Colombia’s constitutional court voted on Monday to decriminalize abortion until 24 weeks of gestation, the court said in a statement, in a victory for abortion rights groups which sued to have the procedure removed from the penal code.
    The decision adds Colombia to a list of Latin American countries which have recently liberalized abortion access, including Mexico and Ecuador.
    Abortion was partially legalized in Colombia under a 2006 court decision which allowed it only in cases of rape, fatal fetal deformity and health of the woman, without any time limits.
    Under Monday’s ruling, backed by five of nine judges, women will not be prosecuted for seeking abortions up to 24 weeks of gestation, after which the procedure will only be allowed under the original three conditions.
    “The practice of abortion will only be punishable when it is conducted after the twenty-fourth week of gestation and, in all cases, this time limit will not apply to the three conditions laid out in Ruling C-355 of 2006,” the court said in a statement.
    Congress and the national government must urgently implement policies to protect the rights of pregnant women, the court’s statement added, including family planning services, eliminating obstacles to abortion care and help with adoptions.
    The Causa Justa coalition, which sued for decriminalization in September 2020, estimates around 90% of abortions in the country take place clandestinely, putting women’s lives at risk as they seek dangerous alternatives to seeing a doctor.    “We did it!” the coalition, which is made up of more than 90 feminist organizations, said on its Twitter account.
    Its supporters, many sporting green to represent the abortion rights movement and some crying, celebrated outside the court.
    Mexico’s Supreme Court decriminalized abortion last year, while Ecuador’s National Assembly last week approved regulations to allow access to abortion in cases of rape.
    Incoming Chilean President Gabriel Boric has vowed to make the procedure freely available, as it is in Argentina and Uruguay under certain time limits.
    Abortion rights advocates said the decision was not the end of their fight for full legalization.
    “We hope that the next step for Colombia will be the total decriminalization of abortion, in order to protect women’s reproductive autonomy at all times,” Nancy Northup, president of the New York City-based Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement.
    The coalition argued in its suit that prosecutions of women and girls who sought or obtained abortions have worsened stigma and scared doctors and patients, even in cases when one of the three legal conditions has applied.
    Some 350 women were convicted or sanctioned for abortions between the original 2006 ruling and mid-2019, including at least 80 girls under the age of 18, according to Causa Justa.
    Decriminalization will reduce deaths from clandestine procedures, save the under-funded health system money, end expensive prosecutions and guarantee women’s bodily autonomy, the group said.
    A ruling had originally been expected late last year, but the decision has been repeatedly delayed amid a recusal request from a judge and other procedural debates.
    Dozens of protesters opposed to abortion were also outside the court on Monday.
    “We don’t want either legal or clandestine abortion,” said Daniela Clavijo, who was protesting before the ruling.    “We are asking the court to totally penalize abortion, so there’s never any condition for abortion.”
(Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb and Luisa Gonzalez; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

2/23/2022 Bishops in Spain request audit of sex abuse record - Law firm to conduct year-long investigation by Aritz Parra, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    MADRID – A Madrid-based law firm will conduct a yearlong inquiry into past and present sexual abuse committed by Spain’s Roman Catholic clergy, members of religious orders, teachers and others associated with the church, the law firm and the head of the country’s bishops’ conference said Tuesday.
    The public announcement marked a departure from the previous position of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, which for years rejected the idea of taking a comprehensive approach to investigating sex abuse.    Some abuse survivors met the news with skepticism.
    Cardinal Juan José Omella, the conference’s president, said the goal of the inquiry by law firm Cremades & Calvo Sotelo “is the help and reparation of the victims, establishing new and additional channels to collaborate and denounce in addition to those existing in over 40 offices established by the Church.”
    Javier Cremades, the law firm’s founder, said that as a faithful Catholic himself, he was “convinced that the Church must go to the end, get to the bottom, investigate, beg for pardon, if it’s needed, and rectify everything that is necessary.”
    Cremades and Omella presented the law firm’s investigation as an external audit.    Cremades said he wants to coordinate with Spanish authorities, who are considering an investigation of their own.
    Spanish lawmakers are expected to vote in March on the terms of a parliamentary investigation into the depths of the sexual abuse committed by Catholic clergy.
    “This is not an alternative, but probably a complement to what they have to do, but in a professional, organized, certified way, so that no one can doubt that it could be a manipulation by the Church, by the powers that be or by any third party,” the lawyer said.
    Sexual abuse survivors were lukewarm to the announcement.
    Fernando García Salmones, a spokesperson for the Robbed Childhood Association, called the audit a “maneuver to deter attention” because the Church would dictate its terms to the law firm.    He also said that Cremades, who has presented himself as a lay member of the ultra-conservative Opus Dei Catholic order, deprived the process of legitimacy.
    “Would you task a study about the mafia’s crime to the Corleone family?” said García Salmones, who is among a few victims in Spain who have received compensation from a religious order.
    Pressure on the bishops to act has been growing as more victims have come forward publicly with accounts of abuse.    Spanish media have also revealed how the church’s hierarchy dismissed many allegations, ignored the victims and obstructed investigations, often moving priests to new parishes or overseas missionary stints, where they could perpetuate their abuses.
    The country’s leading newspaper, El País, has documented more than 600 cases involving twice as many victims, although the real number is believed to be much higher.
Cardinal Juan Jose Omella, center, and lawyer Javier Cremades, left,
are investigating sexual abuse committed by Spain’s Catholic clergy. PAUL WHITE/AP

2/23/2022 Pope Tells Politicians To Examine Their Consciences Before God Over Ukraine Actions by Philip Pullella
Pope Francis holds the weekly general audience at the Paul VI Hall
at the Vatican, February 23, 2022. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis said on Wednesday that the threat of war in Ukraine caused “great pain in my heart” and condemned actions “destabilising coexistence among nations and discrediting international law.”
    The United States and its allies have accused Russia of flagrantly violating international law by ordering troops into separatist regions of eastern Ukraine and recognising the breakaway Donetsk and Luhansk regions as independent republics. [L1N2UY055]
    Francis, speaking in a sombre tone at the end of his weekly general audience, also urged politicians to make “a serious examination of conscience before God” about the effects of their actions.
    He proclaimed Ash Wednesday, on March 2 this year, as an international day of fasting and prayer for peace.    He condemned the “diabolic senselessness of violence” and asked the Madonna, “the queen of peace, to save the world from the madness of war.”
    “I have great pain in my heart because of the worsening of the situation in Ukraine,” Francis said, adding that he was anguished and worried like many around the world because peace was threatened by partisan interests.
    “I appeal to all sides to abstain from any action that could provoke more suffering to the populations, destabilising coexistence among nations and discrediting international law.”
    The United States, the European Union, Britain, Australia, Canada and Japan announced plans to target banks and elites while Germany halted a major gas pipeline project from Russia in one of the worst security crises in Europe in decades.
    It was the second time Francis has called an international day of prayer for peace in Ukraine.    The first was on January 26.
    “Jesus taught us that we should respond to the diabolic senselessness of violence with the weapons of God, with prayer and fasting,” Francis said on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Alex Richardson and Clarence Fernandez)

2/24/2022 Kentucky Elections 2022 - First openly LGBTQ rep elected - Herron, a Democrat, to fill House District 42 seat by Chris Kenning, Louisville Courier Journal - USA TODAY NETWORK
    Voters in a special election chose Democrat Keturah Herron to fill the open House seat in District 42 in Louisville on Tuesday, ushering in the state’s first openly LGBTQ House member.
    Herron, a Black activist and former policy strategist for the ACLU of Kentucky, beat out Republican Judy Martin Stallard by 1,959 votes to 119.
    'Thank you to everyone who helped make history in Kentucky tonight,' Herron said in a statement.
    Herron was pivotal in the successful effort to ban no-knock search warrants in Louisville after the death of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman shot and killed by Louisville police in March 2020.
    She also was closely involved in advocating for a state law limiting no-knock warrants across Kentucky, which the legislature passed last year.
    The House District 42 election was held to fill a vacancy left by longtime Democratic state Rep. Reginald Meeks, who retired in December.
    The Republican-run legislature recently redrew those lines as part of its new redistricting plans, but the Jefferson County Clerk’s Office said the election would be based on the old House map that was in effect when Meeks resigned.
    Stallard had a long career in the steel industry and lost a 2018 election to Meeks.
    Herron will also be the third Black woman currently serving in the General Assembly, according to the state’s Democratic Party.
    And she’ll be the first openly LGBTQ member of the Kentucky House, the LGBTQ rights group the Fairness Campaign said.
    In 2003, former Lexington Sen. Ernesto Scorsone made history as the first openly LGBTQ member of the General Assembly when he came out in a speech.    Since Scorsone was appointed to a judgeship in 2008, the group said, there has been no openly LGBTQ member serving in either chamber.
    With the Kentucky House poised to vote on a bill related to transgender youth participation in sports, Herron 'will fight fiercely for transgender kids and all LGBTQ Kentuckians in this critical time,' said Fairness Campaign Executive Director Chris Hartman.
    Reporter Chris Kenning can be reached at

2/24/2022 LGBTQ Americans hope to finally see end of bias - Equality Act would expand 1964 Civil Rights Act coverage by Claire Thornton, USA TODAY
    The day Tanya Asapansa-Johnson Walker coughed up a mouthful of blood in her Harlem apartment in 2013, she didn’t go to the VA hospital because she didn’t want to be harassed by health care workers.
    When she went in later, a doctor and nurse aggressively questioned her before they would X-ray her chest, she said.
    “They asked me what I have in my pants.    And I’m there coughing up blood,” said Asapansa- Johnson Walker, who served in the U.S. Army in the 1980s.    “I felt like if I didn’t tell them what my genitals were that they would not have treated me.    That they would not have tried to find out what was wrong with me. ... I’m shaking, and I’m looking at this doctor and this nurse, and I’m afraid.”
    Asapansa-Johnson Walker’s lung cancer was misdiagnosed as pneumonia, she said.
    When she got the cancer treatment she needed months later, she said hospital staff refused to clean her recovery room and she was repeatedly misgendered – even though she had updated her ID and birth certificate with her correct gender marker.
    The transgender New Yorker is part of a massive push to pressure the Senate to pass the Equality Act.
    The Equality Act would expand the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include LGBTQ people, providing federal nondiscrimination protections based on sex, sexual orientation and gender identity.    Protections provided by the law would extend to housing, credit, health care, taxis and ride shares and government services.    “A lot of us fall through the cracks in society as a result of not having the Equality Act. ... Our needs are not met, and we end up dying,” Asapansa-Johnson Walker said.
    The Human Rights Campaign unveiled the nationwide campaign Wednesday, which highlights the 29 states lacking comprehensive protections against discrimination and harassment for LGBTQ residents.    The campaign features LGBTQ advocates from across the political spectrum.
    President Joe Biden vowed his administration would pass the Equality Act during his first 100 days in office.
    The House of Representatives passed it in February, but the Senate has not voted on the bill.
    The “Reality Flag” campaign takes its name from the project’s redesign of the U.S. flag, which removes 29 white stars representing the states where LGBTQ people lack nondiscrimination protections.
    The campaign aims to remind Americans that LGBTQ people live in small towns as well as big cities, said Jay Brown, HRC’s senior vice president of programs research.
    “It’s about people going through life’s journeys – the beauty and pain of life – just like everybody and navigating a whole other set of challenges because of who they are,” Brown said.
    Nearly two-thirds of LGBTQ people have reported experiencing discrimination, according to HRC, the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization.
    Some involved in the Reality Flag campaign remember how their views shifted when they realized someone in their life was LGBTQ.
    In Hokes Bluff, Alabama, where David Fuller is a police sergeant, conservative political values are dominant and most of Fuller’s friends are Christian, right-wing Republicans, he said.
    There were no “out” transgender people in town, but Fuller said his fellow officers regularly made disparaging remarks about them.    The comments picked up when Caitlyn Jenner publicly came out in 2015, Fuller said.
    “If I had any prejudice in the old days, it’s because I never bothered to look, I just made assumptions on who people were.    It was pure ignorance,” he said.
    Things changed for Fuller about six years ago when his daughter Jess came out at age 16.
    “Suddenly I’ve got to worry about where I sit down to eat with my daughter, because she’s transgender,” Fuller said.    “Now, I should not have to worry about that.    I never did before.    I never had to before.”
    The mean-spirited conversations about trans people continued among Fuller’s fellow officers while he “laid low.”
    When the Fullers did come out about Jess’ identity, “they realized for years all the things they’d been saying in front of me, there were a lot of wide eyes and like, ‘Oh my God, I never really put a human face on folks in this community,’ ” Fuller said.
    Since then, officers in Hokes Bluff have been “quietly supportive” of Jess, who at age 22 has aspirations of being a therapist and started an online space where people can talk and text for free.
    Fuller’s colleagues’ reversal of their perspective on trans people gives Jess and her dad hope, Jess said.
    “All it takes – even if they don’t necessarily agree with it, even if they don’t understand it, even if they’d don’t even accept it – there can at least be a tolerance, just live and let live,” she said.
    Queen Hatcher-Johnson, who does not use any pronouns, remembers being pleasantly surprised when a landlord asked questions and wanted to learn more about the Pride flag and transgender flag in Hatcher-Johnson’s Lexington, North Carolina, apartment in 2013.
    The landlord was aware of what the Pride flag meant, Hatcher-Johnson said, but didn’t know what the transgender flag meant.
    When Hatcher-Johnson told him, the landlord said Hatcher-Johnson’s transgender identity went against his religious beliefs.    Two weeks later, the landlord told Hatcher- Johnson to leave.
    “The most painful part for me was that I found out that all of this was legal ... everything he did was legal,” Hatcher-Johnson said.    “I mean he did this free and clear within his right, within his legal right.”
    There are no state laws in North Carolina that prohibit discrimination in housing based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
    “If the Equality Act was an actual law when this happened to me, I know it probably wouldn’t have happened because there would have been some sort of recourse,” Hatcher-Johnson said.    “If it did happen, then there would have been a level of accountability.”
    Being evicted caused a “snowball effect,” and a month later, Hatcher-Johnson was fired as general manager at a gas station.    Hatcher-Johnson spent the next four years “couch surfing” and bouncing around between New York, Virginia, Florida, South Carolina and Georgia.
    Hatcher-Johnson works at an HIV clinic in Atlanta and devotes time and energy toward LGBTQ advocacy but fears retaliation without federal protections.
    “I still live in fear,” Hatcher-Johnson said.
Queen Hatcher-Johnson holds up a “reality flag,” missing 29 stars of states where LGBTQ people
lack comprehensive nondiscrimination protections. PROVIDED BY HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN

2/25/2022 More abortions now done with pills by Lindsey Tanner, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    More than half of U.S. abortions are now done with pills rather than surgery, an upward trend that spiked during the pandemic with the increase in telemedicine, a report released Thursday shows.
    In 2020, pills accounted for 54% of all U.S. abortions, up from roughly 44% in 2019.
    The preliminary numbers come from the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.    The group, by contacting providers, collects more comprehensive abortion data than the U.S. government.
    Use of abortion pills has been rising since 2000 when the Food and Drug Administration approved mifepristone – the main drug used in medication abortions.    The new increase “is not surprising, especially during COVID,” said Dr. Marji Gold, a family medicine physician and abortion provider in New York City.    She said patients seeking abortions at her clinic have long chosen the pills over the medical procedure.
    The pandemic prompted a rise in telemedicine and FDA action that allowed abortion pills to be mailed so patients could skip in-person visits to get them.    Those changes could have contributed to the increase in use, said Guttmacher researcher Rachel Jones.
    The FDA made the change permanent last December, meaning millions of women can get a prescription via an online consultation and receive the pills through the mail.    That led to step up efforts by abortion opponents to seek additional restrictions on medication abortions through state legislatures.
    The procedure includes mifepristone, which blocks a hormone needed for pregnancy to continue, followed one or two days later by misoprostol, a drug that causes cramping that empties the womb.    The combination is approved for use within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, although some health care providers offer it in the second trimester, a practice called off-label use.
    So far this year, 16 state legislatures have proposed bans or restrictions on medication abortion, according to the Guttmacher report.
    It notes that in 32 states, medication abortions must be prescribed by physicians even though other health care providers including physician assistants can prescribe other medicines.    And mailing abortion pills to patients is banned in three states – Arizona, Arkansas and Texas, the report says.
    According to the World Health Organization, about 73 million abortions are performed each year.    About 630,000 abortions were reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2019, although information from some states is missing.    Guttmacher’s last comprehensive abortion report dates to 2017; the data provided Thursday comes from an update due out later this year.
    Global numbers on rates of medication versus surgical abortions are limited.    Data from England and Wales show that medication abortions have outpaced surgical abortions for about 10 years.
The procedure includes mifepristone, which blocks a hormone needed
for pregnancy to continue, followed by misoprostol. JEFF ROBERSON/AP

2/26/2022 Concerned Pope makes visit to Russia embassy - unprecedented gesture comes with war raging by Nicole Winfield, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    ROME – Pope Francis visited the Russian Embassy on Friday to personally “express his concern about the war” in Ukraine, in an extraordinary, hands-on papal gesture that has no recent precedent.
    Usually, popes receive ambassadors and heads of state in the Vatican, and diplomatic protocol would have called for the Vatican foreign minister to summon the Russian ambassador.    For Francis, the Vatican head of state, to leave the walled city state and travel a short distance to the Russian Embassy to the Holy See was a sign of his anger at Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and his willingness to appeal personally for an end to it.
    Vatican officials said they knew of no such previous papal initiative.
    Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni confirmed the visit, and the Vatican said Francis traveled to and from the embassy in a small white car.
    “The Holy See press office confirms that the pope went to the Russian Embassy to the Holy See on Via della Conciliazione, clearly to express his concern about the war.    He was there for just over a half-hour,” Bruni said.
    Francis has called for dialogue to end the conflict and has urged the faithful to set next Wednesday as a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Ukraine.    But he has refrained from publicly calling out Russia by name, presumably for fear of antagonizing the Russian Orthodox Church.
    Just this week, at the end of his Wednesday general audience, he refrained from naming Russia when he urged political leaders to examine their conscience before God and avoid actions that harm civilians and “discredit international law.”
    A day later, the Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Pietro Parolin, held out hope for diplomacy.    “There is still time for good will, there is still room for negotiation, there is still room for the exercise of a wisdom that prevents the prevalence of partisan interests, protects the legitimate aspirations of each and saves the world from the madness and horrors of war,” Parolin said in a statement.
    A person who answered the phone Friday at the Russian Embassy said Ambassador Alexander Avdeev wasn’t there; there was no immediate reply to an email sent to the embassy seeking comment.
    The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the largest eastern rite church in communion with Rome, welcomed Francis’ intervention and said he hoped it would help dialogue prevail over force.
    “The Ukrainian people whom he is courageously defending are crying to the world: ‘Stop the war,’.”    His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk said in a statement issued by his office from Kyiv, where he has been hunkered down in an air raid shelter.
    News of Francis’ initiative came just after the Vatican announced he had canceled a scheduled Sunday visit to Florence and will not preside over Ash Wednesday commemorations next week because of a flareup of “acute” knee pain.    The Vatican said the pope’s doctors had prescribed a period of rest.
Pope Francis paid a visit to the Russian embassy to discuss the Russia-Ukraine crisis. GREGORIO BORGIA/AP

2/26/2022 Arizona bill bans gender reassignment surgery for minors
    PHOENIX – The Arizona Senate has voted to prohibit gender reassignment surgeries for minors.    Republicans approved the measure in party-line vote Thursday.    Advocates for transgender youths say decisions about health care should be left to children, their parents and their doctors.    Supporters of the legislation say teenagers shouldn’t undergo irreversible surgeries.    The bill would ban irreversible gender reassignment surgeries for patients under age 18, except in cases of medical emergency or a verifiable sex development disorder.

2/28/2022 Vatican Says Ready To ‘Facilitate Dialogue’ Between Russia And Ukraine by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: Secretary of State of the Holy See Cardinal Pietro Parolin addresses 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
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican said on Monday it was ready to “facilitate dialogue” between Russia and Ukraine to end the war, and called for an immediate stop to the “military attack.”
    Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who ranks second only to the pope in the Vatican hierarchy, told Italian newspapers that “despite the war unleashed by Russia against Ukraine” he was “convinced there is always room for negotiations.”
    Ukraine’s ambassador to the Vatican, Andriy Yurash, told Reuters in an interview on Feb. 14 that Kyiv was open to a Vatican mediation of its conflict with Russia, calling the Vatican a “very influential, very spiritual place for a meeting.”
    Parolin, the Vatican’s top diplomat, told Italian newspapers that dialogue was the only “reasonable and constructive” way to work out differences.
    “The Holy See, which in these years has followed events in Ukraine constantly, discreetly and with great attention, offering to facilitate dialogue with Russia, is always ready to help both sides resume such a path,” he said, according to a transcript on the official Vatican News website.
    “Above all the military attack must stop immediately.    We are all witnesses to its tragic consequences,” he said.
    He suggested that this is what Pope Francis told the Russian ambassador when he made a surprise visit to the Russian embassy to the Vatican on Friday, in an unprecedented departure from diplomatic protocol.
    Parolin said the world was witnessing events similar to those that preceded the start of World War Two, an apparent reference to Germany’s invasion of Poland in 1939.
    Pope Francis on Sunday made an impassioned call for humanitarian corridors to help refugees leave Ukraine and said those who make war should not be deluded into thinking that God is on their side.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Jacqueline Wong)

2/28/2022 Q&A - How is current war linked to religion? Divisions in Orthodox churches muddle conflict by Peter Smith, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Ukraine’s tangled political history with Russia has its counterpart in the religious landscape, with Ukraine’s majority Orthodox Christian population divided between an independent-minded group based in Kyiv and another loyal to its patriarch in Moscow.
    But while there have been appeals to religious nationalism in both Russia and Ukraine, religious loyalty doesn’t mirror political fealty amid Ukraine’s fight for survival.
    Even though Russian President Vladimir Putin justified his invasion of Ukraine in part as a defense of the Moscow-oriented Orthodox church, leaders of both Ukrainian Orthodox factions are fiercely denouncing the Russian invasion, as is Ukraine’s significant Catholic minority.
    “With prayer on our lips, with love for God, for Ukraine, for our neighbors, we fight against evil – and we will see victory,” vowed Metropolitan Epifany, head of the Kyiv-based Orthodox Church of Ukraine.
    “Forget mutual quarrels and misunderstandings and … unite with love for God and our Motherland,” said     Metropolitan Onufry, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is under the Orthodox patriarch of Moscow but has broad autonomy.
    Even that seemingly united front is complicated.    A day after posting Onufry’s message on Thursday, his church’s website began publishing reports claiming its churches and people are being attacked, blaming one attack on the representatives of the rival church.
    The division between Ukraine’s Orthodox bodies has reverberated worldwide in recent years as Orthodox churches have struggled with how and whether to take sides.    Some U.S. Orthodox hope they can put such conflicts aside and unite to try to end the war, while also fearing the war could exacerbate the split.
    Question: What is the religious landscape of Ukraine?
    A: Surveys estimate a large majority of Ukraine’s population is Orthodox, with a significant minority of Ukrainian Catholics who worship with a Byzantine liturgy similar to that of the Orthodox but are loyal to the pope.    The population includes smaller percentages of Protestants, Jews and Muslims.
    Ukraine and Russia are divided by a common history, both religiously and politically.
    They trace their ancestry to the medieval kingdom of Kievan Rus, whose 10th century Prince Vladimir (Volodymyr in Ukrainian) rejected paganism, was baptized in Crimea and adopted Orthodoxy as the official religion.
    In 2014, Putin cited that history in justifying his seizure of Crimea, a land he called “sacred” to Russia.
    While Putin says Russia is the true heir to Rus, Ukrainians say their modern state has a distinct pedigree and that Moscow didn’t emerge as a power until centuries later.
    That tension persists in Orthodox relations.    Orthodox churches have historically been organized along national lines, with patriarchs having autonomy in their territories while bound by a common faith.    The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople is considered first among equals but, unlike a Catholic pope, doesn’t have universal jurisdiction.
    Q: Who governs Ukraine’s orthoalignment, dox churches today?
    A: That depends how to interpret events of more than 300 years ago.
    With Russia growing in strength and the Constantinople church weakened under Ottoman rule, the Ecumenical Patriarch in 1686 delegated to the Patriarch of Moscow the authority to ordain the metropolitan (top bishop) of Kyiv.
    The Russian Orthodox Church says that was a permanent transfer.    The Ecumenical Patriarch says it was temporary.
    For the past century, independentminded Ukrainian Orthodox have formed separate churches which lacked formal recognition until 2019, when current Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew recognized the Orthodox Church of Ukraine as independent of the Moscow patriarch – who fiercely protested the move as illegitimate.
    The situation in Ukraine was murkier on the ground.
    Many monasteries and parishes remain under Moscow’s patriarch, though exact statistics are difficult to find, said John Burgess, author of “Holy Rus’: The Rebirth of Orthodoxy in the New Russia.”    On the village level, many people may not even know about their parish’s Burgess said.
    Q: Does this schism reflect the political split between countries?
    A: Yes, though it’s complicated. Ukraine’s former president, Petro Poroshenko, drew a direct link: “The independence of our church is part of our pro-European and pro-Ukrainian policies,” he said in 2018.
    But current President Vladimir Zelinskyy, who is Jewish, has not put the same emphasis on religious nationalism.    On Saturday, he said he had spoken to both Orthodox leaders as well as top Catholic, Muslim and Jewish representatives.    “All leaders pray for the souls of the defenders who gave their lives for Ukraine and for our unity and victory.    And that’s very important,” he said.
    Putin has tried to capitalize on the issue.
    In his Feb. 21 speech seeking to justify the imminent invasion of Ukraine with a distorted historical narrative, Putin claimed without proof that Kyiv was preparing for the “destruction” of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate.
    But the reaction of the Metropolitan Onufry, who compared the war to the “sin of Cain,” the biblical character who murdered his brother, indicates that even the Moscow-oriented church has a strong sense of Ukrainian national identity.
    By comparison, Moscow Patriarch Kirill has called for peace but has not laid blame for the invasion.     The Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate has long had extensive autonomy.    Plus, it’s increasingly Ukrainian in character.
    Q: Where do the Catholics fit in? A: Ukrainian Catholics are based mainly in western Ukraine.
    They emerged in 1596 when some Orthodox Ukrainians, then under the rule of the Catholic-dominated Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, submitted to the authority of the pope under an agreement that allowed them to keep distinctive practices such as their Byzantine liturgy and married priests.
    Orthodox leaders have long denounced such agreements as Catholic and foreign encroachment on their flocks.
    Ukrainian Catholics have an especially strong history of resistance to persecution under czars and communists.
    Ukrainian Catholics were severely repressed by the Soviets, with several leaders martyred.    Many Ukrainian Catholics continued to worship underground, and the church has rebounded strongly since the end of communism.
    With that kind of history, Ukrainian Catholics may have a strong reason to resist another takeover by Moscow.    But they’re not alone, Karapinka said.    i>Ukrainian Catholics were not the only group persecuted by the Soviets,” she said.    “So many groups have reason to resist.”
    After the Russian invasion, Pope Francis visited the Russian Embassy on Friday to personally “express his concern about the war,” the Vatican said, in an extraordinary papal gesture that has no recent precedent.
    Q: How has the orthodox schism reverberated beyond Ukraine?
    A: The Russian Orthodox Church decided to “break the Eucharistic communion” with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople in 2018 as he moved to recognize an independent church in Ukraine.    That means members of Moscowand Constantinople-affiliated churches can’t take communion at the other’s churches.
    The disputes have spread to Eastern Orthodox churches in Africa, where the Russian Orthodox have recognized a separate set of churches after Africa’s patriarch recognized the Ukraine church’s independence.
    But many other churches have sought to avoid the fray.    In the U.S., with multiple Orthodox jurisdictions, most groups still cooperate and worship with each other.
    The war may provide a point of unity among U.S. churches but may further test relations, said the Very Rev. Alexander Rentel, chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America, which has Russian roots but is now independent of Moscow.
    “This split that took place in world Orthodoxy was a difficult event for the Orthodox Church to process,” he said.    “Now it’s only going to become more difficult because of this war.”
Priests participate in a procession celebrating Orthodox Easter at the Iversky Monastery, a monastery of the
Ukrainian Orthodox Church damaged by shelling, outside Donetsk, Ukraine, May 4, 2021. ALEXEI ALEXANDROV/AP FILE
Pope Francis delivers his Angelus prayer from the window of his study
overlooking St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on Sunday. AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

3/2/2022 GOP Senators Defeat Bill To Codify Roe V. Wade by OAN Newsroom
GOP senators successfully defeated a bill seeking to regulate abortion access on a federal level.
One America’s Cynthia Kaui has more.

3/4/2022 Supreme Court: Ky. AG can defend state’s abortion law - Cameron: It’s ‘a victory for the rule of law’ by Deborah Yetter, Louisville Courier Journal USA TODAY NETWORK
    Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron has won the right to try to defend a 2018 state abortion law a federal appeals court struck down in 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
    In an 8-1 decision, the court said Cameron may intervene and try to defend the law rejected by the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.    Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented.    Cameron declared it “a victory for the rule of law,” in a statement issued by his office.    “The Supreme Court’s opinion underscored the importance of allowing the attorney general to defend Kentucky’s law,” it said.
    But the American Civil Liberties Union, which led the successful challenge to the law, downplayed the outcome, noting the opinion doesn’t address the constitutionality of the law but rather, the more narrow issue of whether Cameron can intervene to try to reopen the case.
    “Politicians in Kentucky are working overtime to force people to continue pregnancies against their will instead of doing what is best for the people they are supposed to serve,” said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, an ACLU lawyer and lead counsel in the case.
    The ruling comes as the court is considering a much broader case out of Mississippi with the potential to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.    A ruling is expected this summer.
    Thursday’s opinion by Justice Samuel Alito addresses the procedural matter of whether Cameron, as attorney general, can intervene in a case after the administration of Gov. Andy Beshear declined to pursue further appeals.
    While noting the convoluted history of the case, Alito said that “should not obscure the important constitutional consideration at stake” — that a “state’s opportunity to defend its laws in federal court should not be lightly cut off.”
    But Sotomayor disagreed, noting the dispute came about in the midst of a change of administrations, in which Beshear, a pro-choice Democrat, left the attorney general’s job to become governor in 2019, while Cameron, an antiabortion Republican, succeeded him in 2020.
    “Elections have consequences, not just for the public but also for state officers who may find themselves bound by strategic litigation choices made by their predecessors in office,” her opinion said.
    The law in question involves an abortion procedure generally used after about the 14th week of pregnancy known as dilation and evacuation.    Abortion opponents refer to it as fetal dismemberment.
    In 2018, the Kentucky General Assembly enacted a law banning the procedure, although under state law, abortions are permitted up to 20 weeks of pregnancy.    But the law was suspended while under challenge and was struck down as unconstitutional in 2020 by the federal appeals court.
    Meanwhile, Beshear had taken office and declined to pursue the case further.    He succeeded Gov. Matt Bevin, an antiabortion     Republican who had signed the bill into law and whose lawyers initially defended it.    By January, when the appeals court held a hearing on the challenge to the law, Bevin was out of office, so Cameron’s office stepped in on behalf of the Beshear administration to represent the state.
    After the appeals court struck down the law, Cameron sought to intervene in the case as attorney general and ask the court to reconsider its decision.
    In October, lawyers for Cameron argued their case at a hearing before the Supreme Court.
    Thursday’s ruling will allow Cameron to pursue his challenge before the Cincinnati- based federal appeals court and possibly challenge an unfavorable ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.
    Reach Deborah Yetter at dyetter@ Find her on Twitter at @d_yetter.    Support strong local journalism by subscribing today:

3/4/2022 In Pope’s Homeland Of Argentina, Court Jails Powerful Bishop For Sex Abuse by Agustin Geist
Roman Catholic Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta, accused of sexually abusing young men in northern Argentina,
sits in court, in Oran, Argentina March 3, 2022. Judiciary of Salta/Handout via REUTERS
    BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - A Catholic bishop accused of sexually abusing young men studying to be priests was found guilty by a court in northern Argentina on Friday, capping over a week of often graphic testimony in the latest criminal abuse case to hit the global Church.
    The high-profile trial played out in the home country of Pope Francis, the former archbishop of Buenos Aires and the first Latin American pontiff of the Church.
    Gustavo Zanchetta, the former bishop of Oran in Argentina’s northern province of Salta, was convicted of sexually abusing two former seminarians, which prosecutors said in a statement was aggravated due to his status as a cleric.
    The court handed down a prison sentence of 4 1/2 years to begin immediately.
    Zanchetta had denied all charges in the criminal trial, as well as a separate Vatican canon law investigation, insisting he had “a good and healthy relationship” with all seminarians, according to summaries of the closed-door trial provided by the local judiciary.
    “We’re going to appeal,” Zanchetta lawyer Javier Belda told Reuters in an email.
    Summaries of testimony provided by the judiciary included witnesses describing unwanted touching and sexual advances by the bishop, as well as requests for massages and gifts he doled out to seminarians he was said to favor.
    Other witnesses testified to the discovery of porn on the bishop’s phone as well as a history of visiting pornographic websites on a church computer he used.
    Zanchetta often spoke about his close friendship with the pope, according to trial testimony.
    Zanchetta had worked for the Church in Rome, tapped in 2017 to help lead the Vatican’s Administration of Patrimony of the Apostolic See, a financial and accounting office that also manages its properties in Italy.    He was re-appointed to the job by the pope in 2020 despite an ongoing criminal investigation., a U.S.-based abuse tracking group, hailed Zanchetta’s conviction in a statement on Friday.
    “This is a stunning ruling from the Pope’s homeland.    It’s a sign that even where the Catholic Church wields power, civil societies increasingly will not tolerate sexual abuse of young adults by powerful figures,” said the group.
    It also blasted the pontiff for what it described as his “disturbing” refusal to provide prosecutors with files from the Vatican’s own investigation into the case.
    “Pope Francis should finally condemn the bishop’s crimes publicly and strip him of his title and privileges,” the statement said.
    The Vatican did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
    Three priests first accused the Argentine bishop of sexually abusing seminarians, as well as abuse of power and financial mismanagement, in 2018, which they claimed took place at the Oran seminary the bishop founded a couple of years earlier.
    A local prosecutor called for Zanchetta’s arrest the following year, but the case has dragged on amid legal delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Vatican’s investigation.
(Reporting by Agustin Giest in Buenos Aires; Additional reporting by Philip Pullella in Rome; Writing by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

3/5/2022 Abortion bill clears Kentucky House - Measure includes more regulation, restrictions by Deborah Yetter, Louisville Courier Journal USA TODAY NETWORK
    One lawmaker, Rep. Tina Bojanowski, D-Louisville, tearfully described her two miscarriages and wondered whether House Bill 3, the omnibus abortion bill, would have required her to report them or seek professional disposal of the remains.
    Rep. Attica Scott, D-Louisville, predicted HB 3 would give “a new platform to anti-abortion extremists” who already regularly harass and intimidate abortion providers who would be required to be listed on a state website.
    And Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Louisville and House minority leader, said the bill likely would have unintended consequences in further restricting abortions for women and girls who are sometimes in dire circumstances.
    “I worry that we’re making those terrible, tragic situations worse,” Jenkins said.    But HB 3, sponsored by Rep. Nancy Tate, RBrandenburg, easily passed the House on a vote of 77-20 in the 100- member chamber where Republicans hold a 75-member majority.
    The two-hour debate featured some unusual comments from Rep. Danny Bentley, R-Russell, a pharmacist who invoked Jews and the Holocaust as he rose to discuss medication abortions the bill would restrict.
    Earlier in the debate, Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, said that not all religions object to abortion, citing a letter from the National Council of Jewish Women in Louisville, which opposes HB 3.
    Bentley, a co-sponsor of HB 3, said RU-486, or Mifepristone, one of two pills taken to induce abortion, was developed by a Jewish person and was used to kill millions of Jews in gas chambers under Nazi Germany.
    “The person who developed it was a Jew since we brought up the Hebrew family today,” Bentley said.    “To say that Jewish people approve of this drug now is wrong.”
    No one responded to Bentley’s comments during the debate that lasted about two hours.
    Bentley previously has provided some unorthodox comments about the COVID-19 vaccine, saying at a legislative hearing last year he didn’t believe the Pfizer drug has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, although it has.    “There’s been some reports … that that’s a bait and switch by the FDA and it’s really not approved,” said Bentley, citing an online conspiracy theory.
    HB 3 is a far-reaching bill that would impose more layers of regulation on abortion in Kentucky, including new restrictions on medication used to terminate an early pregnancy.
    It bans shipment of such medication by mail or other carrier, which is allowed in many states under a recent federal rule change lifting a requirement for an in-person medical visit.    It requires fetal remains be disposed of by burial or cremation.
    It adds new restrictions on abortions for girls under 18 and makes it harder to get approve from a judge if parents are not available for permission or the girl has been subject to abuse.
    And it puts the Kentucky Board of Pharmacy in charge of enforcing a lengthy list of rules around distribution of the medication, with fines reaching $5 million for pharmacies and others who violate a rule requiring they be certified.
    Of the 4,104 abortions performed in Kentucky, about half were medication procedures, according to the state Annual Abortion Report for 2020, the most recent report available.
    Tate, responding Wednesday to critics who said the bill is meant to make it harder for abortion, said that is not true.
    “The intent is to ensure that while abortions are legal in Kentucky, we want them to be as safe as possible,” she said.
    HB 3 now goes to the Senate.    Reach Deborah Yetter at dyetter@    Find her on Twitter at @d_yetter.    Support strong local journalism by subscribing today:

People held up anti-abortion signs during a Right to Life rally at thebr> steps of Louisville Metro Hall, Jan. 21. JEFF FAUGHENDER/COURIER JOURNAL

3/6/2022 Pope Francis Says ‘Rivers Of Blood’ Flowing In Ukraine War by Philip Pullella and Crispian Balmer
Pope Francis holds the weekly general audience at the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, March 2, 2022. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis on Sunday rejected Russia’s use of the term “special military operation” for its invasion of Ukraine, saying the country was being battered by war and urging an immediate end to the fighting.
    “In Ukraine, rivers of blood and tears are flowing.    This is not just a military operation but a war which sows death, destruction and misery,” the pope said in his weekly address to crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
    The comments were the strongest the pope had yet made about the violence although, as has been the case throughout the conflict, he did not condemn Russia by name.
    Instead, he repeated his appeal for peace, the creation of humanitarian corridors and a return to negotiations.
    “In that martyred country the need for humanitarian assistance is growing by the hour,” the pope said, speaking from a window overlooking the square.    “War is madness, please stop.”
    The day after Russia launched its invasion, Francis went in person to the Russian embassy to relay his concern – an unprecedented departure from usual diplomatic protocol.
    Russia says its military operation is not designed to occupy territory but to destroy Ukraine’s military capabilities and capture what it regards as its dangerous nationalist rulers.
    Many more people than usual gathered in front of St. Peter’s Basilica for the pope’s Sunday appearance, some holding multi-coloured peace flags as well as the blue and yellow flag of Ukraine.
    “The Holy See is willing to do everything to put itself at the service of peace,” the pope said, adding that two Roman Catholic cardinals had gone to Ukraine to help those in need — Konrad Krajewski from Poland and Canada’s Michael Czerny.
    Andriy Yurash, Ukraine’s ambassador to the Vatican, told Reuters he was “very, very happy” that Francis had called the conflict a war.
    “Even if the pope did not say the word ‘Russia’, everyone in the world knows who the aggressor that invaded us is and who started this unprovoked war,” he said.
    The pope also made a point of thanking reporters who were covering the fighting despite the dangers, to report on the cruelty and suffering being experienced.
(Reporting by Crispian Balmer; additional reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Catherine Evans, Jane Merriman and Kevin Liffey)

3/7/2022 Naming And Shaming Russia Not Part Of Pope’s Diplomatic Playbook, Experts Say by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis leads the Angelus prayer from a window of the Apostolic Palace at
Saint Peter's Square, at the Vatican, March 6, 2022 Vatican Media/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Since the start of the war in Ukraine, Pope Francis has called out “those who make war,” condemned violation of international law, spoken of people “oppressed by bombs and fear” and lamented Ukraine as a “martyred country
    But he has shied away from publicly using the words “Russia” or “invasion” in speaking publicly of the conflict, making him one of the few world leaders not to do so.
    On Sunday he came closest to pointing a finger directly at Russia by implicitly rejecting Moscow’s use of the term “special military operation” for its invasion of Ukraine.
    “In Ukraine, rivers of blood and tears are flowing.    This is not just a military operation but a war which sows death, destruction and misery,” he said in his weekly address to crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
    But again, the R-word and the I-word were notably absent.
    “This incomprehensible obstinacy of his is not good,” said an editorial on the Il Sismografo website, which specialises in Vatican and Catholic affairs.
    “The rights of man, of peoples, of nations, are at play here,” the editorial said, adding that the pope should publicly call out Russian President Vladimir Putin as the aggressor and appeal to Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill, who backs Putin.
    But experts say naming and shaming are not part of the Vatican’s diplomatic play book.
    “These are the nuances that have been practised by Vatican diplomacy throughout the centuries,” said Victor Gaetan, author of “God’s Diplomats,” a 2021 book about Vatican diplomacy.
    “You always leave room for the next conversation, for the next dialogue,” he told Reuters by telephone from Washington.
    On Sunday, the pope said “the Holy See is willing to do anything to put itself at the service of peace.”
    Ukraine has said it would welcome Vatican mediation and Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin has said it is willing to “facilitate dialogue.”
    While the pope has not been specific, top aides have been more direct.    Parolin described the war as “unleashed by Russia,” and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, head of the Vatican department that oversees Eastern-rite Catholic Churches, called it an “unjustified invasion.”
    “Lower-level officials making stronger statements than the pope is a bit of a departure from tradition but it is apparently part of the strategy,” Gaeten said.
    On Feb. 25, a day after the invasion started, the pope, in an unprecedented gesture, went to the Russian embassy to the Vatican to talk to Moscow’s ambassador.    No details emerged.
    One complication for the Vatican is its relations with the Russian Orthodox Church.
    In 2016, Francis became the first pope to meet a leader of the Russian Orthodox Church since the great schism that split Christianity into Eastern and Western branches in 1054.
    Both sides have declared a willingness to work towards unity but they are still far apart theologically and over what role the papacy would play in an eventually reunited Church.
    Any direct criticism by the pope of Russia or Putin could set back relations by decades and thwart a second meeting between the pope and Patriarch Kirill that both sides had hoped to hold this year, diplomats say.
    Of 300 million Orthodox Christians in the world, about 100 million are in Russia and more than 30 million are in Ukraine, some of those in union with the Russian Orthodox Church.
    There are also about 4.5 million Byzantine-rite Catholics in Ukraine who are in allegiance with Rome.    They are heavily pro-West and Vatican sources say the pope is keen to avoid anything that could lead to religious strife.
    When Kirill and the pope met in Havana in 2016, they issued a joint statement deploring any hostility in Ukraine and vowed that their churches would work for social harmony in the country.
    But in recent years Kirill appears to have grown increasingly closer to Putin.
    On Sunday, Kirill delivered an anti-West sermon praising the people of Donbass, the separatist region in Eastern Ukraine that is backed by Moscow.    He lauded them for resisting what he called sinful Western practices, such as gay pride parades.
    Last week Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, president of the Polish Bishops Conference, sent a public letter to Kirill asking him to tell Russian soldiers “not to participate in this unjust war,” calling such a refusal “a moral obligation” before God.
    Some are calling on the pope to use similarly strong language.
(The story is refiled to change ‘Western leaders’ to ‘world leaders’ in paragraph 2)
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Nick Macfie)

3/8/2022 German church urges quick decision on divisive archbishop
    BERLIN – The head of the German Bishops’ Conference on Monday pressed for a quick decision from Pope Francis on the future of a prominent archbishop who faces strong criticism for his handling of the church’s sexual abuse scandal.
    Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, the archbishop of Cologne, said that he had offered his resignation to the pontiff after returning from a monthslong “spiritual timeout” last week.    The conservative Woelki has become a deeply divisive figure in the German church after triggering public furor.

3/12/2022 DeSantis, Disney at odds over LGBTQ bill - Company halts political donations in Florida by Brendan Farrington, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Disney World is suspending its political donations in Florida after the company’s CEO received huge blowback for not using Disney’s vast influence in the state to try to quash a recently passed Republican bill that would prevent teachers from instructing early grades on LGBTQ issues.
    Shortly after, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis accused the company of being friendly with communist China.
    Democratic state Rep. Anna Eskamani tweeted screenshots from an email Disney CEO Bob Chapek sent to employees saying the company was wrong to stay silent on the issue before the Republican-dominated Legislature passed what opponents have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.    Chapek said the bill was a challenge to human rights and apologized.
    Meanwhile, De Santis sent a campaign fundraising email that said, “Disney is in far too deep with the Communist Party of China and has lost any moral authority to tell you what to do.”
    The governor’s action stunned Republicans and Democrats.    Disney is a tourist attraction that is a multibilliondollar economic driver for the state.
    Disney has contributed huge amounts of money to Florida’s political parties and politicians, and has wielded incredible influence on the state’s government.
    “It’s really pretty shocking,” said former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, who is now a Democratic congressman seeking to challenge DeSantis.
    Crist said that the governor is attacking industries important to Florida, like DeSantis’ legal battle with cruise lines who wanted passengers to show they were vaccinated for coronavirus.
    “Now it’s Disney.    Who’s next on the hit list for this governor?” Crist said.
    Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, whose district includes parts of Disney, also questioned the governor’s attack on>     “This is another strike in the hate agenda that Gov. DeSantis is pushing right now,” Soto said, adding that the state’s budget is hugely reliant on the sales tax Disney and other theme parks generate for the state.

3/12/2022 Vatican Protests Over Expulsion Of Its Ambassador To Nicaragua by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis blesses Mons. Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag during the Episcopal Ordination
at Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican March 19, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini/File Photo
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – The Vatican on Saturday protested to Nicaragua over the effective expulsion of its ambassador to Managua, saying the unilateral action was unjustified and incomprehensible.
    Archbishop Waldemar Sommertag, who was ambassador since 2018, had to leave the country suddenly this week after the government of President Daniel Ortega withdrew its diplomatic approval of the envoy, known in diplomatic language as an agrément.
    Sommertag had been critical of the Central American country’s slide away from democracy.
    “(The Holy See) is convinced that such a grave, unjustified and unilateral measure does not reflect the sentiments of the Nicaraguan people, who are profoundly Christian,” the Vatican said in a statement.
    It was the latest in a series of actions taken against Sommertag by the Ortega government.
    In November, Ortega stripped Sommertag of his title and role as dean of the diplomatic corps, in what diplomats saw as a retaliation for comments made by the local Church leadership criticizing the government.
    In many countries of Catholic tradition, the dean’s position is held automatically by the Vatican envoy, known as a nuncio, regardless of how long he has been in the country.
    Sommertag, a 54-year-old Pole, has openly supported the local Church in its position defending democracy in the country.
    Ortega, a Cold War-era former Marxist guerrilla leader who has held office since 2007, clinched a fourth consecutive term in November after jailing political rivals ahead of elections that were widely condemned as not being free.
    Nicaragua’s Catholic bishops conference issued a statement before the elections that said the country was lacking “the basic and indispensable conditions in order to hold free, fair and transparent elections.”
    The archdiocese of Managua also had denounced what it called the systematic violation of political and constitutional rights as well as “threats to the Catholic Church (and) offences against its priests and bishops.”
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Mark Potter)

3/14/2022 Ukraine Invasion Splits Orthodox Church, Isolates Russian Patriarch by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulates Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia on the day of the 11th
anniversary of his enthronement in Moscow, Russia February 1, 2020. Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via REUTERS
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Russian Patriarch Kirill’s full-throated blessing for Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine has splintered the worldwide Orthodox Church and unleashed an internal rebellion that experts say is unprecedented.
    Kirill, 75, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, sees the war as a bulwark against a West he considers decadent, particularly over the acceptance of homosexuality.
    He and Putin share a vision of the “Russkiy Mir,” or “Russian World,” linking spiritual unity and territorial expansion aimed at parts of the ex-Soviet Union, experts told Reuters.
    What Putin sees as a political restoration, Kirill sees as a crusade.
    But the patriarch has sparked a backlash at home as well as among Churches abroad linked to the Moscow Patriarchate.
    In Russia, nearly 300 Orthodox members of a group called Russian Priests for Peace signed a letter condemning the “murderous orders” carried out in Ukraine.
    “The people of Ukraine should make their choice on their own, not at gunpoint, without pressure from the West or the East,” it read, referring to millions in Ukraine now split between Moscow and Kyiv.
    Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation” that it says is not designed to occupy territory but to destroy its southern neighbour’s military capabilities and capture what it regards as dangerous nationalists.
    Reuters has put in an email request to Kirill’s office for comment.
    Of 260 million Orthodox Christians in the world, about 100 million are in Russia itself and some of those abroad are in unity with Moscow. But the war has strained those relations.
    In Amsterdam, the war convinced priests at St. Nicholas Orthodox parish to stop commemorating Kirill in services.
    A Russian bishop in Western Europe visited to try to change their minds but the parish severed ties with the Moscow Patriarchate, calling the decision a “very difficult step (taken) with pain in our hearts.”
    “Kirill has simply discredited the Church,” said Rev. Taras Khomych, a senior lecturer in theology at Liverpool Hope University and member of Ukraine’s Byzantine-rite Catholic Church.    “More people want to speak out in Russia but are afraid,” he told Reuters in telephone interview.
    Ukraine has about 30 million Orthodox believers, divided between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) and two other Orthodox Churches, one of which is the autocephalous, or independent, Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
    Ukraine is of visceral significance to the Russian Orthodox Church because it is seen as the cradle of the Rus’ civilisation, a medieval entity where in the 10th century Byzantine Orthodox missionaries converted the pagan Prince Volodymyr.
    Kyiv Metropolitan (Archbishop) Onufry Berezovsky of the UOC-MP appealed to Putin for “an immediate end to the fratricidal war,” and another UOC-MP Metropolitan, Evology, from the eastern city of Sumy, told his priests to stop praying for Kirill.
    Kirill, who claims Ukraine as an indivisible part of his spiritual jurisdiction, had already severed ties with Bartholomew, the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch who acts as a first among equals in the Orthodox world and backs the autonomy of Ukraine’s Orthodox Church.
    “Some Churches are so angry with Kirill over his position on war that we are facing an upheaval in world Orthodoxy,” Tamara Grdzelidze, professor of Religious Studies at Ilia State University in Georgia and a former Georgian ambassador to the Vatican, told Reuters.
    In a joint statement, Orthodox theologians from institutions including the Orthodox Christian Studies Center of Fordham University in New York and the Volos Academy for Theological Studies in Greece condemned those Church leaders “directing their communities to pray in ways that actively encourage hostility.”
    Other Orthodox leaders who have criticised the war include Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria and all Africa, Patriarch Daniel of Romania and Archbishop Leo of Finland.
    Kirill’s stand has also created a chasm between the Russian Orthodox Church and other Christian churches.
    The acting Secretary General of the World Council of Churches (WCC), Rev. Ian Sauca, wrote to Kirill asking him to “intervene and mediate with the authorities to stop this war.”
    Kirill responded that “forces overtly considering Russia to be their enemy came close to its borders” and that the West was involved in a “large-scale geopolitical strategy” to weaken Russia. The WCC released both letters.
    After the 1917 Russian revolution, Soviet leaders began liquidating the Russian Orthodox Church. Stalin revived it after Hitler’s invasion of Russia in World War Two to rally society.
    “This same idea is being revived now by Putin,” said Olenka Pevny, professor of Slavonic and Ukrainian Studies at the University of Cambridge in the UK and an American of Ukrainian origin.
    “As the Russian position in the world and Russian identity began faltering, Putin once again enlisted the Church to help him gather the Russian people under his control and attempted to tie the peoples of independent nations such as Ukraine to Russia by pushing the notion of a unified Russia Orthodox Church so as to deny any religious diversity,” she told Reuters in a telephone interview.
    Kirill’s pro-Putin stand also has upended relations with the Vatican.
    In 2016, Pope Francis became the first Roman Catholic pontiff to meet a leader of the Russian Orthodox Church since the great schism that split Christianity into Eastern and Western branches in 1054.
    A second meeting that both Francis and Kirill said they wanted to hold this year is now virtually impossible, the experts said.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Nick Macfie)

3/15/2022 Panel: Maine facility denied transgender woman a room by Patrick Whittle, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    PORTLAND, Maine – Maine’s human rights panel has ruled in favor of a transgender woman who complained that she was discriminated against when she was denied a room by an assisted living facility.
    The Maine Human Rights Commission voted 3-2 on Monday that there were reasonable grounds that Sunrise Assisted Living violated the Maine Human Rights Act and discriminated against the complainant on the basis of sex and sexual orientation or gender identity.
    The complainant, who initially was anonymous and has since identified herself as Marie King, 79, complained to the commission that Sunrise would not admit her because the facility was concerned she wanted to reside with a female roommate, attorneys for King said.    With King’s permission, a social worker had disclosed that she was a transgender woman looking for housing in an assisted living facility.
    The facility is in Jonesport, about 200 miles northeast of Portland.
    Rhonda Chambers, the administrator for the facility, declined to comment on the case.    An attorney for the facility did not return a phone call.
    King said in a statement that she hopes her case helps prevent future discrimination against transgender people who are seeking elder care.    Her attorneys, who are with GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, said the case is the first known discrimination complaint filed in the country by a transgender older adult against a long-term care facility.
    “Being turned away because I’m transgender was wrong and it hurt,” King said.    “It’s a relief to have the commission recognize that.    I know I’m not the only person this has happened to and I hope my case leads to better understanding.”
    The panel’s ruling opens the door for conciliation, said Amy Sneirson, executive director of the commission.    That means the parties will sit down to see if they can find a resolution that both helps the complainant and satisfies the commission’s concerns, Sneirson said.
    That process is required to happen within 90 days, Sneirson said.    There is no appeals process, Sneirson said.

3/15/2022 Bermuda Ban On Same-Sex Marriage Is Constitutional, London Tribunal Says by Brian Ellsworth and Don Burgess
FILE PHOTO: Rod Attride-Stirling (L), a lawyer who successfully challenged legislation banning gay marriage, poses for a photograph
with gay rights supporters Judith Aidoo-Saltus (2nd L), Winston Godwin (3rd L), Maryellen Jackson (3rd R), Zakiya Johnson Lord (2nd R)
and Adrian Hartnett-Beasley in front of court after the hearing, in Hamilton, Bermuda November 23, 2018. REUTERS/Emma Farge
    (Reuters) – A London tribunal on Monday ruled that a 2018 Bermuda law that bans same-sex marriage in the British overseas territory is constitutional, a departure from the broad trend towards legalisation of gay marriage in the West.
    Bermuda’s top court in 2018 ruled that the 2018 Domestic Partnership Act, which allows same-sex couples to form partnerships but prohibits them from marrying, violates constitutional freedom of conscience.
    London’s Privy Council, the highest court of appeal for British territories, ruled on Monday that the constitution does not in fact require the state to recognise same-sex marriages, in response to an appeal by Bermuda’s government.
    “Our supporters often say ‘love wins.’    This time it didn’t,” said Roderick Ferguson, lead co-plaintiff in the legal case against the law, in a statement by LGBTQ advocacy group OUTBermuda.    “Our work as a society is not done until everyone’s humanity is recognized both in law and in life.”
    OUTBermuda called on the government to clarify how it will treat same-sex marriages that had been lawfully performed since 2017.    The Bermuda court’s 2018 ruling had suspended the prohibition.
    “The Government is pleased with the outcome of the appeal,” Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Kathy Simmons said in a statement.    “The Government will now take time to consider the full judgment and its impact.”
    Authorities in Bermuda, a wealthy, socially conservative island in the Atlantic of 60,000 people, have said that domestic partnerships provide the same rights as marriage.    Thousands of people support the gay marriage ban.
(Editing by Nick Macfie and Kenneth Maxwell)

3/16/2022 Pope Evokes Spectre Of Nuclear War Wiping Out Humanity by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis leads the Angelus prayer from the window of the
Apostolic Palace at the Vatican, March 13, 2022. Vatican Media/¬Handout via REUTERS
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis on Wednesday evoked the spectre of a nuclear war, where whoever is left of humanity would have to start all over again on “the day after,” and appeared to ask God to stop the aggressor in Ukraine.
    The 85-year-old Francis dedicated his address at his weekly general audience to ageing and corruption in society, telling the Biblical story of the Great Flood that God used to punish a sinful and corrupt humanity and which only Noah and his family survived.
    “Our imagination appears increasingly concentrated on the representation of a final catastrophe that will extinguish us,” he said, then departing from his prepared text to add: “such as that which would happen with an eventual atomic war.”
    “The ‘day after’, if there will still be days and human beings – we will have to start again from nothing,” he said, without specifically mentioning the Ukraine war in that part of the audience, held before several thousand people inside the Vatican.
    Minutes later, however, he lowered his voice and using a sombre tone, read a prayer about the Ukraine war written by an Italian archbishop.
    “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, we implore you to stop the hand of Cain,” he said, referring to the Biblical character who turned on his own brother, attacking and killing him.
    Francis, who has previously called the war an “unacceptable armed aggression,” did not name any countries on Wednesday.
    The prayer continued, saying: “When you (God) have stopped the hand of Cain, take care of him also.    He is our brother.”
    Moscow says its action is designed not to occupy territory but to demilitarise and “denazify” its neighbour.
    Russia calls its action a “special military operation.”    Previously, Francis implicitly rejected that term, saying it could not be considered “just a military operation” but a war that had unleashed “rivers of blood and tears.”
    The prayer which the pope read on Wednesday, written by Naples Archbishop Domenico Battaglia, portrayed Jesus as “born under the bombs of Kyiv,” and “dead in the arms of a mother in Kharkiv,” or as “the 20-year-old sent to the front lines.”
    Earlier in St. Peter’s Basilica, the pope met several hundred Italian school children and asked them to think about their counterparts in Ukraine “who have to escape from the bombs.    They are suffering so much and it is cold there>”
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Alex Richardson)

3/16/2022 Romanian Monks Welcome Ukrainian Refugees At Medieval Monastery by Clodagh Kilcoyne and Luiza Iliebr>
Romanian Orthodox monk, Father Mikhail, departs after the mass at the Church in Putna Monastery, Putna, Romania, March 8, 2022. During the mass,
blessings were also given for Ukrainian refugees who are fleeing amid Russia's invasion. Picture taken March 8, 2022. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
    PUTNA, Romania (Reuters) – When 75-year-old Svetlana and her family from the city of Krivoy Rog in central Ukraine reached the snow-covered Putna Monastery in the rolling hills of northeastern Romania, they had been on the road for four days.
    The monks living at the remote 15th century Romanian Orthodox monastery, a pilgrimage site that sits in a valley covered in dense forest, have opened its doors to people like Svetlana who have fled Ukraine to neighbouring countries in their millions since Russia began its invasion on Feb. 24.
    Of those, more than 400,000 people have already crossed into Romania, and numbers are expected to rise as Russia continues what it calls a “special operation” to demilitarise and “deNazify” Ukraine.    Ukraine and Western allies call this a baseless pretext for a war of choice.
    Svetlana left her home city with her daughter Anna, 6-year-old grandson Maksim and two other female relatives.    Anna’s husband and her two siblings stayed behind, helping with humanitarian aid.
    “We would go home in a second, our souls are so heavy,” Svetlana said.    “We are sorry we had to separate from our family.    Right now we feel fear and confusion, we don’t know what to do next.”
    As she wept, Father Gherasim Soca quietly embraced and comforted her. Later that day, villagers braved a snow storm to attend a service at which monks prayed for the people of Ukraine inside the large stone church with shimmering icons.
    “The majority of people want to reach their final destination, usually somewhere in the west, as soon as possible, and if they can, they choose to spend the night near the border towns,” said Father Gherasim.
    “Putna is a little more remote, but for those who are not in a rush, they are not crowded here, each family have their own room.    I see them go to church and praying, getting comfort, it helps a lot.”
(Open to see picture package on the monastery)
    More than 412,000 Ukrainians have fled to Romania, where thousands of volunteers, churches, non-governmental organisations and government agencies are providing food, shelter, clothes and transportation.
    In northeast Romania, the Suceava and Radau?i Orthodox Archdiocese has offered hundreds of beds in monasteries as well as parish houses.    They also have a permanent presence at the Siret border and adjacent train station including priests and monks who speak Ukrainian or Russian, offering food and help.
    “A large part of Ukrainians are going to relatives who work abroad,” said Father Alexandru Flavian Sava, the archdiocese’s spokesman.    “To them, it is more comforting to move on than stop so close to the border and the violence beyond.”
    Father Gherasim said roughly 100 people, mostly women and children, have so far taken shelter at Putna.
Among them was a couple who ran with their baby from Ivano-Frankivsk.    The father used his dual Romanian passport to leave, as     Ukrainian men of conscription age are not allowed to.
    “We have a little girl, we left because we are afraid for us and her,” said the father, who wished to remain anonymous.    He said they came to stay at Putna before running further west because they had visited before.
    “We’re afraid because we don’t know how it will end.”
(Reporting by Clodagh Kilcoyne and Luiza Ilie; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

3/18/2022 Mo. takes on out-of-state abortions - Could become illegal to ‘aid or abet’ procedures by Summer Ballentine and John Hanna ASSOCIATED PRESS
    JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – First-of-its-kind Missouri legislation shows that anti-abortion lawmakers in Republican-led states aren’t likely to stop at banning most abortions within their borders but also could try to make it harder to go out of state to end pregnancies.
    A proposal that could be debated in the Legislature as soon as next week seeks to make it illegal to 'aid or abet' abortions outlawed in Missouri, even if they are performed in other states.
    Like a Texas law passed last year, the bill puts enforcement in the hands of residents, who could file lawsuits against those they believe have violated it.
    State Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman’s bill is aimed at a key frustration for abortion foes: people crossing state lines to avoid restrictions.    The bill also targets a network of 90-plus groups across the U.S. that have sprung up specifically to preserve access to abortion.
    The proposal comes as the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide by June whether to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion, and as GOP-led states rush to pass more restrictions in anticipation that the landmark ruling could be tossed out.
    'If the court does that, the ability to get an abortion will be on the line for everyone in America, and so we’re at a crisis point,' said Andrew Beck, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.    'The Missouri bill crystallizes that as extreme and dangerous as that crisis is, it’s just the first step in politicians’ effort to outlaw abortions for everyone.'
    Missouri lawmakers in 2019 passed a law banning almost all abortions if Roe v. Wade is overturned.
    Under Coleman’s measure, anything from driving women across state lines for abortions to internet providers allowing access to certain abortion-related websites would be outlawed.    She said St. Louis-area billboards advertising easier-to-get abortions in neighboring Illinois would be banned, too.
    'It’s trying to evade the laws of the state of Missouri,' said Coleman, a St. Louis-area Republican.
    'Abortion is a really brutal practice and Illinois has chosen not to, in any way, provide protections for the unborn and women, and so we’re trying to do everything we can to make sure Missourians are protected.'
    For a clinic across the state line from St. Louis, 75% of the patients from September 2021 through February were from Missouri, according to the Planned Parenthood affiliate that operates it.
    In the Kansas City area, the two clinics performing abortions are on the Kansas side.    Missouri residents have traditionally accounted for a large percentage of the abortions performed in Kansas – 42% in 2020, the latest data available.
    'We’re taking it (Coleman’s proposal) seriously because I think if we’ve learned anything from Missouri and also from what’s happened in Texas, it’s that laws that clearly violate an individual’s constitutional rights, rights that have been recognized and protected for decades, are now going into effect and impacting whether people can get care,' said Emily Wales, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood affiliate that operates one of those Kansas City clinics.
    Coleman’s proposal also would outlaw paying for a woman’s abortion or helping them get insurance coverage to pay for the procedure.
    The Missouri Abortion Fund provided financial assistance to 1,866 Missouri residents seeking abortions last year, with only two of them in Missouri.    Its aid averaged $113, but Michele Landeau, its president, said it helped some people who were only $10 short of being able to pay for their procedures.
    'It’s already so difficult to obtain abortion in Missouri and in a lot of parts of the country, and we don’t need additional threats to people’s lives and people’s livelihoods,' Landeau said.
    While some legal experts doubt that Coleman’s proposal is constitutional, they also worry that the Supreme Court might refuse to intervene to stop it – just as it did with the Texas law.
    'It’s unclear to these states what they’re going to be able to do, and so I think they’re sort of throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks,' said Mary Ziegler, a Florida State University law professor.
    The Missouri proposal comes as other Republican-led states consider laws like Texas’, with Idaho lawmakers passing a similar measure this week.
    'While this is the first, it could kick off similar measures elsewhere as states look to adopt more and more outrageous legislation,' said Elizabeth Nash, a policy expert for the abortion-rights supporting Guttmacher Institute.
    John Seago, legislative director of Texas Right to Life, said women traveling to other states is 'going to be a reality' if Roe v. Wade is overturned.    Since Texas’ six-week ban took effect last year, clinics in neighboring states have reported a sharp increase in the number of patients from that state.
    'This is something that the pro-life movement has to come to terms with and figure out what really is the proper response,' he said.
    Abortion-rights advocates said regardless of what happens with such laws in the courts, they can create fear or confusion.
    'We still get calls from Texas … where they ask, ‘Is it even legal for me to call you?’' said Zack Gingrich-Gaylord, spokesperson for the abortion-rights group Trust Women, which operates clinics proving abortions in Wichita, Kansas, and Norman, Oklahoma.
    Missouri’s proposal comes as the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide by June whether to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

3/19/2022 US education chief says feds back Florida’s LGBTQ students by Brendan Farrington, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – In another clash between President Joe Biden’s administration and Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona spoke with LGBTQ students to say the federal government supports them even if the governor does not.
    Cardona’s call Thursday with students, parents and teachers was a response to Florida legislation that forbids instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade.    The Legislature passed the bill and DeSantis is expected to sign it.
    “The goal here is not to create division.    We just want these kids to be able go to school, learn, get the support that they need.    All parents want that for their children,” Cardona said in a phone interview Friday.    “We want to support all students, including our gay and transgender students, and they needed to hear that directly from me.”
    The bill was one of several DeSantis pushed during the legislative session that many saw as a culture war he was creating to galvanize a conservative base as he considers running for president in 2024.
    The bill states: “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”
    Parents would be able to sue districts over violations.
    DeSantis has been outspoken in his support, saying that as a father of three young children, he doesn’t want them to be “sexualized” in kindergarten.
    “We would say to Secretary Cardona the same thing we would say to anyone else with concerns about the bill – they should read it carefully in its final form, and not be misled by false media narratives,” DeSantis spokeswoman Christina Pushaw said in an email.    “Developmentally appropriate education, which means no sex and gender theory instruction in grades K-3, promotes kids’ emotional well-being.”
    DeSantis has clashed with the Biden administration on a number of issues, from the coronavirus pandemic to immigration.
    People on the call with Cardona said DeSantis is pushing backward acceptance of LGBTQ people.    They described the legislation as unnecessary and divisive.
    “I wish our governor was as supportive as our secretary of education,” said Jennifer Solomon, a Miami-Dade County parent of a lesbian and a nongender- conforming 11-year-old son.    “He has our back.    He’s going to do everything he can from the federal level to make sure that our kids are still going to be protected and respected.”
    Madeline Kopka, an 18-year-old high school student from Tallahassee, also was on the call.
    “He told us about how he hates the bill that passed this past session and he will fight with us,” she said.    “It’s going to kill children.”
    She said for many LGBTQ children, trusted teachers can be a source of comfort to discuss their feelings.
    “A lot of them can’t go home to their family and express who they really are.    I think it’s a big problem and we’re just going back in time and it’s horrible,” she said.    “I really don’t understand why (DeSantis) is doing this.”
    Cardona declined to speculate on DeSantis’ motives, but did say the bill would have a negative effect on students.
    “I had one parent tell me he’s using students as political pawns,” Cardona said.    “I don’t know the motive; I will tell you the impact is creating a sense of fear and despair at a time when they need the most support.”
    He called DeSantis’ push for the legislation “sad.”    “It’s an intentional effort to create division in our schools,” Cardona said.    “Our country needs unity now, not division.”     “We would say to Secretary Cardona the same thing we would say to anyone else with concerns about the bill – they should read it carefully in its final form, and not be misled by false media narratives.”
Christina Pushaw, spokeswoman for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
Florida Sen. Dennis Baxley, right, the sponsor of a bill that forbids instruction on sexual orientation
and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, hugs an opponent of the bill, Sen. Shevrin Jones,
after it passed during a legislative session March 8 at the State Capitol in Tallahassee. WILFREDO LEE/AP

3/19/2022 Pope Rules Baptised Lay Catholics, Including Women, Can Lead Vatican Departments by Philip Pullella
Italian lay woman Francesca Di Giovanni, who was named by Pope Francis as the first woman
to hold a high-ranking post in the Vatican's Secretariat of State, is pictured at the Vatican,
December 23, 2013. Picture taken December 23, 2013. Vatican Media/Handout via REUTERS
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis introduced a landmark reform on Saturday that will allow any baptised lay Catholic, including women, to head most Vatican departments under a new constitution for the Holy See’s central administration.
    For centuries, the departments have been headed by male clerics, usually cardinals or bishops, but that could change from June 5 when the new charter takes effect after more than nine years of work.
    The 54-page constitution, called Praedicate Evangelium (Preach the Gospel), was released on the ninth anniversary of Francis’ installation as pope in 2013, and replaces one issued in 1988 by Pope John Paul II.
    Its preamble says the “pope, bishops and other ordained ministers are not the only evangelisers in the Church,” adding that lay men and women “should have roles of government and responsibility” in the central administration, known as the Curia.
    The principles section of the constitution says “any member of the faithful can head a dicastery (Curia department) or organism” if the pope decides they are qualified and appoints them.
    Under the 1988 constitution, the departments – with a few exceptions – were to be headed by a cardinal or bishop and assisted by a secretary, experts and administrators.
    The new constitution makes no distinction between lay men and lay women, though experts said at least two departments – the department for bishops and the department for clergy – will remain headed by men because only men can be priests in the Catholic Church.
    The department for consecrated life, which is responsible for religious orders, could conceivably be headed by a nun in the future, the experts said.    It is now led by a cardinal.
    In an interview with Reuters in 2018, the pope said he had short-listed a woman to head a Vatican economic department, but she could not take the job for personal reasons.
    The new constitution said the role of lay Catholics in governing roles in the Curia was “essential” because of their familiarity with family life and “social reality
    Francis also merged some offices, created a new one to oversee charity efforts, and set up a new order of importance.
    The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which includes lay people and abuse victims, appears to have been given more institutional influence by being incorporated into the doctrinal department, which decides on sanctions for priests convicted of sexual abuse.
    But one of the commission’s original members, Marie Collins of Ireland, said on Twitter this could hurt its independence.
    While the Secretariat of State kept its premier position as administrative, coordinating and diplomatic department, the centuries-old high status of the doctrinal office was placed below that of the department of evangelisation.
    The pope will head the evangelisation office himself, highlighting the importance he gives to spreading and reviving the faith.
    Francis has already named a number of lay people, among them women, to Vatican departments.
    Last year, he for the first time named a woman to the number two position in the governorship of Vatican City, making Sister Raffaella Petrini the highest-ranking woman in the world’s smallest state.
    Also last year, he named Italian nun Sister Alessandra Smerilli to the interim position of secretary of the Vatican’s development office, which deals with justice and peace issues.
    In addition, Francis has named Nathalie Becquart, a French member of the Xaviere Missionary Sisters, as co-undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops, which prepares major meetings of world bishops held every few years.
(Refiles to fix typo in 8th paragraph)
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Christina Fincher, Jason Neely and Helen Popper)

3/20/2022 Pope Visits Ukrainian Children War Refugees In Rome Hospital
Pope Francis visits Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital to thank for caring for Ukrainian children, who fled
the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in Rome, Italy, March 19, 2022. Since the beginning of the
conflict, the hospital has taken care of about 50 Ukrainian children. Vatican Media/Handout via REUTERS
    ROME (Reuters) – Pope Francis on Saturday made a surprise visit to young Ukrainian war refugees being treated in a paediatric hospital in Rome.     One of the pictures released by the Vatican showed the pope talking to a girl with a fully bandaged head and what appeared to be a tube in her throat.     Nineteen Ukrainian children are currently being treated at the two branches of the Bambino Gesu hospital for cancer, neurological conditions or serious war injuries caused by explosions, the Vatican said.    About 50 children from Ukraine have been treated at the hospital since the war began.     “The blood and tears of children, the suffering of women and men who are defending their land or fleeing from bombardments shakes our conscience,” Francis said in a message to a Church conference in Slovakia on Friday.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Christina Fincher)

3/20/2022 Pope Says ‘Slaughters And Atrocities’ Committed Daily In Ukraine by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis holds the weekly general audience at the Paul VI Hall
at the Vatican, March 2, 2022. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane/File Photo
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis, continuing his implicit criticism of Russia, called the conflict in Ukraine an unjustified “senseless massacre” and urged leaders to stop “this repugnant war.”
    “The violent aggression against Ukraine is unfortunately not slowing down,” he told about 30,000 people in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly Sunday address and blessing.
    “It is a senseless massacre where every day slaughters and atrocities are being repeated,” Francis said in his latest strong condemnation of the war, which has so far avoided mentioning Russia by name.
    “There is no justification for this,” he added.
    Moscow says the action it launched on Feb. 24 is a “special military operation” designed not to occupy territory but to demilitarise its neighbour and purge it what it sees as dangerous nationalists.    Francis has already rejected that terminology.
    “I beg all the players in the international community to truly commit themselves to stopping this repugnant war,” the pope said, drawing loud cheers and applause from the crowd.
    “Even this week missiles and bombs hit civilians, the elderly, children and pregnant mothers,” he said.
    Russia denies targeting civilians.
    Francis spoke about his visit on Saturday to a Rome hospital that is treating children wounded in Ukraine.
    “One was missing an arm and another had a head wound,” he said.
    Francis also asked people to guard against potential human trafficking of those fleeing Ukraine.
    “Let’s think about these women, these children … who are without work, separated from their husbands.    They will be sought by the ‘vultures’ of society. Please. Let’s protect them,” he said.
    Poland has seen indications that human traffickers may be targeting refugees fleeing the Ukraine war, officials and aid workers have said.    Some preventative efforts have been put in place.
    The city of Berlin has warned Ukrainian refugees not to accept offers of money or accommodation at the main train station due to concerns that they might be lured into forced prostitution or other forms of human trafficking.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by David Clarke, Frances Kerry and Pravin Char)

3/22/2022 Judge rules former Rowan County clerk Davis violated the rights of 2 couples by Morgan Watkins, Louisville Courier Journal USA TODAY NETWORK
    Former Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis violated two couples’ constitutional rights by refusing to give them marriage licenses after the U.S. Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage legal in 2015, a federal judge ruled Friday.
    Whether she’ll have to pay damages to those now-married couples still must be determined by a jury, though.
    Davis made international news and briefly ended up in jail for contempt of court more than six years ago after she refused to give samesex couples marriage licenses in Eastern Kentucky’s Rowan County despite the Supreme Court’s landmark Obergefell v. Hodges decision in June 2015.
    In a ruling Friday, U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning said the nation’s highest court determined marriage is a fundamental right under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and it is “readily apparent that Davis made a conscious decision to violate” the rights of David Ermold and David Moore and of James Yates and Will Smith.
    Bunning’s ruling said Davis, whom voters ousted as county clerk in 2018, argued the federal court can’t impose certain civil liability on her because it would violate her constitutional right to the free exercise of religion.
    “Ultimately, this Court’s determination is simple — Davis cannot use her own constitutional rights as a shield to violate the constitutional rights of others while performing her duties as an elected official,” wrote Bunning, of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky.
    The couples in this litigation are seeking compensatory and punitive damages as well as legal fees that gradually mounted during this years-long court battle.
    Bunning’s ruling said the plaintiffs’ testimony “at the very least creates a genuine issue of material fact as to whether they are entitled to damages.”    For example, Ermold said every time he thinks of his marriage,     “I have to think about Kim Davis and the experience, how we were humiliated and treated like less than human beings.”
    Yates, another plaintiff, testified that damages would compensate for his and Smith’s “experience with Davis, the resulting publicity, and the threats that were a result of their interactions with Davis.”
    The question of whether damages should be awarded will be determined by a jury, per Bunning’s ruling, which said: “It is this Court’s opinion that Davis violated Plaintiffs’ constitutional right to marry and the only remaining issue is the issue of damages.”
    The Florida-based organization Liberty Counsel is representing Davis in court and said Friday it will keep arguing she’s not liable for damages.
    “This case raises serious First Amendment free exercise of religion claims and has a high potential of reaching the Supreme Court,” Liberty Counsel chairman MatStaver said in a statement Friday.
    Morgan Watkins is The Courier Journal’s chief political reporter.    Contact her at    Follow her on Twitter: @morganwatkins26.

3/22/2022 Polish Priest Prays For Peace As He Takes In 24 Ukrainian Refugees by Gabriele Pileri and Kacper Pempel
Polish Catholic priest Roman Karpowicz shows, what he describes as 'bullets for Putin', as he hosts fleeing refugees, women with children
from Ukraine amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, at the clergy house in Lubaczow, Poland March 21, 2022. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
    LUBACZOW, Poland (Reuters) – A Polish priest who has taken 24 Ukrainian refugees into his home says he hopes prayer can bring an end to the war, as Poland struggles to accommodate more than 2 million new arrivals fleeing a Russian invasion of their homeland.
    Over 3.5 million people have fled abroad from the war in Ukraine, United Nations data showed on Tuesday, with the majority crossing into Poland, home to the biggest Ukrainian Diaspora in the region even before the war.
    “After the outbreak of the war, our parish has turned into a house for refugees,” said Roman Karpowicz, a Catholic priest in the town of Lubaczow, around 13 km (8 miles) from the Ukrainian border.
    “There are people who are staying here permanently, that is nine women and 15 children,” Karpowicz said, adding that the youngest among them was just two weeks old.
    With men of conscription age obliged to stay in Ukraine, the exodus has consisted primarily of women and children, many wanting to stay in countries near Ukraine to be closer to loved ones left behind.
    Karpowicz said his parish was helping refugees search for flats and helping them with travel to other parts of Poland.
    As some of the refugees in Karpowicz’s vicarage cradled babies in their arms or busied themselves with preparing food, others could be seen praying.
    “I think that only prayer and the Lord God can end this war,” Karpowicz said.
    “We don’t have other tools, we don’t have weapons here, we have the rosary and prayers, those are our most important weapons.”
(Reporting by Gabriele Pileri and Kacper Pempel, writing by Felix Hoske, Lewis MacDonald and Alan Charlish; Editing by Nick Macfie)

3/25/2022 Ariz. votes to restrict transgender youths - Governor has not said whether he’ll sign bill by Jonathan J. Cooper, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    PHOENIX – The Arizona Legislature passed bills Thursday to prohibit gender reassignment surgery for minors and ban transgender athletes from playing on girls sports teams, joining a growing list of Republicancontrolled states attempting to restrict transgender rights as they gain more visibility in culture and society.
    Republican Gov. Doug Ducey has not said whether he will sign either bill. Two GOP governors this week bucked conservatives in their party and vetoed bills in Indiana and Utah requiring trans girls to play on boys sports teams.
    Republicans have said blocking transgender athletes from girls sports teams would protect the integrity of women’s sports, claiming that trans athletes would have an advantage.
    Many point to the transgender collegiate swimmer Lia Thomas, who won an individual title at the NCAA Women’s Division I Swimming and Diving Championship last week.
    But there are few trans athletes in Arizona schools.    Since 2017, about 16 trans athletes have received waivers to play on teams that align with their gender identities out of about 170,000 high school athletes in the state, according to the Arizona Interscholastic Association.
    “This bill is creating a pointless and harmful solution to a nonexistent issue,” Skyler Morrison, a 13-year-old transgender girl, told lawmakers during a committee hearing earlier this month.    “It’s obvious this bill is just an excuse to discriminate against transgender girls.”    Arizona is one of 20 states that have considered legislation to restrict gender- affirming health care.    The bill originally would have banned all such care for minors but was scaled back to restrict only irreversible procedures, such as surgeries related to gender reassignment.
    Similar legislation passed the Idaho House earlier this month but it died in the Senate amid concerns from some Republicans about restricting parental rights.

3/26/2022 Utah bans transgender athletes in girls’ sports - GOP state lawmakers override governor’s veto by Sam Metz and Lindsay Whitehurst, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    SALT LAKE CITY – GOP lawmakers in Utah pushed through a ban on transgender youth athletes playing on girls teams Friday, overriding a veto and joining 11 other states with similar laws amid a nationwide culture war.
    A veto letter from Gov. Spencer Cox drew national attention with a poignant argument that such laws target vulnerable transgender kids already at high suicide risk.
    Business leaders also sounded the alarm that the ban could have a multimillion- dollar economic impact on Utah, including the possible loss of the NBA All-Star Game next year.    The Utah Jazz called the ban “discriminatory legislation” and opposed it.
    Before the veto, the ban received support from a majority of Utah lawmakers, but fell short of the two-thirds needed to override it.    Its sponsors on Friday flipped 10 Republicans in the House and five in the Senate who had previously voted against the proposal.
    Cox was the second GOP governor this week to overrule lawmakers on a sports-participation ban, but the proposal won support from a vocal conservative base that has particular sway in Utah’s state primary season.    Even with those contests looming, however, some Republicans stood with Cox to reject the ban.
    “I cannot support this bill. I cannot support the veto override and if it costs me my seat so be it.    I will do the right thing, as I always do,” said Republican Sen. Daniel Thatcher.
    With the override of Cox’s veto, a dozen states have some sort of ban on transgender kids in school sports. Utah’s law takes effect July 1.
    Not long ago efforts to regulate transgender kids’ participation in sports failed to gain traction in statehouses, but in the past two years groups like the American Principles Project began a well-coordinated effort to promote the legislation throughout the country.    Since last year, bans have been introduced in at least 25 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.    This week, lawmakers in Arizona and Oklahoma passed bans.
    Leaders in the deeply conservative Utah say they need the law to protect women’s sports.    The lawmakers argue that more transgender athletes with possible physical advantages could eventually dominate the field and change the nature of women’s sports without legal intervention.
    Utah has only one transgender girl playing in K-12 sports who would be affected by the ban.    There have been no allegations of any of the four transgender youth athletes in Utah having competitive advantages.    Friday’s deliberations came after more than a year of negotiation between social conservatives and LGBTQ advocates.    Republican sponsor Rep. Kera Birkeland worked with Cox and activists at Equality Utah before introducing legislation that would require transgender student athletes to go before a government- appointed commission. Birkeland, who is also a basketball coach, acknowledged the proposal provoked intense emotion, but said conversations with female student athletes compelled her to continue her effort.
    “When we say, ‘This isn’t a problem in our state,’ what we say to those girls is, ‘Sit down, be quiet and make nice,’” she said.
    Lawmakers anticipate court challenges similar to blocked bans in Idaho and West Virginia, where athletes have said the policies violate their civil rights.    They’ve argued the bans violate their privacy rights, due to tests required if an athlete’s gender is challenged.    The ACLU of Utah said on Friday that a lawsuit was inevitable.
    Utah’s policy would revert to the commission if courts halt the ban.
Republican state Rep. Kera Birkeland, a high school basketball coach who led Utah’s efforts to ban transgender
girls from youth sports, addresses a crowd of supporters on the steps of the Utah State Capitol on Friday
before the state legislature voted to override Gov. Spencer Cox’s veto of the proposed ban. SAMUEL METZ/AP

3/26/2022 Francis, Benedict join to pray for peace - Pope and his retired predecessor part of special Vatican service by Nicole Winfield, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    ROME – Pope Francis prayed for peace in Ukraine in a ceremony Friday that harked back to a century-old apocalyptic prophecy about peace and Russia that was sparked by purported visions of the Virgin Mary to three peasant children in Fatima, Portugal, in 1917.
    Francis invited bishops, priests and ordinary faithful around the world to join him in the consecration prayer, which opened with Francis entering St. Peter’s Basilica before an estimated 3,500 people and concluded with Francis sitting alone before a statue of the Madonna.    There, he solemnly asked forgiveness that humanity had “forgotten the lessons learned from the tragedies of the last century, the sacrifice of the millions who fell in two World Wars.”
    “Free us from war, protect our world from the menace of nuclear weapons,” he prayed.
    The service was Francis’ latest effort to rally prayers for an end to the war while keeping open options for dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church and its influential leader, Patriarch Kirill.    Francis has yet to publicly condemn Russia by name for its invasion, though his denunciations of the war in Ukraine have grown increasingly outraged.
    The prayer ritual was of deep spiritual importance to many Catholics and a source of fascination to others.    It deals with some of the more controversial aspects of the Catholic faith: purported visions of the Madonna, revelations of hell, Soviet communism and the death of a pope, and questions about whether the prophecies contained in the so-called “secrets of Fatima” have already been fulfilled or not.
    To hammer home the universal nature of the event, the Vatican translated the text of the prayer into three dozen languages.    Retired Pope Benedict XVI participated from his home in the Vatican gardens.    A papal envoy celebrated a simultaneous service at the shrine in Fatima.
    In his homily Friday, Francis said the act of consecration of Russia and Ukraine to Mary’s immaculate heart was “not a magic formula, but a spiritual act” that was taking place “even as bombs are destroying the homes of many of our defenseless Ukrainian brothers and sisters.”
    The Ukrainian ambassador to the Holy See, Andrii Yurash, tweeted from inside the basilica his appreciation of the service, which he said was “another attempt to defend (Ukraine) from devil’s war.”
    Russia’s ambassador to Italy, Sergey Razov, earlier in the day defended Russia’s “special military action” in Ukraine and said Moscow’s references to its nuclear arsenal in the past month were not a threat but “only a reflection on potential scenarios if Russian national security was put at risk.”
Pope Francis presides over a special prayer for Ukraine in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on Friday.
Retired Pope Benedict XVI also participated from his home in the Vatican gardens. GREGORIO BORGIA/AP

3/28/2022 Ban on trans athletes headed to Gov. Beshear - Students would be on team of assigned birth by Morgan Watkins, Louisville Courier Journal USA TODAY NETWORK
    Kentucky’s Republican-run legislature passed a ban to prevent transgender girls from playing on girls sports teams Thursday, even though leading LGBTQ+ and civil rights organizations warn the policy will put trans children’s mental health even more at risk.
    Lawmakers who voted for the prohibition have said the issue is about ensuring fairness in athletics and protecting girls sports, although the bill’s lead sponsor, Sen. Robby Mills, R-Henderson, recently said he was unaware of any specific issues in the commonwealth that arose because a trans student played on a girls sports team.
    The Kentucky Senate gave Senate Bill 83 the final approval it needed Thursday afternoon in a 26-9 vote, with a couple Democrats voting for it and a few Republicans voting against it, following the state House of Representatives’ approval of an updated version of the legislation last week.
    The legislature’s passage of the ban happened while Republican officials across the nation push to enact more restrictions on transgender people.    Eleven states have enacted similar laws.
    Here’s a look at what this prohibition entails and what the reaction has been:
    What does this bill do?
    If Senate Bill 83 is enacted, students’ ability to play on girls and women’s school sports teams would depend on the assigned sex that’s listed on their birth certificate.
    The bill applies to girls sports teams in grades six through 12, as well as to both intercollegiate and intramural women’s teams at Kentucky colleges and universities.
    Trans girls and women would be prohibited from playing on teams in middle school, high school and college that correspond with their gender identity.    The bill doesn’t include any restrictions on who can join coed, boys or men’s teams.
    If a student doesn’t have an original, unedited copy of their birth certificate, an affidavit signed by a medical practitioner concerning the student’s assigned sex at birth also would be sufficient under the legislation to determine their eligibility to play.
    SB 83 also says governments, licensing or accrediting organizations and athletic associations can’t open an investigation or take any adverse action against a college for maintaining separate women’s teams.    It has a similar provision concerning K-12 schools.
    What are the current rules for high school and college sports?
    There already are policies concerning trans athletes’ ability to compete at Kentucky high schools and NCAA-affiliated colleges.
    To compete on sports teams aligned with their gender identity, the Kentucky High School Athletic Association requires high school students to get gender confirmation surgery.
    Chris Hartman, of the Fairness Campaign in Kentucky, has said few, if any, students would be able to meet that eligibility requirement.    At the college level, the NCAA recently set new guidelines concerning trans student-athletes’ ability to compete.    They include requirements for documenting testosterone levels and largely leave eligibility rules up to the national governing bodies for specific sports.
    The Fairness Campaign and the Washington, D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign said last week that SB 83 “runs afoul of NCAA rules, threatening Kentucky’s participation in NCAA sports and championship tournaments.”
    Mills, the bill’s lead sponsor, dismissed such concerns Thursday, saying: “The NCAA has never pulled an event or team from the NCAA for having such a law in their state.”
    The Courier Journal requested a comment from the NCAA this week, but did not receive a response.
    Will this bill face a lawsuit?
    Probably.    Similar bans in other states have been challenged in court.
    The ACLU of Kentucky has said SB 83 would violate Title IX of the Civil Rights Act as well as students’ constitutional rights, with spokesperson Samuel Crankshaw recently noting that federal courts blocked similar prohibitions in Idaho and West Virginia.
    What are lawmakers saying?
    Rep. Ryan Dotson, R-Winchester, advocated for SB 83 last week when the House voted 70-23 to pass it, saying this legislation “ensures that both sexes get the opportunity to play in a competitive and fair environment.”
    “I don’t want one single female in our state to lose a female sports title, a scholarship, nor the opportunity to play,” he said.
    “Why are there different weight classes in certain sports?” he went on to say as he promoted this proposal.    “That is to make a level playing field for all who are involved.”
    However, opponents of the legislation have said SB 83 effectively would stop trans girls from participating in various sports.    Such students are highly unlikely to join a boys team.
    “All of our children, no matter their gender, deserve a chance to play sports for the very same reason that any kid would: It teaches them teamwork, it teaches leadership and it’s simply fun,” Rep. Patti Minter, D-Bowling Green, said last week.    “In all of these discussions, no one has been able to provide a real-life example of a student in Kentucky who has lost opportunities under current policy.    But yet we have heard from very courageous children who would be negatively impacted by this bill.”
    Rep. Keturah Herron, D-Louisville, said all middle-school children should be encouraged to play sports.
    “As we know … that is the roughest time of people growing up. And instead of discouraging them to be involved, we should be encouraging them,” said Herron, who recently became the Kentucky House’s first openly LGBTQ+ member.    “And I want all of the LGBTQ kids across Kentucky to know that I love them … I see you, I am you and I stand here today hoping that you see me, that you know that you can be whatever you want to be.”
    What are leading organizations saying?
    The Family Foundation, a Kentucky based Christian public policy organization, has advocated for SB 83 and for extending the eligibility restrictions to college sports.
    “We believe that to fully protect Kentucky’s girls, we must also protect college athletes,” its executive director, David Walls, said last week.
    Meanwhile, the Fairness Campaign and Washington, D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign jointly condemned the House’s approval of SB 83 last week, saying this bill “effectively excludes all transgender girls from participating in school athletics(,) increasing their isolation and denying them the social, physical and emotional benefits of sports.”
    The Trevor Project’s 2021 national survey found over half of trans and nonbinary youth seriously considered suicide in the past year.
    Kentucky’s anti-trans sports bill drew opposition from the business sector, too (as have similar bans in other states).
    Rep. Lisa Willner, D-Louisville, said she and several other lawmakers recently received a letter signed by over 150 Kentucky employers, including big businesses like Amazon, declaring they don’t support anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.
    Metro Louisville’s chamber of commerce warned SB 83 could hurt the regional economy, with Greater Louisville Inc. president and CEO Sarah Davasher-Wisdom saying last month: “GLI will continue to oppose any unwelcoming or discriminatory policies that could be harmful to talent attraction and retention.”
    Rebecca Blankenship of Ban Conversion Therapy Kentucky — an organization advocating for proposed legislation banning the scientifically discredited practice of “conversion therapy,” which aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, statewide — has seen attitudes toward trans people change tremendously, and generally for the better, in recent years.
    “I came out as trans in 2013. And at that time, there was no hope for trans kids at all.    There were no prospects,” she said.    “I think that we can be grateful ... for all of the progress that has come, and recognize that bills that are much worse than this (SB 83) are not moving, in part because a majority of Kentuckians know that mistreating people is wrong.”
    Will Beshear veto it?
    We’ll see.
    The Courier Journal asked the governor’s office this week if he’ll veto SB 83 but did not receive a response.
    The ACLU of Kentucky publicly asked him to veto it last week, and the Human Rights Campaign did the same Thursday.
    “During his Governorship, Beshear has used the term ‘Team Kentucky’ as a catchphrase for the state’s shared values of civility, unity, and collective distaste for bullies,” HRC state legislative director and senior counsel Cathryn Oakley said in a statement.    “But the phrase ‘Team Kentucky’ in a state where a child is denied an opportunity to play the sports they love because they are transgender would be an empty slogan.”
    The Family Foundation doesn’t want Beshear to impede SB 83, though.
    “We call on Governor Beshear to immediately sign this commonsense, bipartisan, and broadly supported bill into law,” Walls, the group’s executive director, said Thursday.
    If Gov. Andy Beshear vetoes the bill, the legislature’s Republican supermajorities have the power to override it.
    This story discusses suicide and other mental health issues.    If you’re in crisis, help is available:
[Or call the police for child abuse by crazy people.].
    Reporter Olivia Krauth contributed to this story.    Morgan Watkins is The Courier Journal’s chief political reporter.    Contact her at Follow her on Twitter: @morganwatkins26.

3/28/2022 Canada Indigenous Ask Pope For Residential Schools Records by Philip Pullella
Archbishop of Winnipeg Richard Gagnon and Bishop of Calgary William McGrattan attend a media conference after
Indigenous delegates from Canada met with Pope Francis at the Vatican, in Rome, Italy, March 28, 2022. REUTERS/Yara Nardi
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Survivors of Canada’s residential schools on Monday asked Pope Francis to guarantee unfettered access to Church records on the institutions where indigenous children were abused and their culture denied.
    Francis met for about an hour each with representatives of the Métis and Inuit nations, the first of four meetings this week with Canada’s native peoples in what both sides have called a called a process of healing and reconciliation.
    “It was a very comfortable meeting,” Cassidy Caron, president of the Métis National Council, told reporters afterwards, adding that the pope listened attentively as elderly survivors told their stories.
    The stated aim of the schools, which operated between 1831 and 1996, was to assimilate indigenous children.    They were run by several Christian denominations on behalf of the government, most by the Catholic Church.
    “He repeated ‘truth, justice and healing’ (in English) and I take that as a personal commitment so he has personally committed to those three actions,” she said.
    “I felt some sorrow in his reactions …. we shared a lot with him,” Caron said.
    About 150,000 children were taken from their homes.    Many were subjected to abuse, rape and malnutrition in what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015 called “cultural genocide.”
    Caron said the topic of records came up. Records are held in Canada’s dioceses and in archives of Rome headquarters of various religious orders.    Archbishop Donald Bolen of Regina, Saskatchewan, told reporters no records were believed to be the Vatican itself.
    “The Métis nation needs to be sure to understand our full truth, and that will be unfettered access to Church records and we will be speaking more with the pope on this,” she said.
    Canada’s indigenous peoples and the Canadian government want the pope to visit Canada to make an apology there for the Church’s role in the schools.
    Caron said she was not disappointed that the pope did not apologise on Monday because the indigenous want him to do so in Canada.
    She said she expected the trip to be “soon.”    Vatican sources have said it will likely be this summer.
    “While the time for acknowledgement and apology and atonement is long overdue it is never too late to do the right thing,” she said.    “Now it is his (the pope’s) turn to join us in that work,” she said.
    Matan Obed, an Inuit leader, said he asked the pope to help bring to justice a priest who is accused of abusing several children and is living in France.
    The recurring schools scandal broke out again last year with the discovery of the remains of 215 children at the former Indian Residential School in Kamloops in the Western Canadian province of British Columbia.
    The discovery at the school, which closed in 1978, reopened old wounds and brought fresh demands for accountability.    Hundreds more unmarked burial sites have been found since.
    Francis was elected pope nearly two decades after the last schools closed.
    “Part of justice is acknowledging what has taken place in the past.    That acknowledgement, even though it was not him personally, is really meaningful and important,” Caron said.
(Reporting by Philip PullellaEditing by Chizu Nomiyama and Marguerita Choy)

3/30/2022 Orthodox patriarch denounces ‘atrocious invasion’ of Ukraine - Bartholomew doesn’t mention Russia by name by Vanessa Gera, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    WARSAW, Poland – The spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians on Tuesday denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as an “atrocious” act that is causing enormous suffering.
    Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I didn’t mention Russia by name in comments made during a visit to Warsaw after meeting with Ukrainian refugees.
    Poland has accepted the largest number of people fleeing the war in Ukraine.
    “It is simply impossible to imagine how much devastation this atrocious invasion has caused for the Ukrainian people and the entire world,” Bartholomew said at a news briefing. He added that solidarity with Ukrainians “is the only thing that can overcome evil and darkness in the world.”
    Bartholomew also met with Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, the head of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, who went even further in his denunciation of Russian actions, which he said bore “the hallmarks of genocide.”    Unlike Bartholomew, Gadecki mentioned Russia by name.
    Gadecki said Russia’s invasion has resulted in the deaths of “thousands of innocent people” including “hundreds of children, elderly people, women, and men who had nothing to do with the hostilities.”     “Many of the aggressor’s actions bear the hallmarks of genocide,” Gadecki said.
    The Polish church leader earlier this month urged the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, to use his influence with Russian President Vladimir Putin to demand an end to the war and for Russian soldiers to stand down – going further than Pope Francis in his public statements on the war to date.
    Istanbul-based Bartholomew is considered “first among equals” among Orthodox patriarchs.
    Although the titular head of the Orthodox Church worldwide, other Orthodox leaders – including Kirill – are able to wield more power from their base in countries with larger Orthodox populations.
    Ukraine’s population is mostly Orthodox Christian, but is divided between an independent church based in Kyiv and another one loyal to Kirill in Moscow.
    Kirill and the Russian Orthodox Church severed contact with Bartholomew after the Istanbul patriarch recognized the Orthodox Church of Ukraine as independent of the Moscow patriarch in 2019.
    Even though Putin justified his invasion of Ukraine in part as a defense of the Moscow-oriented Orthodox church, leaders of both Ukrainian Orthodox factions have fiercely condemned the Russian invasion, as has Ukraine’s significant Catholic minority.
    Bartholomew said it was hard to find words to describe the suffering of the Ukrainians he met in Poland and referred to scripture instead, quoting prophet Jeremiah: “If my head was a spring of water, and if my eyes were a fountain of tears, I would weep all day and night for the slaying of my people.”
“It is simply impossible to imagine how much devastation this atrocious invasion has caused for
the Ukrainian people and the entire world,” said Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. TED SHAFFREY/AP, FILE

3/31/2022 Pope Approved Payment For Vatican To Exit Botched Deal, Court Told by Philip Pullella
FILE PHOTO: Trial begins at the Vatican for 10 people, including prominent Italian cardinal
Angelo Becciu, who are charged with financial crimes including embezzlement, money laundering, fraud,
extortion and abuse of office, at the Vatican, July 27, 2021. Vatican Media/Handout via REUTERS
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – A defendant at a Vatican trial testified on Wednesday that superiors including Pope Francis approved a 15 million euro settlement to get the Vatican out of a botched London real estate deal to avoid a total loss.
    Testifying for more than four hours, Monsignor Mauro Carlino described the final phases of the venture, which began when the Vatican’s Secretariat of State invested 350 million euros ($390 million) in 2014 with Italian broker Raffaele Mincione to buy a luxury building in London.
    In 2018, the Vatican felt it was being fleeced by Mincione, according to the indictment document, and turned to another broker, Gianluigi Torzi, to get out of the first deal.
    But Vatican prosecutors accuse Torzi of duping the Vatican and trying to take control of the building by assigning himself the voting shares. The Vatican then sought an exit deal with Torzi.
    Carlino testified that in May 2019, he and other Vatican negotiators agreed to give Torzi 15 million euros to allow it to leave the venture.
    Torzi, Mincione, Carlino, and another seven defendants, who include former Vatican officials and employees, have denied all wrongdoing.
    “I never moved a finger without authorization from my superiors,” said Carlino, who is accused of extortion and abuse of office.
    He said his boss, deputy secretary of state Archbishop Edgar Pena Parra, “constantly informed the secretary of state (Cardinal Pietro Parolin) and the Holy Father.”
    Carlino said the pope wanted the Vatican to get out of the mess but by “spending as little as possible” so that the investment would not be a total loss.    Prosecutors at the trial, which began in July, said the Vatican lost 217 million euros, some of it from funds that had been donated by the faithful.
    Carlino testified that Pena Parra told him that the pope was “happy that we were finally ending this.”
    The court was also told that the pope had lifted “pontifical secrecy” so that Cardinal Angelo Becciu could answer questions about a woman in his employ who did undercover intelligence work in 2018-2019.
    Cecilia Marogna, 42, is charged with embezzlement.    A self-styled secret agent, she has said she used all of a 575,000-euro stipend of Vatican money to ransom kidnapped missionaries in Africa.    She has denied charges that she used some of the money to buy luxury goods.
    The trial was adjourned until April 5.
($1 = 0.8961 euros)
(This story was refiled to correct to 15 million euro, not dollar in first paragraph)
(Reporting by Philip Pullella, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

3/31/2022 Canada Indigenous Seek Dialogue With Vatican On Repatriation Of Artefacts by Philip Pullella
Indigenous delegates from Canada's First Nations pose for a photo with Pope Francis
during a meeting at the Vatican, March 31, 2022. Vatican Media/¬Handout via REUTERS
    VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Canadian indigenous leaders seeking an apology for the Catholic Church’s role in notorious residential schools where children where abused also want to start a dialogue on the return of native artefacts held in the Vatican Museums.
    “My view is that we should sit down with Church officials and begin discussions about repatriation,” Phil Fontaine of the Sagkeeng First Nation and former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), told Reuters.
    Fontaine, 77, was part of an AFN delegation that spoke to the pope privately for two hours on Thursday.    They want Pope Francis to travel to Canada to make an official apology there for the schools where indigenous children were abused and their culture denied.
    Fontaine and other participants said the return of artefacts also came up in three meetings with the pope this week.
    In 1925, Pope Pius IX held a world exposition of indigenous artefacts, displaying more than 100,000 objects, most sent to the Vatican by Catholic missionaries from around the world.
    Nearly half of them later formed a new Missionary Ethnological Museum in Rome and were transferred to the Vatican Museums in the 1970s.
    One item the delegates saw is a kayak made of wood and sealskin by the Inuvialuit people of the Mackenzie Delat of the Western Arctic and believed to be between 100 and 150 years old.
    While one Inuvialuit leader last year demanded its immediate return to Canada, Fontaine called for a calm, studied solution to repatriation.
    “We have to decide where we want those to go and how they are going to be protected, what kind of environment they will be placed in,” Fontaine told Reuters in St. Peter’s Square.
    “There are museums all over the world with indigenous artefacts from Canada and so this has to be a very involved discussion with many different jurisdictions,” he said.
    That would have to include determining if items were gifts or taken without permission, he said.
    “It isn’t unique to the Catholic Church but that does not prohibit the Catholic Church and its highest authorities from beginning discussions on what to do about these artefacts and their repatriation to Canada,” he said.
    The Vatican Museums often lend items to other institutions and have said the kayak might go on tour after it is restored.
(Additional reporting by Antonio Denti; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

    This page created on 1/1/2022, and updated each month by 1/31/2022, 2/28/2022, 3/31/2022.

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