The World Today for July 26, 2017

NEED TO KNOW

VATICAN

Holy Crisis

For years, Pope Francis has tended to his flock, flown to the world’s hotspots speaking words of reconciliation, and pleaded with stony-faced leaders to help refugees.

Now he is managing a full-blown crisis.

Cardinal George Pell appeared in an Australian court Tuesday and prepared to plead not guilty to sexual abuse allegations.

Pell, 76, was a close advisor to the pontiff who had overseen the Holy See’s finances until Francis granted him a leave of absence. He is the highest-ranking clergyman embroiled in one of the most disgraceful chapters in the Catholic Church’s two-millennia-long history.

The allegations have called into question the pope’s policies toward the sex abuse scandal, revealing a “blind spot” in an Argentine pontiff who was feted for promising to reform the aloof church when he donned the white robes in 2013, the New York Times wrote.

“The fight against pedophilia is not a priority for Francis,” said Italian journalist Emiliano Fittipaldi, who has written about Pell in his book “Lust” about the church sex scandal, in an interview with the Times

Australian authorities had already accused Pell of failing to protect thousands of children from predatory priests when Francis brought him to the Vatican.

But other developments in Francis’ papacy have also undercut his reputation as a protector of children, CNN reported.

The pope abandoned his plan to establish a tribunal to try bishops accused of sexual abuse. The two abuse survivors he appointed to a commission to protect children have left after clashing with church hierarchs.

Perhaps with those setbacks in mind, Francis recently dismissed Cardinal Gerhard Muller, the powerful chief of church doctrine who was investigating priests accused of abusing kids.

But the cause of the dismissal also spoke volumes about the place of the investigations in Francis’ list of priorities. Muller had a backlog of 2,000 cases.

Pell hasn’t yet been proven guilty, of course.

“I am innocent of these charges,” Pell said at a press conference before he headed to Australia, according to the Religion News Service. “They are false.”

Some big guns in the church are supporting him, too.

“He’s the kind of man about whom I would find such reports to be completely contrary to everything he stands for,” New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan told Crux recently. “I admire him, and I want to stick with him.”

But, as the Sydney Morning Herald noted, public hysteria concerning Pell is already extreme. Protesters, security and a press scrum surrounded the cardinal at the courthouse.

Who knows what kind of fireworks might fly when lawyers get a chance to grill Pell in public.

Already, however, the case is shaping up to engender the wrong atmosphere to heal the wounds of Pell’s alleged victims or the pontiff’s besmirched image in the eyes of his critics.

[siteshare]Holy Crisis[/siteshare]

WANT TO KNOW

IRAN

Across the Bow

A US Navy ship on Tuesday fired warning shots at a patrol boat believed to have been operated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps in the Persian Gulf after the armed vessel came within 150 yards of the USS Thunderbolt.

The Iranians did not respond to radio calls, firing off flares and five short blasts from the US Navy ship’s whistle, which is the internationally recognized communications signal for danger, CNN cited US officials as saying.

The US vessel then fired warning shots to avert a possible collision. The Iranian patrol boat changed course but remained in the area for several hours.

One of several similar encounters between US and Iranian ships since January, the incident occurred as US President Donald Trump warned “there will be big, big problems” for Tehran if it fails to abide by the terms of its nuclear deal with the US and other world powers at a rally in Youngstown, Ohio.

[siteshare]Across the Bow[/siteshare]

SWEDEN

Swedish Phish

Sweden is scrambling to minimize the damage done by an IT outsourcing deal with IBM that may have allowed foreign spies to access classified information.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said this week that the government would tighten rules on outsourcing and investigate a deal struck by the Swedish Transport Agency that outsourced its IT operations to vendors based in Romania and the Czech Republic, Bloomberg reported.

So far, there haven’t been any confirmed leaks. But the alleged carelessness with secret information has itself threatened Lofven’s government, with critics now questioning how much Infrastructure Minister Anna Johansson, Home Affairs Minister Anders Ygeman and Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist knew about the deal.

Meanwhile, Lofven aims to get out in front of the accusations well in advance of elections, which are scheduled for next year. However, the Moderates, the Center Party and the Left Party have said they won’t rule out demanding a confidence vote in the ministers associated with the scandal, the agency said.

[siteshare]Swedish Phish[/siteshare]

ITALY

Rules for Rescuers

The Italian government threatened to shut down the rescue operations run by humanitarian groups in the Mediterranean if they refuse to sign a “code of conduct” that would allow police to board and search their boats for alleged smugglers.

Italy fears that the non-governmental rescuers are encouraging migrants to brave the dangerous waters and wittingly or unwittingly aiding Libya-based smugglers, Reuters reported. But the rescue operators say the code of conduct would actually prevent them from saving lives.

“The code of conduct isn’t meant to save more lives but to limit the number of people rescued by the NGOs,” Reuters quoted a professor of international law at the University of Palermo as saying.

The code of conduct would require NGOs to let police board vessels to search for smugglers and forbid ships from transferring people to other boats – a measure that would shut down the smaller rescue ships that transfer migrants to larger vessels to be brought to Italy.

More than 2,200 people have died in the Central Mediterranean this year, Reuters noted.

[siteshare]Rules for Rescuers[/siteshare]

DISCOVERIES

Santa’s Summer Fun

The long days of summer are in full swing in Scandinavia.

But devotees of the Christmas season are descending on Denmark to get an early start on this year’s holiday festivities.

The annual World Santa Claus Congress held in Copenhagen’s Bakken amusement park includes more than 150 attendees doing their best impression of Saint Nicolas, complete with traditional red coats and white beards, wrote Reuters.

During the three-day event, the Santas parade through the Danish capital, take a dip in the sea and sample the local herring.

Others will hit the catwalk for a Christmas-inspired fashion show or check out the Bakken’s rollercoaster ride.

It’s not all fun and games. Some Santas said they make their annual pilgrimage – this year’s congress is the 60th – to Denmark for a chance to debate pressing philosophical issues.

“We have a discussion about important things in life – for example, which day is Christmas Day?” Santa Wolfgang from Germany, who has attended the congress each year since 1996, told Reuters.

Check out some photos of the World Santa Claus Congress here.

[siteshare]Santa’s Summer Fun[/siteshare]

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