Pope Francis apologises after slapping hand of female worshipper

Pope Francis has apologised for slapping the hand of a female worshipper who pulled him towards her as he greeted pilgrims in Rome on New Year's Eve.

The 83-year-old pontiff admitted he had lost his patience and set a "bad example" to the world during the unsavoury encounter, which was caught on video.

The incident happened a day before he delivered a New Year's Day speech at the Vatican in which he denounced violence against women, which he compared to profaning God.

During a walkabout in St Peters Square on his way to view its nativity scene, the Pope was seen greeting a crowd of well wishers, smiling and reaching out to them as he passed by the barrier.

But he reacted angrily after the woman, who has not been identified, seized his right hand and pulled him sharply towards her. He slapped her hand and yanked himself free.

Footage of the incident, which also showed the clearly annoyed pontiff walking briskly away, immediately caused a stir on social media and prompted him to issue an unusual apology.

In an address to the thousands of pilgrims who gathered in the square on Wednesday at the end of the traditional New Year Mass, he departed from his scripted remarks to talk about patience.

“So many times we lose patience – even me, and I apologise for yesterday’s bad example,” he said.

The Pope earlier used the service to issue a forthright condemnation of the abuse of women in modern society, telling worshippers: “All violence inflicted on women is a desecration of God."

“How often is a woman’s body sacrificed on the profane altar of advertising, profit, pornography?” he asked, adding that the female body “must be freed from consumerism, respected and honoured”.
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The pontiff added that despite creating life, women “are continually offended, beaten, raped, forced into prostitution” and compelled to have abortions.

“We can understand our level of humanity by the way we treat a woman’s body,” he said.

The incident is not the first time that Pope Francis has reacted angrily after being manhandled by an exuberant worshipper, with a similar encounter taking place in February 2016.

During a visit to the city of Morella in Mexico, he lost his footing after being pulled towards the assembled crowd, falling into a disabled man who was sitting in front of the barrier.

Video of the incident showed the exasperated pontiff telling the people responsible: "Don't be selfish". A Vatican spokesman said later it had been a "normal human reaction".

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Pope Francis warns of rising fascist forces around the world

Vatican City, November 19 (RHC)-- Pope Francis has issued a warning against the rise of fascist forces worldwide that remind him of the Nazis of the 20th Century as he also railed against corporate crimes and announced consideration of adding “sins against ecology” to the church’s official teachings.

During a speech at the Vatican before the 20th World Congress of the International Association of Penal Law, a network of justice system and criminology experts from around the world, the leader of the Catholic Church said worrying developments both in the political arena and from the world of business remind him of dark episodes from humanity’s past, including Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich.

“It is not coincidental that at times there is a resurgence of symbols typical of Nazism,” Francis said as he decried the “culture of waste and hate” represented by contemporary politicians who spew derogatory and racists attacks against homosexuals, gypsies, Jewish people, and others. “I must confess to you,” he continued, “that when I hear a speech (by) someone responsible for order or for a government, I think of speeches by Hitler in 1934, 1936.”

The Pope also highlighted environmental degradation and said the church was considering adding crimes against nature and the environment to the catechism—the official text of church doctrine and teachings.

“We have to introduce, we are thinking about it, in the catechism of the Catholic Church, the sin against ecology, the sin against our common home, because it’s a duty,” he said. Francis has been championed by climate activists for using his position to preach about the urgent need for humanity to recognize the dangers of human-caused global warming and calling on other world leaders—and the estimated 1.2 billion Catholics in the world—to act boldly to address the crisis.

Crimes against the environment, said the Pope, should be seen as “crimes against peace, which should be recognized by the international community.”  Francis also spoke of the crimes of big business, many of which receive too little attention and often go unpunished.

“One frequent omission of penal law,” Francis told the criminal experts at the conference, “is the insufficient attention the crimes of the powerful receive, especially the large-scale delinquency of corporations.”

In his speech, Francis condemned global corporations that are responsible for “countries’ over-indebtedness and the plunder of our planet’s natural resources.”  He said that their activities have the “gravity of crimes against humanity,” especially when they lead to hunger, poverty and the eradication of indigenous peoples.

Such acts of “ecocide” must not go unpunished, said the pope, who in October concluded a synod of bishops to discuss the Amazon region and the safeguarding of the environment.  “The principle of profit maximization, isolated from any other consideration, leads to a model of exclusion which violently attacks those who now suffer its social and economic costs, while future generations are condemned to pay the environmental costs,” Francis said.

“The first thing lawyers should ask themselves today is what they can do with their knowledge to counter this phenomenon,” he said, “which puts democratic institutions and the development of humanity itself at risk.”

Edited by Ed Newman
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Pope Francis sends a message on the occasion of Havana’s 500th anniversary

Rome, November 15 (RHC)-- Pope Francis sent a warm message to the people of Havana on Friday on the eve of the 500th anniversary of the founding of the city, San Cristóbal de La Habana.

In a video message, the pontiff said he was happy to join his 'dear brothers and sisters of Havana' on the anniversary and said that since its foundation, many lives given by others are interwoven, many dreams, efforts, shared sacrifices to build the present and future of the children of Cuba.

In this regard, he referred to faith, charity, and hope, three historical aspects that, in his opinion, were present from the very beginnings, and continue to be pillars for this time.

After indicating that faith is in the roots of the city, Francis urged the inhabitants of the Cuban capital not to forget "the testimony of faith of your ancestors" and recalled that the founding act of Havana was the celebration of Holy Mass.

And because "there will always be difficulties in life," Pope Francis encouraged the Cuban people to move forward in unity, united in charity and in the hope of moving forward, which "helps the people to grow strong.”

Edited by Jorge Ruiz Miyares
  • Published in Cuba

Cuban leaders attend funeral of cardinal who fostered thaw with US

Cuban leaders on Sunday attended the funeral Jaime Ortega, a cardinal who played a key role in improving ties between Havana and Washington during the administration of Barack Obama.

Ortega, who died at the age of 82, worked as an intermediary for Pope Francis in negotiations to ease the bad blood between Cuba and the US after five decades.

The Cold War rivals began normalizing relations in December 2014 and the next year they restored diplomatic ties.

First vice-president Salvador Valdes Mesa, vice-president Roberto Morales and Esteban Lazo, the head of the National Assembly, were at the funeral service at Havana Cathedral, an AFP journalist saw.

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Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel and former president Raul Castro, who are visiting Venezuela, sent bouquets of flowers.

Born in 1936 in Matanzas, Ortega led the Catholic church in Cuba for 35 years before retiring in 2016.

He submitted his resignation as Archbishop of Havana in 2011 when 75, as Vatican rules required, but his close personal friend the pope refused it then, acquiescing only in 2016.

He was the facilitator in 18 months of secret talks between Cuba and the US that led to a historic thawing of relations, since reversed by President Donald Trump.

Those talks led to a prisoner exchange and Obama's historic visit to the island nation in 2016.

Garcia paid tribute to Ortega's "friendly smile, his clairvoyant intelligence and the testimony of a successful, and often painful, priesthood."

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Pope Francis Restates His Sympathy With The Venezuelan People

Vatican City, July 14 (Prensa Latina) Pope Francis restated on Sunday his sympathy with ''the beloved Venezuelan people, particularly tested by the ongoing crisis.''

In a statement after concluding the Sunday Angelus in St. Peter's Square, the Supreme Pontiff added that 'we pray to the Lord to inspire and enlighten the involved sides, so that they can reach an agreement to put an end to the suffering of the people, for the the country's and the entire region's sake'.

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Pope Francis thanked artists of the Circus of Cuba

Pope Francis thanked artists of the Circus of CubaHAVANA, Cuba, Dec 21 (ACN) Pope Francis thanked on Wednesday the presentation of a group of artists from the Circus of Cuba in his usual General Audience on Wednesday, in the Paul VI Hall of the Vatican City.

"I would like to thank the Cuban circus for this beautiful show! Thank you!" exclaimed the Supreme Pontiff after witnessing live and applauding the performance of the young Caribbean people before some five thousand people who cheered them, reported Prensa Latina (PL).

The music, the dance, the circus technique and the color of the Caribbean island left with this presentation an indelible mark on Francis, for whom the circus artists are "artisans of the party, of the wonder, of the beautiful".

Participants in the presentation made in the Vatican integrate the Havana Company, of the National Circus of Cuba, which is currently performing in Rome as part of a tour of six Italian cities.

The PL report recalled that last year the Pope said that circus artists "enrich society around the world, with the ambition also to feed feelings of hope and confidence."

During the celebration of the Circus Jubilee, within the framework of the Year of the Jubilee of Mercy, the Bishop of Rome greeted participants in the activity, and especially mentioned "the leaders and artists of the Circus of Cuba."

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End all useless slaughter, halt arms race – Pope Francis to G20 leaders

Pope Francis has urged the heads of G20 countries to end “useless slaughter” and halt the arms race, in a written address to world leaders who have gathered for a two-day summit in Hamburg, Germany.

The pontiff sent the message to the world leaders, saying that “war is never a solution,” and that he feels the responsibility to demand that the world put an end to all these “useless slaughters.”

The aim of the G20, Pope Francis pointed out, is “to resolve economic differences peacefully and to agree on common financial and trade rules to allow for the integral development of all.”

“Yet that will not be possible unless all parties commit themselves to substantially reducing levels of conflict, halting the present arms race and renouncing direct or indirect involvement in conflicts, as well as agreeing to discuss sincerely and transparently all their differences,” the pontiff wrote.

He emphasized that “there is a tragic contradiction and inconsistency in the apparent unity expressed in common forums on economic or social issues, and the acceptance, active or passive, of armed conflicts.”

Pope Francis also called on all the government leaders to consider the “need to give absolute priority to the poor, refugees, the suffering, evacuees and the excluded, without distinction of nation, race, religion or culture.”

In particular, the pontiff mentioned the tragic situation in South Sudan, the Lake Chad basin, the Horn of Africa and Yemen.

Protests have been raging in Hamburg over the G20 summit being held on July 7-8, with 45 people already detained and over 150 policemen injured in the clashes during the “Welcome to Hell” protest on Thursday.

Some 30 events and marches have been scheduled to take place during the summit, with 20,000 police deployed to provide security.

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Vatican to open Argentina's 'Dirty War' archives

The Vatican says it will open its files relating to military rule in Argentina to victims and their relatives.

It says the decision has been taken at the request of Pope Francis "in the service of truth, justice and peace".

Thousands of people were tortured, killed or disappeared during the period known as the Dirty War in Argentina from 1976 to 1983.

Many victims accuse the Roman Catholic Church of complicity and failure to speak out against abuses.

On Tuesday, the Vatican said that - together with Argentina's bishops - it had finished digitizing the Church's archives relating to the period.

It said the files would only be open to victims and their relatives, without setting a firm date.

The documents are being held in the Vatican's secretariat of state, the Vatican's embassy in Buenos Aires and also at the Argentine bishops' conference.

Most of them would normally never be made public.

                                              Jorge Bergoglio as a priest in 1973

Pope Francis - who led Jesuits in his native Argentina under the junta and was known at the time as Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio - had pledged to open up the archives.

In 2013, the Vatican denied that the pontiff had failed to speak out against human rights abuses, saying "there has never been a credible, concrete accusation against him".

Correspondents say that like other Latin American churchmen of the time, he had to contend, on the one hand, with a repressive right-wing regime and, on the other, a wing of his Church leaning towards political activism on the left.

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