Pope Francis, in first post-lockdown audience, thanks Italian doctors

Pope Francis adresses doctors and nurses from the coronavirus-ravaged Lombardy region at the Vatican on Saturday, June 20, 2020. (Vatican News via AP)
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Updated 20 June 2020

Pope Francis, in first post-lockdown audience, thanks Italian doctors

  • ‘You were one of the supporting pillars of the entire country’
  • Pope Francis thanked the health workers, who wore masks during the audience, for being ‘angels’

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis on Saturday held his first audience for a group of people since Italy lifted its coronavirus lockdown, granting it to health workers from the Italian region most affected by the pandemic.
“You were one of the supporting pillars of the entire country,” he told doctors and nurses from the Lombardy region gathered in the Vatican’s frescoed Clementine Hall, which had not been used for months because of the crisis.
“To those of you here and to your colleagues all across Italy go my esteem and my sincere thanks, and I know very well I am interpreting everyone’s sentiments,” he said.
He thanked the health workers, who wore masks, for being “angels,” including by lending their cell phones to dying patients so they could say their final goodbyes to their loved ones.
Italy returned to relative normality on June 3 when Italians were allowed to move between regions again. But rules such as social distancing in public and wearing masks are still in effect.
Nearly 35,000 people in Italy have died of coronavirus, the fourth highest number in the world after the United States, Brazil and Britain.
Nearly 170 of them were doctors and the pope paid special tribute to them in his address on Saturday.
At the end the meeting, the pope joked about what he called “the liturgy of the greeting” explaining that they would take a group picture but he would “be obedient to the rules” and greet them from a distance as he passed down the aisle.
Francis’ weekly general audience is still being held without the public and streamed over the Internet, although he has resumed giving his Sunday message from his window since St. Peter’s Square was reopened last month.
He has resumed public Masses but with only about 50 people allowed.


Macron hails French Muslim charter against extremism

Updated 9 min 18 sec ago

Macron hails French Muslim charter against extremism

  • “This is a clear, decisive and precise commitment in favor of the republic,” Macron said
  • He hailed the text saying it is “a truly foundational text for relations between the state and Islam in France”

PARIS:President Emmanuel Macron praised French Muslim leaders on Monday after they agreed on a “charter of principles” aimed at combatting sectarianism and radicalized teachings blamed for a surge in jihadist attacks in France in recent years.
The charter offers “a clarification of how the Muslim community is organized,” Macron said after a meeting with representatives of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), his office said.
It will also provide a framework for a new National Council of Imams that will be responsible for vetting imams practicing in the country.
“This is a clear, decisive and precise commitment in favor of the republic,” Macron said, hailing “a truly foundational text for relations between the state and Islam in France.”
Macron had urged the council to act against “political Islam” in November after the killing of Samuel Paty, a teacher who was beheaded outside his school after showing controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed as part of a free-speech lesson.
The attack prompted a crackdown against extremist mosques and Islamist associations, along with a vigorous defense of French secularism.
The new 10-point charter “states clearly that the principles of the Muslim faith are perfectly compatible with the principles of the republic,” CFCM president Mohammed Moussaoui told journalists after the meeting.
The accord was hammered out Saturday during a meeting with Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin after weeks of resistance from some CFCM members who objected to a “restructuring” of Islam to make it compatible with French law and values.
Moussaoui said all eight of the CFCM’s federations, representing various strands of Islam, approved the charter, but three had yet to sign the accord because “they need a bit more time to explain what it means to their followers,” an Elysee official said.
Hakim El Karoui, an author and expert on Islam in France, called the intention of the charter “praiseworthy,” but said it also shone a harsh light on internal tensions at the CFCM which he said consists of “five federations financed by foreign countries and three federations that are Islamist.”
El Karoui said “the charter was adopted by people whose interests clash with the text.”
Franck Fregosi, an Islam expert at research institute CNRS, said no other country, and no other religion in France, had a comparable charter.
“I’m not certain that this text, even once it gets signed, will get wide backing from Islam on the ground,” he said.
The imam of the mosque in the southwestern city of Bordeaux, Tariq Oubrou, said the charter had been developed back-to-front.
“It should be Muslim scholars and theologians who write a text and then submit it to the CFCM, not the other way around,” he said.
The charter rejects “instrumentalising” Islam for political ends and affirms equality between men and women, while denouncing practices such as female circumcision, forced marriages and “virginity certificates” for brides.
“No religious conviction whatsoever can be invoked as an exemption from the duties of citizens,” it states.
It also explicitly rejects racism and anti-Semitism, and warns that mosques “are not created for the spreading of nationalist speech defending foreign regimes.”
Macron has also said that authorities plan to expel the roughly 300 imams in France sent to teach from Turkey, Morocco and Algeria.
The charter accord comes as a parliamentary commission began debate Monday over a new draft law to fight “pernicious” Islamist radicalism with measures to ensure France’s strict separation of religious bodies and state in the public sphere.
The legislation would tighten rules on issues from religious-based education to polygamy, though Macron has insisted the goal is to protect all French citizens without stigmatising the country’s estimated four to five million Muslims, the largest number in Europe.