Refugee crisis: Pope pleads for ‘common humanity’

16/4/16; Human Rights, Pope Francis, Greece, Syrian Refugees, Refugee
Visit expected to turn spotlight on Europe’s controversial deal with Turkey to end the unprecedented refugee crisis. Pope Francis is visiting Lesbos, the Greek island on the frontline of Europe’s refugee crisis for people seeking to reach Western Europe on boats from Turkey.
Francis, who took off from Rome’s Fiumicino airport at 05:20 GMT on Saturday, arrived on the island at about 07:00 GMT for a visit expected to last five hours.
Hundreds of thousands of refugees and economic migrants have arrived in Lesbos in recent months on flimsy boats, while hundreds have died on the way.
In a move bound to turn the spotlight on Europe’s controversial deal with Turkey to end the unprecedented refugee crisis, Francis was due to visit a processing centre.
The EU-Turkey deal as well as the processing centre have been criticised by rights groups, who claim refugees in Lesbos have been treated in a way that breaches basic human rights.
Francis’ stay will also include lunch with a handful of refugees in one of the adapted containers used to accommodate them, hearing their stories of fleeing war, conflict and poverty and their hopes for a better life in Europe.
-‘Father, bless me’
Al Jazeera’s Nadim Baba, reporting from Lesbos, said the refugees told their stories to Francis, with many of them describing the processing centre “a prison”.
“One male adult refugee broke down before the pope and said ‘Father, bless me’,” he said. “The Vatican insists that the visit is of humanitarian nature, not political. However, Greek media reports say he offered to take eight Syrian refugees back to Vatican.”
Hours before Francis arrived, the European border patrol agency Frontex intercepted a dinghy carrying 41 Syrians and Iraqis off the coast of Lesbos.
The refugees were detained and brought to shore in the main port of Mytilene.
Municipal crews had scrubbed the walls of the port after graffiti reading “Papa Don’t Preach” was sprayed in black at several points on the seafront in Mytilene.
The Vatican insists Francis’ visit is purely humanitarian and religious in nature, not political or a “direct” criticism of the EU plan. Read More: ope visits mosque in besieged CAR enclave ; Read More; pope-francis-washes-refugees-feet-easter-week -160324173339136.html Pope Francis washes feet of refugees for Easter Week

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Pope Francis, Refugees


Pope makes scathing attack on Vatican ‘ills’

22/12/14; Europe, Vatican, Religion
Catholic leader tells stony-faced cardinals, bishops and priests of church’s ’15 ailments’ in unusual address.
Pope Francis has harshly criticised Vatican bureaucracy in a Christmas speech, saying that some in the church suffered from “spiritual Alzheimer’s” and a lust for power.
The Curia is called on to always improve itself and grow in communion, holiness and knowledge to fulfil its mission. But even it, as any human body, can suffer from ailments, dysfunctions, illnesses. – Pope Francis; Francis listed 15 ‘Ailments of the Curia’, including small talk, gossip and the lust for power
Vatican watchers said they had never heard such a powerful, violent speech from a pope and suggested that it was informed by the results of a secret investigation ordered up by Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI in the aftermath of the 2012 leaks of his papers.
Francis told cardinals, bishops and priests on Monday the Vatican was riven with “existential schizophrenia”, “social exhibitionism”, “spiritual Alzheimer’s” and a lust for power, all of which made for an “orchestra that plays out of tune”.
“The Curia is called on to always improve itself and grow in communion, holiness and knowledge to fulfil its mission,” Francis said.
“But even it, as any human body, can suffer from ailments, dysfunctions, illnesses.”
In a speech that was met with tepid applause when it ended, the pope listed one by one the 15 “Ailments of the Curia” that he had drawn up, complete with footnotes and Biblical references.
The Catholic pope started off his list with the “ailment of feeling immortal, immune or even indispensable”.
A pope with enemies
Then one by one he went on: Being rivals and boasting. Wanting to accumulate things. Having a “hardened heart”. Wooing superiors for personal gain. Having a “funereal face” and being too “rigid, tough and arrogant”, especially towards underlings.
Francis spoke of the “terrorism of gossip” saying backstabbing by “cowards who don’t have the courage to say things openly” is tantamount to “murder in cold blood”.
He bemoaned the “scandal” caused by infighting and those who use their Vatican careers to grab power and wealth, of living “hypocritical” double lives and forgetting that they’re supposed to be joyful men of God.
The leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics also warned against greed, egoism and people who think they are “immortal”.
Francis turned the traditional, genteel exchange of Christmas greetings into a public dressing down of the Curia, the central administration of the Holy See, which governs the 1.2-billion strong Catholic Church.
He made clear that his plans for a radical reform of the structures of church power must be accompanied by an even more radical spiritual reform of the men involved.
Despite winning the hearts of many religious and non-religious people alike, the pope has also made enemies, particularly within the conservative arm of the church.
The Argentine pope’s attempts to kick-start dialogue within the church earlier this year over a possible new approach to remarried, divorced people and homosexuals sparked an outcry in some quarters. Read more: In the battle of papal politics, Pope Francis will triumph Source: Agencies

Rome, Vatican


Threatened Australian wildlife at grave risk from habitat loss, study finds

9/7/15 AEST Oliver Milman; @olliemilman

Habitat loss is seen as the primary threat to at-risk species but recovery plans avoid addressing it and governments have entrenched the extinction process – Successive Australian governments have failed to protect the habitat of the country’s most endangered creatures, with 90% of the 120 most endangered animals having no safeguards to prevent the loss of their homes, a new study has found.
An analysis by environmental groups of the official recovery plans for Australia’s endangered wildlife has discovered that just 12 of the 120 most endangered animals were covered by plans that placed limits on the future loss of their habitat.
This is despite the fact that habitat loss due to developments such as housing and mining is considered to be the primary threat to nearly 70% of these at-risk species.
The report, compiled by the Australian Conservation Foundation, BirdLife Australia and Environmental Justice Australia, states that recovery plans consistently avoid any measures to limit habitat loss and that successive governments have “entrenched the process of extinction”.
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James Trezise, policy coordinator for the Australian Conservation Foundation, said the findings are “worrisome”.
“Recovery plans can bind future decision making for governments,” he said. “We’ve seen examples where scientific advice has been given to governments on habitat loss, such as the swift parrot in Tasmania, and it has been ignored. We know that land clearing is a key threat and recovery plans need to state unambiguously that the best bits of remaining bush should be left intact.”
The report highlights how habitat loss is discussed in detail in the recovery plan for the endangered southern cassowary, only for the plan to fail to direct any curb on land clearing. Similarly, directions on habitat loss aren’t clearly articulated for the swift parrot or Proserpine rock wallaby.
Meanwhile, the Carnaby’s black cockatoo does have a recovery plan that stresses the danger of habitat loss, but a focus on providing offsets for cleared land has exacerbated its decline, the report finds.
Around half of all of Australia’s forests have either been cut down or severely disturbed since European arrival on the continent, meaning the habitat of a vast array of species has become fragmented or vanished.
Australia contains more than 5% of the world’s plants and animals, with 87% of them endemic, meaning they aren’t found anywhere else on Earth. However, the country has one of the worst extinction records in the world, with 50 species vanishing in the past 200 years, including 27 mammal species.
A total of 1,764 Australian species are listed by the federal government as being threatened to some degree. “Extinction is a choice,” said Samantha Vine, head of conservation at BirdLife Australia. “Where we’ve tried in the past, Australia has been remarkably successful at recovering threatened species. In many cases averting extinction has been straightforward and relatively inexpensive. “Securing and improving existing habitats for threatened species is one of the most powerful and cost effective conservation tools at our disposal.”
The federal government is holding a threatened species summit in Melbourne next week to look at how to turn around Australia’s worrying loss of fauna and flora. The gathering of government ministers and conservationists is expected to focus on a range of threats, most notably the predation of mammals by feral cats.
Gregory Andrews, the national threatened species commissioner, said the government will also launch an ambitious threatened species strategy that will look at habitat loss and improving recovery plans. “Given the animals and plants at risk, and losses we have already endured, a strategic response is required,” he said.“And by working on the basis of science, focusing on practical action and partnering as broadly as possible, I’m confident that it’s possible.”
Trezise said: “Threatened species protection isn’t just about feral cats. It’s about a diverse range of pressures and the biggest threat is habitat clearance. We have a choice – we either accept that we put developments in less environmentally sensitive areas or we will have species go extinct.”

Australia, Environment