The Latest: Deadly Police Raid In Rio, Scottish Elections, Pizza Vending Machines

Welcome to Friday, where a shooting at a favela in Rio kills 25, the Pfizer jab shows promising results against COVID variants, and pizza vending machines arrive in Rome. We also look at how central banks are finally starting to take an interest in cryptocurrencies.

• COVID-19: Pfizer vs. variants, pandemic Olympics: Two different studies show that Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine is highly effective in preventing death and serious illness from the English and South African variants. Meanwhile, with less than three months to go before the summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan has decided to extend its COVID-19 state of emergency until May 31st.

• 25 killed in Brazilian police raid: A police raid against suspected drug traffickers in the favela of Jacarezinho in Rio de Janeiro has left 25 dead, among the bloodiest assaults ever by Brazilian authorities long accused of excessive violence.

• Poland and Hungary block "gender equality" phrase: Lobbying by the two central European countries has resulted in the removal of the phrase "gender equality" in a draft declaration on social cohesion that the European Union is due to publish, according to documents seen by Reuters.

• Scotland election could lead to vote on independence: Results from the Scottish election are expected later today. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, slated to lead the Scottish National Party (SNP), has vowed to push for another referendum on Scottish independence if her party wins a majority of seats.

• Chinese rocket debris to land this weekend: China's Long March 5B rocket, currently in the upper atmosphere, is set to make an uncontrolled landing this weekend. There are still no clear predictions regarding whether it will land on inhabited land. The U.S. has called on China to engage in more "responsible space behaviors," but has not announced any plans to shoot down the debris.

• European leaders urge Israel to stop settlement expansion: European countries including France and Germany have urged Israel to stop settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank.

• Fresh pizza vending machines are coming to Italy: Rome has inaugurated a pizza vending machine that provides cooked pizzas in only three minutes.

Watch Video Show less

Between Two Popes: Father Georg Gänswein Redefines Vatican Diplomacy

It is the most delicate of roles right now, as Father Georg continues to serve his original boss, retired Pope Benedict XVI, while also heading the Papal household of Pope Francis.

VATICAN CITY — During the morning audience, Father Georg sits smilingly beside Pope Francis. In the afternoon, he returns to play guardian angel to — and be the eyes and ears for — Benedict XVI.

Jockeying between two worlds has never scared Georg Gänswein.

Keep reading... Show less

Vatican, Costa Rica, France: #MeToo And The Sound Of Broken Silence


The #MeToo movement was, above all, a collective "breaking of the silence" that shifted the longstanding balance of power on the question of sexual misconduct, particularly in the professional world.

Keep reading... Show less

China And The Vatican, Intrigue At The Heart Of Power

The old, retired cardinal has had enough. He does not like what the Vatican is doing in China. He takes a plane and asks to be received by the pope. But instead of bringing it to an end, the encounter between the two men escalates the tensions around the Vatican's pending agreement with China, a deal between two opposing arms of Catholicism in one of the most strictly controlled regimes in the world.

The outcry of betrayal came from 86-year-old Cardinal Joseph Zen, affectionately named "Lion in Winter." For decades, Zen has been urging the Vatican to take a stronger stand in defending the Catholic Church from persecution and control by Chinese Communist authorities. Cardinal Zen, now retired, is a Shanghai native but fled to Hong Kong to escape Communist rule at the end of the Chinese Civil War. He spent almost whole his life in Southeast Asia, and traveled to China often.

Keep reading... Show less

The Communist Woman And Jewish Shrink In Pope's Past

Pope Francis is not afraid of speaking freely, with his sermons and writings — and a fair share of press interviews — stirring up the Catholic establishment since his election in 2013. Yet a new book based on transcripts of 12 separate conversations with a French sociologist is particularly rich in revelations.

The 432-page Politique et société, du pape François - Rencontres avec Dominique Wolton ("Pope Francis: Politics and Society. Conversations with Dominique Walton") will be out on Wednesday.

Watch Video Show less

Pope Francis: No Fear Of Islam In Europe

[rebelmouse-image 27090192 alt="""" original_size="750x948" expand=1]

La Croix, May 17, 2016

Watch Video Show less

Vatican Newspaper On Rouhani Meeting With Pope Francis

[rebelmouse-image 27089883 alt="""" original_size="750x1057" expand=1]

L'Osservatore Romano, Jan. 27, 2016

Watch Video Show less
Julia Villaro

Pope Francis Reveals His Belief In The Power Of Art

VATICAN CITY — For Pope Francis, "a work of art is the strongest evidence that incarnation is possible." It is an idea expressed in his book "La Mia Idea Di Arte" (My Idea of Art), co-written with Italian journalist Tiziana Lupi as part of the Church's latest attempt to recover bonds with its traditional allies and tools of conversion: painting, sculpture and architecture.

The two have grown apart of late, as art has cozied up to the idol of money, Biblically known as mammon. Francis is convinced that art can be an effective tool for resisting greed, and one that serves social and ecological purposes while revealing the beauty people hold inside.

Watch Video Show less

Pope Francis Opens His Door To French Glossy Magazine

[rebelmouse-image 27089526 alt="""" original_size="514x666" expand=1]

Paris Match, Oct. 15, 2015

Watch Video Show less

Vatican Intrigue: Secret Letter Questions Pope

VATICAN CITY — A letter delivered to Pope Francis, reportedly signed by 13 Roman Catholic cardinals, questions whether the pontiff has organized the ongoing Synod on the Family in such a way that ensures "predetermined results on important controversial issues," Italian weekly magazine L'Espresso has reported.

The magazine's longtime Vatican correspondent Sandro Magister reported the exclusive story on the L'Espresso website late Monday, adding intrigue to the high-stakes meeting currently taking place and raising the specter of a mini-rebellion among some of the senior clerics who elected Francis two years ago.

Watch Video Show less
eyes on the U.S.
Paolo Mastrolilli

Pope Francis And Barack Obama, Why The White House Believes

On the eve of the pontiff's visit to the United States, confidential Obama administration documents reveal a remarkable harmony with Francis' objectives.

NEW YORK — When preparing for President Barack Obama's first meeting with Pope Francis last March in the Vatican, White House and State Department staff made a prediction. "Pope Francis' diplomatic legacy is still being built, but the ‘pastoral conversion' which is the hallmark of his pontificate is taking shape in important ways. The pope's grip on the world stage means that his pastoral actions will have widespread political implications," the document reads.

These words are among the sensitive and confidential documents obtained by La Stampa that help to understand the growing alliance between the United States and the Holy See, one that Washington hopes to consolidate when Francis arrives on Sept. 22 for his first visit as pope.

Watch Video Show less