LA CROIX
La Croix ("The Cross") is a French-language Roman Catholic daily. It was founded in 1880 and is headquartered in Paris. It is currently owned by French publisher company Bayard Presse. Although it covers Church issues closely, it mainly focuses on topics of general interest.
Coronavirus
Anne Sophie Goninet

The World Prepares For A Very Different Kind Of Christmas

After a year that's been as trying as it is troubling, the holidays are finally upon us, and for many there's a temptation to treat the upcoming festivities as a welcome catharsis. But for governments, this "most wonderful time of the year" represents a real conundrum: How to allow for some much-needed Yuletide joy while at the same time, taking steps to keep the New Year from beginning with a new surge of coronavirus cases.

Christmas bubbles: The UK will also allow people to gather, but only for five days, between Dec. 23-27, with a larger window for Northern Ireland to give more time to people to travel between the nations.

  • This "Christmas bubble" should not include people from more than three different households, the government guidelines read, adding that one person can only be in one such group and cannot change afterwards.

  • "A fixed bubble is a sensible and proportionate way to balance the desire to spend time with others over the Christmas period, while limiting the risk of spreading infection," the government says.

  • The guidelines also recommend that UK citizens celebrate Christmas in other ways — digitally, for instance, or by meeting outdoors.

A "moral contract": In Canada, the government of Québec announced an even narrower opening in the calendar for Christmas celebrations: Dec. 24-27, Radio Canada reports, with gatherings limited to 10 people maximum.

  • Prime Minister François Legault has asked Quebecers to limit themselves to two different family or friends gatherings, adding that this "moral contract" between citizens and the government also included a week of quarantine before and after these four days, to limit the risk of contagion in January.

A results-based approach: In Austria, authorities are so far taking a wait-and-see approach to the Christmas question. Easing restrictions is a possibility, but it depends — on the results of a massive voluntary testing campaign that began at the start of December.

  • Once it has the data in hand, the government will decide how and when to lift the national lockdown, which is so far set to end on Dec. 7.

  • The government has ordered at least 7 million antigen tests, which will first be used for teachers and police officers as well as citizens in areas with high infection rates.

Christmas tree baubles wearing face masks on display in a Russian factory — Photo: Andrei Samsonov/TASS via ZUMA Press

Santa's out-of-work helpers: Finland, world famous for its Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, Lapland, has imposed strict travel restrictions for foreigners

  • Citizens from all European destinations other than the Vatican are currently subjected to a 10-day self-quarantine when entering the country. Either that, or they have to submit a negative coronavirus test certificate that is less than 72 hours old at the time of arrival, but which will only allow them to stay for a maximum of three days if they don't self-isolate.

  • Clearly, though, the restrictions are a blow to the country's winter tourism industry, which relies heavily on overseas visitors. "For the period mid-March 2020 to March 2021 we estimate around 700 million euros in tourism revenue loss and 5,000 fewer tourism-related jobs in Lapland," Sanna Kärkkäinen, CEO of Visit Rovaniemi, told Yle. The region is trying to attract domestic tourists, but tourism promoters believe this will not be enough to compensate for the huge losses.

  • The Finnish Parliament's Constitutional Law Committee has recently rejected a proposed testing-based model to allow visitors to enter the country for non-essential purposes, frustrating winter tourism businesses even more.

Prudence in Palestine: For obvious reasons, Bethlehem — Jesus Christ's birthplace — is usually buzzing with activity at this time of year. But with international pilgrims banned, and restaurants, hotels and souvenir shops closed, Christmas celebrations in the Palestine city will be noticeably subdued this time around.

  • The famed Christmas tree lighting service will be limited to just 15 guests, while the Midnight Mass, normally attended by religious leaders and hundreds of pilgrims, will be scaled back. The event will be broadcast live for the general public.

  • The Palestinian Authority has imposed a new nighttime lockdown from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., which could be extended through Christmas if the number of infections continue to surge.

"Reinventing Christmas," titles French daily La Croix

Silent nights: Catholic church officials in Manila, the capital city of the Philippines, have announced Christmas carol activities will be banned, The Philippine News Agency reports.

  • Churches were asked not to organize carolings in order to "protect the public and the choir members' as according to experts, the virus could easily spread through singing, officials say.

  • Christmas carols are an important part of the holiday traditions in the Philippines, a predominantly Catholic country which celebrates the world's longest Christmas season, from Sept. 1 to New Year's Eve.

New rules for Saint Nick: In Belgium, children eagerly await the arrival, on Dec. 6, of the gift-giving Saint Nicholas. But because the country is one of the hardest hit in Europe, the government decided this year to offer something to Saint Nicholas in return: a letter containing recommendations, the daily Le Soir reports, for keeping things fun but also safe:

  • "We can reassure you, you will not have to run from roof to roof in a spacesuit. However, we advise you to respect social distancing, wash your hands regularly and wear a mask when necessary," the guidelines read.

  • The letter also states that thanks to a ministerial ruling, Saint Nicholas will be allowed to distribute presents at night despite the curfew. The same permission was granted to "Père Fouettard," a companion of Saint Nicholas, who punishes naughty children. The letter adds, however, that "Every child is a hero and for once, you will not have to check your big notebook to see who was nice this year."

U.S. Election 2020 - Views From Abroad
Carl-Johan Karlsson

Trump Or Biden? What's At Stake For The Rest Of The World

From security and trade to COVID and climate change, the candidates differ on nearly every global topic. On Nov. 3, the world will be holding its collective breath.

PARIS — The weight of the U.S. on the rest of the world is worth remembering every presidential election cycle. And this year, the difference is particularly stark between the two candidates on everything from global trade to climate policy to cooperation on fighting COVID-19 — not to mention war and peace.

In the contrasting choice between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, Americans will choose who will govern a country that still has unrivaled global influence, with a fundamental choice between engagement or retreat — and whether America is ready or not to abdicate its role as singular world leader.

We've put together a rapid tour du monde to compare what a Democratic or Republican win would mean in the years ahead:

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Coronavirus
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

Lockdowns, Crackdowns, Diaspora: COVID-19 Seen From Africa

When Lesotho recently discovered its first coronavirus case, it marked the arrival of the pandemic in every country in Africa. Already, 70,000 people have been infected across the continent and the World Health Organisation warns of upwards of 190,000 deaths in Africa this year from COVID-19. The economic impacts are also forecast to be devastating: The World Bank estimated 20 million jobs will be lost in 2020, and as other health issues are pushed to the side, a "hunger pandemic" could follow.


Still, there is hope that Africa might actually wind up relatively well-protected from the pandemic. It is the world's youngest continent, with 60% of the population under age 25, a group that is less susceptible to coronavirus's deadliest impacts. Many African countries have also become accustomed to handling diseases including Ebola, HIV/AIDS and malaria. But a lack of more developed health care systems combined with the difficulty of social distancing in crowded urban centers and multigenerational households might prove to be a lethal combination. Here's how three countries across the continent are tackling the pandemic.


Morocco, Shutdowns & Crackdowns: Since mid-March, the North African kingdom has enforced strict containment measures that have limited the spread of coronavirus. Although, the heavy police surveillance and arrests of more than 85,000 violators has created what one UN operational officer described to Le Monde as a "culture of toxic lockdown" for human rights. Starting during Ramadan, the country has deployed drones to monitor potential social distancing violations and share alert messages. Morocco has also used the pandemic as an excuse to crack down on the limited rights of NGOs and independent journalists, with a drafted March law calling for increased restrictions on free speech, La Croix reports. On the positive side, the country is producing its own innovative PPE: It became an exporter of masks within a few weeks and a group of engineers and computer scientists created a prototype for a smart respirator that can tell if the user is sick. The Moroccan news outlet Yabiladi even reported that more Moroccans in the global diaspora have died of coronavirus than in the country itself. Aid packages have been created for both formal and informal workers, with the government distributing a basic income of around 100 euros a month. But the country's sub-Saharan migrant population has largely been forgotten, with at least 20,000 people facing an humanitarian emergency.

A health worker disinfects a building in the countryside of Sale in Morocco — Photo: Chadi/Xinhua/ZUMA

Nigeria, Oil Fallout & Covid-19 Humor: Despite an increasing number of coronavirus cases, Africa's largest economy is beginning to reopen, with the hope that informal and formal sectors will pick up again. Less than 20,000 people have been tested and social distancing measures including wearing masks and overnight curfews are still in place. While only 10 coronavirus deaths were reported in April, that number is expected to grow exponentially. Over 600 people have reportedly died in the northern state of Kano, raising suspicions of a widespread outbreak. Economically, Nigeria" dependence on its oil industry in lieu of more diversified development has proven fatal with prices collapsing. The country is set to enter its second recession in four years. With schools having been closed since March, remote learning is largely nonexistent, with only one in four Nigerians having internet access. But education is continuing: Nigerian filmmaker Niyi Akinmolayan released an animated video to teach kids about the importance of staying inside and comedians are creating humorous sketches to inform the public.


Ethiopia, Diaspora & Democracy: Plagues of locusts and the coronavirus might prove a deadly combination for Africa's second most populous country. Although only 250 cases have been reported, a coronavirus outbreak in Ethiopia could be devastating, with a ratio of only one doctor per every 10,000 people, according to the World Bank. The country's only ventilator expert is trying to train as many medical professionals as possible. The many Ethiopian doctors who are now working around the world, including in pandemic hotspots like New York City, are also calling into a popular weekly radio show to share their experiences. They provide medical tips and advice on acquiring PPE as well as combat widespread superstitions in the religious country that God will save them from illness. Those with resources including pop star Hamelmal Abate donated their homes to be used as quarantine centers in Addis Ababa. Politically, the country might be gearing up for government upheaval, having decided to indefinitely postpone the August presidential election and its parliament ending its five-year term in October.

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Geopolitics
Rozena Crossman

Coronavirus Nightmares, Metaphorical And Otherwise

French super chef Philippe Etchebest was simply describing reality when he called coronavirus a "national nightmare" in a recent article published by La Croix. He was referring specifically to France's shutdown restaurant owners and workers, but the metaphor can also describe the collective, surreal sense of uncertainty and fear currently permeating the world's subconscious like a bad dream come true.

Yet to call this global pandemic a nightmare isn't merely figurative. Quartz reports that Google searches for "coronavirus dreams' have shot up in the past weeks, and Le Monde invited Marc Rey, the president of France's National Institute of Sleep and Vigilance to answer readers' questions about troubled slumber. Yes, people all over the world are reporting increased nightmares as life under COVID-19 continues.

Of course, it is hardly surprising that the heightened anxiety of quarantine, health worries and a deeply uncertain future are having a serious impact on our slumber. Stress not only causes more nightmares, but more nightime wake ups — which means we're remembering more of our dreams. The continuing shutdown and social isolation multiply the effects, according to Courtney Bolstad, a sleep researcher interviewed by Time magazine: "Social rhythm theory says that the rhythms we have during the day, what time we get up, whether we see our friends, can influence our circadian rhythm," she explained. "If you aren't doing the things you typically do during the day, that could mess with your circadian rhythm which could mess with your sleep."

This doesn't necessarily mean that we'll be tossing and turning for months to come. "We're confined. It's violent. But confinement situations exist independantly of the epidemic," Marc Rey reminded Le Monde's readers. "In monastaries, in submarines, in space stations … If others can adapt to this confinement situation, we should be able to as well." Keeping a regular schedule, doing gentle exercise, practicing breathing techniques— there are many habits we can learn to regain a more peaceful rest. And it's in our best interest, as not only does sleep boost the immune system, it can alleviate stress and trauma.

So let's all do our best to dream of brighter days to come, and maybe even a night out at a Philippe Etchebest Michelin-star restaurant.

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Geopolitics
Worldcrunch

Coronavirus — Global Brief: What Happens In Wuhan Matters In Wichita

The insidious path of COVID-19 across the planet is a blunt reminder of how small the world has become. For the coming weeks, Worldcrunch will be delivering daily updates on this crisis from the best, most trusted international news sources — regardless of language or geography. To receive the daily Coronavirus Global Brief in your inbox, sign up here.

SPOTLIGHT: WHAT HAPPENS IN WUHAN MATTERS IN WICHITA

And 76 days later…

It was Jan. 23, 2020 when the central Chinese city of Wuhan was cut off from the rest of the world, as government authorities took action to severely restrict people's movements at the epicenter of what was then just the beginning of the burgeoning coronavirus outbreak. On Wednesday, the two-and-a-half-month ban on travel was lifted, ending the world's longest mass quarantine in memory.

That, of course, leaves much time for the rest of the world to count the days shut inside our own homes and cities. But even as each of us monitors our respective local situation, we will all be watching Wuhan closely to see what happens after its landmark "liberation" from coronavirus lockdown.

The international criticism for what were considered draconian measures in Wuhan are no doubt seen in a new light as other countries are now enforcing lockdowns of their own. And now, we will see another real-world experiment as restrictions are eased, providing precious data: to epidemiologists on the resurgence of cases, to economists on how quickly businesses can bounce back, and to all of us on how much it will take to get back to normal after weeks or months in isolation.

There is certainly a lot to learn from the Wuhan example, even if containment measures in different countries have varied widely. In China, the virus has been contained by forcing anyone with a fever and people who had been in close contact with someone believed to be infected into "centralized quarantine." This means that thousands of people were taken from their homes and placed in converted hotels, dorms and classrooms in order to stop transmission, even among family members at home. This has not been the case in most Western countries, where authorities have sought to keep people out of hospitals unless their cases are severe and advised people with symptoms to self-isolate at home.

All this to say that what happens in Wuhan won't necessarily determine what will happen in the rest of the world. If the resurgence of cases depends on how much immunity is already in the population, as some epidemiologists claim, China's efficient containment might eventually prove to be a weak spot. So, even as we count the days, there will be plenty of other data to calculate as well.

Michaela Kozminova

THE SITUATION: 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

  • Wuhan reopens: Coronavirus lockdown ends after 76 days in the central Chinese city where it was believed to have begun.

  • Toll: Deaths pass 10,000 in France, as the U.S. records highest death toll in a single day with more than 1,800 fatalities, 731 in New York state alone.

  • Europe blocked: Talks of European Union recovery fund to help southern countries, especially Italy and Spain, have stalled after 16 hours, leading the head of the European Research Council to resign, "extremely disappointed by the European response".

  • Polish vote: parliament approves legislation to allow presidential elections in May to be held as a postal ballot.

  • Pyongyang tests: In North Korea, 709 people have been tested and 509 are in quarantine, according to a WHO representative, but the country still reports no cases.

  • Where's El Señor Presidente? Even as Nicaragua continues to promote gatherings and mass events, while President Daniel Ortega has been absent for almost a month.

  • RIP Prine: U.S. raspy-voiced country icon John Prine dies from coronavirus complications in Nashville at age 73.

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Geopolitics

COVID-19: What's Happening To Migrants Around The World

Governments everywhere are telling residents to stay put, but their policies regarding some of the most vulnerable members of society raise a whole new series of risks.

PARIS — At a time when a third of the world is immobile, what happens to those who move by definition? Both domestic and foreign-born migrants, who have long struggled to find stability and security, are now even more vulnerable in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak and strict measures to limit movement. As governments scramble to create financial packages and deliver aid, some migrant groups are left further exposed, even as others are likely to benefit from new emergency measures:

  • Internal migrant workers in India are trekking back to their countryside origins — walking as far as 170 kilometers — because of the nationwide shutdown. "Hunger will kill us before the coronavirus," one migrant told Delhi-based The Wire.

  • Lisbon news site Observador reports that Portugal is granting temporary citizenship to all foreign migrants and asylum seekers currently applying for residency. They will remain citizens until at least July 1st. All visas that expired after February 24th are now valid until June 30th. The move ensures that all residents will have access to healthcare and social security, two crucial components to fight the virus.

  • In France, meanwhile, it's a mixed bag. Like Portugal, legal residents with expiring visas have been granted an extension. Yet many of those undocumented migrants gathered in the northern city of Calais say they've experienced food shortages and police brutality, and are so fearful of French authorities that they're attempting to make a dangerous run for the UK instead, the Guardian reports. The lockdown has also put the administrative procedures of asylum on hold, which means many risk sudden expulsion. According to a French immigration lawyer interviewed by the La Croix daily: "Asylum is a fundamental right, and I don't think there's ever been an asylum suspended in such a way since the Geneva Convention."

  • Italy, the hardest country so far, has been facing tough immigrant questions for the past two decades. This reportage in Internazionale notes that the spring harvest is at risk because 370,000 seasonal workers — mainly from Romania, Bulgaria and Poland – have been blocked from entering the country.

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Geopolitics
Olivia Han

Notre Dame On Fire, 25 Front Pages From Around The World

PARIS — Firefighters said early Tuesday that they'd extinguished the final flames of the massive Notre Dame cathedral fire that began shortly before 7 p.m. local time Monday. Authorities say the cause of the fire may be "potentially linked" to ongoing renovations. The images of a blaze engulfing one of history's most iconic sights, which draws some 13 million visitors a year, captivated much of the world. Newspapers in France and around the world Tuesday dedicated their front pages to the drama in the heart of Paris.

FRANCE

Libération

Le Figaro

La Croix

Le Télégramme

Sud Ouest

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Geopolitics

Trump's Iran Gambit And Europe's View Of History

PARIS — "Remember the Eighth of May. History may recall it as the day the United States abandoned its belief in allies." Edward Luce's opening sentence in a scathing column penned Wednesday for the Financial Times is probably as close as anybody can get to capturing the European spirit following Donald Trump's announcement that he is withdrawing the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA).

In a similar vein, Le Monde editorialist Sylvie Kauffmann characterizes Trump's move as a "fragmentation bomb" that not only dashes hopes of achieving peace and stability in the Middle East but "also torpedoes his European allies and, behind them, the international liberal order." For German journalists Clemens Wergin and Daniel-Dylan Böhmer with Die Welt, Trump's announcement is "a slap in the face for Europe."

The EU's chief diplomat, Federica Mogherini, who helped finalize the deal back in 2015, said Brussels was "determined to preserve it," and the leaders of Britain, Germany and France quickly released a joint statement Tuesday in which they "urge the U.S. to ensure that the structures of the JCPOA can remain intact and to avoid taking action which obstructs its full implementation by all other parties to the deal."

Milan daily Corriere della Sera — May 9, 2018

The fact that Trump already threatened any company that continues to do business with Iran with "the highest level of economic sanctions' seems to suggest that Mogherini, May, Merkel and Macron are deceiving themselves. But some commentators, among them Le Figaro"s Jean-Jacques Mével, believe that Trump could still agree to an "eleventh-hour" deal, provided the new terms suit him. "In a well-honed act, he starts by theatrically storming out," Mével writes.

Still, it's a risky strategy. "Trump's move could well boomerang," Thorsten Denkler points out in a column for German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung. "If the other contracting parties are unimpressed by Trump's threats, if the agreement simply remains in force without the U.S., and Iran doesn't, therefore, suffer too much from the U.S. sanctions, then Trump has just left the table with a lot of noise, but without achieving anything."

Judging from his instant reaction Tuesday evening, this is exactly the outcome Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is hoping to achieve. "This is a psychological war, we won't allow Trump to win," he said. But the moderate Rouhani will, in all likelihood, face increasing opposition from the hardliners in Tehran, who were opposed to the deal in the first place. Already, Iranian lawmakers set a paper U.S. flag on fire in Parliament this morning, shouting "Death to America!" And Iran's parliament speaker said that, "Trump only understands the language of force."

For all the positive reactions from Tel Aviv and Riyadh — the only powers to have welcomed Trump's announcement — the move may have the opposite effect of its supposed goal, as Michael J. Koplow argues in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. Instead of pushing the danger away, in other words, it could bring the region and its immediate neighbors closer to a direct conflict, especially one between Iran and Israel. One of the stages of this confrontation, Koplow writes, could well be Syria, where Israeli strikes on a military base used by Iranian forces this morning killed nine fighters.

French daily La Croix— May 9, 2018

Former U.S. President Barack Obama, who signed what Trump says was "the worst deal ever," warned that violating the agreement was "a serious mistake." Without it, the United States could end up with "a losing choice between a nuclear-armed Iran or another war in the Middle East," he said in a statement. There's also the risk of launching a new nuclear arms race — with Saudi Arabia ready to join the "club," editorialist Arnaud de La Grange writes in Le Figaro. Not to mention, of course, how the Iran announcement will be interpreted in Pyongyang, where the North Korean regime is in its own game of nuclear chicken with the White House.

Either way, President Trump appears to have put us all at a dramatic crossroads, Wergin and Böhmer argue in their Die Welt piece. He could either go down in history as someone "who made a daring decision and in the end got a better deal that actually kept Iran permanently away from the bomb, or as someone who broke a tolerably working agreement and only accelerated the Iranian road to the bomb," they write. A third possibility, according to the journalists, is that Trump's "maximum-pressure tactic" doesn't pan out and he ends up ordering military strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities.

In Europe, where May 8 marks the end of World War II, the hope now is that this date doesn't become the starting point of another tragic chapter of history.

Society

Venezuela, Curbing Press Freedom By Blocking Paper Supply

Ultima Hora — Aug. 30, 2017

ACARIGUA The political crisis in Venezuela is threatening freedom of the press in a new way. The daily newspaper Ultima Hora ("The Last Hour") has printed its final edition — at least for now — after it ran out of newsprint stock. " ¡Pausa Obligada!" ("Forced Break") was the front-page headline Wednesday, announcing the editor's decision to halt the publication of the paper edition for the first time since its founding in 1974.

Nestor Ramirez, editor-in-chief of the daily, based in the western state of Portuguesa, wrote that the country's sole newsprint supplier, which is controlled by the state, had cut off paper supplies because of Ultima Hora's critical coverage of President Nicolas Maduro. The French Press Agency AFP reports tens of newspapers in Venezuela, including El Nacional, had to turn into online news website or reduce their page number following the paper shortage.

Amid an ongoing political and economic crisis in Venezuela, limiting newsprint supplies is hardly the only way the government has clamped down on unfriendly media. According to Venezuelan's Union of Press Worker, 49 media outlets have been shut down by Maduro's administration since the start of 2017, French newspaper La Croix reports. Also, two popular radio stations in Caracas were taken off the air on Aug. 26 after broadcasting for more than 30 years.

Terror in Europe

Father Hamel, A Sole French Terror Victim Worth Remembering

-Analysis-

PARIS — The nation of France has become a new sort of Ground Zero for Islamic terrorism's attack on the West. Over the past 30 months, images have spread around the world of both wanton and targeted terror on French soil: from the January 2015 shooting at the Charlie Hebdo magazine offices, to the coordinated assaults at Parisian cafés and the Bataclan concert hall later that year, to last summer's truck attack in Nice.

But there was another chapter in this drama, which happened one year ago today, that garnered far less attention abroad: the brutal execution of 85-year-old priest Jacques Hamel, stabbed to death by two Islamists during morning mass in his Normandy church.

The sole homicide was largely lost in the aftermath, just 12 days earlier, of the a self-proclaimed jihadist in a rented truck had run down 86 people as the summer resort city of Nice was celebrating Bastille Day, France's national holiday. Yes, the assault on Hamel may have happened in a place off the tourist map, and claimed just one victim — but it too deserves to be remembered.

The details of the assassination in the small northwestern town of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray have been vividly documented. The 85-year-old priest was presiding over mass with just a handful of parishioners, when two men with prior links to jihadism stormed in the church, holding knives and screaming "You Christians are wiping us out!" They forced Hamel to his knees and stabbed him 18 times. The terror group ISIS later claimed responsibility for the attack.

La Croix —July 26, 2017

As far as symbolism goes, targeting a single priest in France was as chilling a signal from jihadists as killing cartoonists, young music fans or people celebrating the founding of the French Republic. It is believed to be the first time ISIS jihadists have targeted a church in Europe. France, also known as the Catholic Church's eldest daughter, was born more than 1,500 years ago, and its history was largely inseparable from that of the Catholic Church. And though it often escapes the secularists who dominate much of public discourse, France's soul is still profoundly Catholic.

Combating Islamic terrorism will require the commitment of all religions.

The objective was clearly not just to kill a single priest, but to try to set off an explicitly religious conflict within France, which has Europe's highest number of Muslims. French daily Le Figaro"s religious editor Jean-Marie Guénois spoke with Bernard Auvray, a 72-year-old who volunteers at Hamel's church, about the reaction in town. "Many things have changed over the past year," Auvray says. "There's still mistrust and acrimony for some, but a spirit of rapprochement now prevails between Muslims and Christians."

For the anniversary, Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Great Mosque of Paris, condemned the "cowardly killing" of the priest, the French Catholic daily La Croix reports. "Islam can never tolerate this kind of act in violation of divine law," Boubakeur said. Hamel's killing reminds us that combating Islamic terrorism will require the commitment of all religions, in big cities and small towns — in France, and beyond.

Geopolitics

New Leader Of Le Pen’s Party Accused Of Gas Chamber Denial

French journalist digs up troubling comments from 17 years ago by Jean-François Jalkh, who was just tapped to head the National Front party ahead of the May 7 presidential election.

PARIS — Far-right leader Marine Le Pen planned to spend the next two weeks trying to build her base, including more moderate voters, after clearing the first hurdle of the French election on Sunday. To do so, she announced that she would temporarily step down as leader of her National Front party, naming Jean-François Jalkh, the party's vice president, to take her place.

But a story has now surfaced that Jalkh had allegedly expressed doubts in the past that gas was used by the Nazis during the Holocaust. The comments, from an interview in 2000, surfaced Tuesday after a journalist from the Catholic daily La Croix tweeted a passage where Jalkh questioned whether Zyklon B was really used in the Holocaust gas chambers.

I stumbled onto this, concerning the new interim president of the FN!!!

The damning passage was published in Le Temps des Savoirs in 2005:

"... the use of gas, for example, called Zyklon B, I personally consider that on a technical point of view, it is impossible, clearly impossible, to use it in ... mass exterminations. Why? Because it takes days before decontaminating a room ... where one used Zyklon B."

Jalkh describes reading "the works of people who are deniers and revisionists," which surprised him for their "seriousness and rigor." It is unclear whether Jalkh was discussing his own beliefs or summarizing those of others.

Jalkh denies ever having made the comments, and the Le Pen campaign called the story "fabricated."

jalkh national front politics france

Jean-François Jalkh — Photo: Polomartini

However, researcher Magali Boumaza — now living in Istanbul — confirmed the accuracy of the quotes and claims to have recordings of the interview back in Paris: "I met Mr. Jalkh in April 2000 at the headquarters of the National Front," Boumaza told Libération. "The remarks in question represent three minutes of a three-hour interview."

Le Pen's National Front party has tried to distance itself from its anti-Semitism past. Last year, the party's founder (and Marine Le Pen's father) Jean-Marie Le Pen repeated remarks that the Holocaust was a "detail" of history. Le Pen senior, now 88, was subsequently forced out of National Front. In March, Benoît Loeuillet was suspended from the party after saying, "There were no mass deaths in the Nazi camps, as has been said." A month later, Marine Le Pen herself denied the French government's involvement in deporting Jews, saying it was the responsibility of Nazi occupiers.

blog

Pope Francis: No Fear Of Islam In Europe

La Croix, May 17, 2016

VATICAN CITY â€" In a rare interview, Pope Francis told French Catholic daily La Croix that there is no "fear of Islam" in Europe, and that the freedom to practice religion must be protected "not outside, but inside society."

The wide-ranging interview, published Tuesday, covered the Pope's views on the refugee crisis, Islam, France's rigid brand of secularism â€" known as laïcité â€" and a pedophilia scandal currently plaguing one of France's largest dioceses.

“Coexistence between Christians and Muslims is possible,” Francis declared, calling on Europe to play its part in welcoming and integrating migrants, often from predominantly Islamic countries. He also pointed out what he deemed to be the root causes of the refugee crisis: wars ravaging the Middle East and Africa, and the global economic system, which has “fallen into the idolatry of money.”

Francis denied that there is a “fear of Islam” in Europe, though he acknowledged strong concerns about terrorism carried out by the Islamic State (ISIS).

The Pope supported separation of church and state, noting that history has shown that a theocracy always "ends badly,” he told La Croix. Still, he strongly defended religious freedom and the right of individuals to “practice their faith, not outside, but inside society,” be they Muslim women wearing headscarves or Catholics wearing crucifixes.

Francis also expressed support for French Cardinal Philipp Barbarin, the archbishop of Lyon, who has been accused of not reporting to legal authorities several child abuse cases involving French priests under his jurisdiction.

The Pope told La Croix that the resignation of the archbishop of Lyon, who is “a good and devoted man,” would be “a mistake, an imprudence.” He nonetheless emphasized that a zero tolerance policy should be applied, as “through these abuses, a priest … spreads evil, resentment and suffering.”