1. Pope Francis arriving in Egypt at a time of great fear among Christians.

By Sudarsan Raghavan, The Washington Post, April 27, 2017, 4:04 AM

[D]espite concerns about his safety, the pontiff is set to arrive in Egypt on Friday for a two-day visit that will include meetings with senior political and religious leaders as well as Mass on Saturday.

Francis arrives at a tumultuous time for Egypt’s minority Christians, marked by fear and uncertainty of the future. Over the past five months, they have been targeted in several church bombings, drive-by shootings and assassinations carried out by Islamic State militants determined to sow religious divisions and destabilize Egypt.

On one hand, the pope’s visit is an effort to show unity with the Middle East’s embattled Christian community, which has been persecuted by religious extremists in Syria, Iraq and Libya. But the visit, observers say, is also designed to forge stronger ties between Egypt’s Muslims and Christians, especially their leaders. For decades, Christians have faced discrimination and sporadic abuse at the hands of successive governments.

“The message will be one of solidarity, both within the Christian community, but as importantly, across Muslim and Christian communities,” said Art Kirby, the country director for Catholic Relief Services. “In light of the recent bombings, the Christian community in Egypt feels increasingly vulnerable. However, many first responders to the attacks, and indeed some of the victims themselves, were Muslim.”

Relations soured between the Roman Catholic Church and Muslim clerics here in 2011 after then-Pope Benedict XVI denounced the church bombing in Alexandria and urged Egypt’s leaders to do more to protect Christians. Francis has tried to improve ties since becoming pope and last year hosted Tayeb at the Vatican.


2. Pope Francis Urges TED Audience to Nurture Ties With Others, By Russell Goldman.

The New York Times, April 27, 2017, Pg. A4

Pope Francis urged an audience of technophiles and entrepreneurs on Tuesday to use their powers of curiosity and inquiry to explore and nurture the relationships that bond human beings to one another.

“How wonderful would it be if the growth of scientific and technological innovation would come along with more equality and social inclusion,” Francis said in a recorded video talk that was shown at the TED conference in Vancouver, British Columbia. “How wonderful would it be, while we discover faraway planets, to rediscover the needs of the brothers and sisters orbiting around us.”

Francis has had a complicated relationship with technology. He has embraced social media much more than his predecessors, but he also warned in a 2016 encyclical that the omnipresence of digital communications “can stop people from learning how to live wisely, to think deeply and to love generously.”

The pope urged wealthy and powerful people to show solidarity with the poor and powerless, particularly migrants.


3. Website aims to help women self-induce abortions using drugs.

By Sandhya Somashekhar, The Washington Post, April 27, 2017, Pg. A8

An international advocacy group concerned about restrictive laws in the United States plans to help women self-induce abortions at home, offering online advice and counseling about how to use medications that can terminate their pregnancies.

Women Help Women, a three-year-old organization headquartered in the Netherlands, this week launched an online service to provide one-on-one counseling services for women seeking to end their early pregnancies using the abortion pill, which is legally available only by prescription in the United States but can be purchased on the Internet or from other countries.

The abortion pill approved by the Food and Drug Administration is actually two drugs that may be used in combination through the 10th week of pregnancy. Taken during 24 to 48 hours, the drugs — mifepristone and misoprostol — halt the development of pregnancy and induce miscarriage. The agency recommends medical supervision followed by an in-person follow-up appointment, and it warns people not to obtain the pills over the Internet because they might be unsafe.

Abortion foes have sought further restrictions on the medications in the name of safety. A number of women have contracted infections or needed blood transfusions after a medication abortion, and some have died, although the FDA says it is unclear whether the drugs caused the deaths.

“These drugs are dangerous. They are deadly. If they are mishandled, they result in serious injury,” said Kristi Hamrick, spokeswoman for Americans United for Life, an antiabortion group that has tried to push states to require strict medical supervision for the use of abortion medications. “To just distribute them and put them in an automatic dispenser like a can of soda is absolutely medical malpractice.”


4. 200,000 baby socks used for abortion funding protest: Sasse praises millennials’ dedication to end practice.

By Bradford Richardson, The Washington Times, April 27, 2017, Pg. A14

Brightly colored baby socks flooded the halls of the U.S. Capitol Wednesday, representing the hundreds of thousands of lives lost annually to Planned Parenthood, and sending the unmistakable message to Congress to defund the nation’s largest abortion provider.

Spearheaded by Students for Life of America, the SockIt2PP campaign collected 196,543 baby socks and plans to deliver a total of 323,299 to match the number of abortions Planned Parenthood performed last year.

“It’s a devastatingly large number,” said Sen. Ben Sasse, Nebraska Republican, standing on a podium above a giant mound of baby socks outside of the Capitol. “And we need to have images like this so that people start to reflect on the magnitude of suffering that’s happening out there.”

On Wednesday volunteers delivered 88,000 socks to members of Congress — the number of abortions Planned Parenthood has performed during the first 100 days of the new administration.

The demonstration comes in the midst of policy negotiations that will decide the fate of Planned Parenthood, which receives about $500 million in taxpayer funding every year to keep its doors open.


5. Pope Francis on Friday begins brief but dicey trip to Egypt.

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, April 27, 2017

Although Pope Francis’s April 28-29 trip to Egypt will be extremely brief, barely more than 24 hours in the country, it’s among the riskiest outings of his papacy. On multiple fronts, from security and politics to Christian/Muslim relations and ecumenism, Francis faces hard choices on the trip that amount to striking the right balance between equally undesirable outcomes.


Many observers in Egypt fear that while Pope Francis is in the country, Christian sites and individuals may be at heightened risk from forces calculating that they may not be able to strike at the pontiff himself, but can reach other less well-defended targets.


Pope Francis is a well-known supporter of human rights, and thus faces the challenge in Egypt of not wanting to embarrass his hosts or undercut the political position of local Christians who will have to live with the consequences of his visit long after he’s back in Rome, but also not wanting to appear to bestow legitimacy on a regime whose track record towards dissent is perceived as highly questionable.

Christian/Muslim relations

Pope Francis … will have to try to strike an appropriate balance between gratitude for the steps his Muslim hosts in Egypt have taken in the direction of tolerance and understanding, without inadvertently sending the signal that no work is left to be done.


Francis will … face pressure on this trip to deliver a concrete expression of common cause among Christians, without further aggravating impressions among some Catholic traditionalists that he’s already too willing to sacrifice core principles of Catholic identity for the sake of dialogue and outreach.


6. New report: Religious freedom suffering across the globe.

By Charles Collins, Crux, April 27, 2017

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom issued its annual report on Wednesday, and said the persecution of religious believers is getting worse across the world.

In particular, the commission said that six new counties be designated as being “countries of particular concern” by the U.S. State Department: Central African Republic, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Syria, and Vietnam.

These countries would join the 10 already so designated: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

“Overall, the Commission has concluded that the state of affairs for international religious freedom is worsening in both the depth and breadth of violations,” said the chair of the commission, Jesuit Father Thomas Reese.


7. Video: Planned Parenthood exec who ‘wanted a Lamborghini’ caught haggling over baby body parts.

By Bradford Richardson, The Washington Times, April 26, 2017

The Center for Medical Progress released a never-before-seen video Wednesday showing a top Planned Parenthood executive haggling over the price of baby body parts from abortions.

Mary Gatter, president of the medical directors’ council at the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, is the same executive who, in a previous undercover video, was caught saying she wanted to buy a Lamborghini with the profits from fetal tissue.

In the new video, when an undercover journalist tells Ms. Gatter he is willing to pay $50 per fetal tissue specimen, she says that’s “on the low end.”

“$50 was like 12 years ago,” she says.

Ms. Gatter also asks the undercover journalist how much fetal tissue he wants to buy.
“What kind of volume do you need and what gestational ages?” she says, adding that specimens are available up to 16 weeks.

“The volume-based sums that Planned Parenthood charged these businesses for baby parts are criminal trafficking and profiteering in fetal body parts,” Mr. Daleiden said in a statement.