1. Bulgarian Orthodox Prelate Rebuffs Pope And Condemns Efforts to Unify Churches.

By Boryana Dzhambazova, The New York Times, May 7, 2019, Pg. A8

Pope Francis’s drive to champion migrants and improve relations between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches got a cold reception in Bulgaria on Monday.

A Bulgarian Orthodox prelate denounced the pope’s efforts to unify the churches as a prelude to welcoming the Antichrist. And some Bulgarians shrugged off his pleas to welcome migrants.

Bulgaria, where there are few Catholics and fierce opposition to admitting refugees is common, is unforgiving terrain for the pope’s message. But he made it a centerpiece of his two-day visit, and punctuated it before leaving on Monday with a visit to a refugee center on the outskirts of the capital, Sofia.


2. Measles, religious exemption link disputed, Media reaction to rule overblown, officials say.

By Christopher Vondracek, The Washington Times, May 7, 2019, Pg. A7

A new Department of Health and Human Services rule to widen religious and moral exemptions to certain health care services is being cited in news reports as allowing measles outbreaks to increase amid low vaccination rates, with 60 new infections recorded in the past week.

But a Trump administration official says HHS’ so-called “conscience rule” does not create a new federal exemption and states can regulate vaccinations as they have previously.

“The final rule only provides enforcement mechanisms for Federal conscience and anti-discrimination laws that Congress has enacted,” the official said on background in an email. “It does not create new substantive conscience protections.”

The American Medical Association has yet to take a position on the conscience rule, but AMA President-elect Dr. Patrice A. Harris told The Washington Times in a statement that protecting community health in today’s society requires “not permitting individuals from opting out of immunization solely as a matter of personal preference or convenience.”


3. Pope makes historic first visit to North Macedonia.

By Konstantin Testorides and Nicole Winfield, The Associated PressMay 7, 2019, 5:46 AM

Pope Francis made the first-ever papal visit to North Macedonia on Tuesday and sought to encourage its efforts to integrate into European institutions after its name change resolved a decades-long dispute with Greece.

In a meeting with government authorities, Francis praised North Macedonia’s multi-ethnic and multi-faith culture and said its example of being a bridge between East and West showed that peaceful coexistence can exist in a country rich with diversity.

“These particular features are also highly significant for increased integration with the nations of Europe,” he said. “It is my hope that this integration will develop in a way that is beneficial for the entire region of the Western Balkans, with unfailing respect for diversity and for fundamental rights.”


4. Jean Vanier, Catholic hero to developmentally disabled, dies.

By The Associated Press, May 7, 2019, 6:37 AM

Jean Vanier, a Canadian religious figure whose charity work helped improve conditions for the developmentally disabled in multiple countries over the past half-century, has died at 90.

A charity he founded, L’Arche, said Vanier died Tuesday in Paris after suffering from thyroid cancer.

Pope Francis was informed of Vanier’s death and is praying for him and the community, according to Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti.

Vanier worked as a Canadian navy officer and professor before turning to charity work. A visit to a psychiatric hospital prompted him to found L’Arche in 1964 as an alternative living environment where those with developmental disabilities could be full-fledged participants in the community instead of patients.

The charity now has communities in 38 countries that are home to thousands of people both with and without disabilities.

He also traveled the world to encourage dialogue across religions, and was awarded the 2015 Templeton Prize for spiritual work, as well as France’s Legion of Honor. He was the subject of a documentary shown at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival called “Jean Vanier, the Sacrament of Tenderness.”


5. Pope, invoking Mother Teresa, encourages North Macedonia’s bid to join EU.

By Ivana Sekularac & Philip Pullella, Reuters, May 7, 2019, 5:19 AM

Pope Francis on Tuesday implicitly blessed efforts by North Macedonia and other Balkan countries to join the European Union, saying Skopje could look to its most famous daughter, Mother Teresa, as a stimulus to build a common destiny. 

After two days in Bulgaria, Francis arrived in the North Macedonian capital for a 10-hour stop, becoming the highest profile international figure to visit since the country changed its name from Macedonia in January.

The decision ended a decades-old dispute with neighboring Greece, whose northernmost province is also called Macedonia, and opened the way for North Macedonia, a former Yugoslav republic, to join the European Union and NATO. 


6. Georgia Governor to Sign Heartbeat Abortion Ban, Joining a U.S. Movement.

By Reuters, May 7, 2019

Georgia’s Republican governor on Tuesday is expected to sign a bill outlawing abortion if a doctor can detect a fetal heartbeat, part of a concerted effort to restrict abortion rights in states across the country.

Governor Brian Kemp praised the bill when it passed the state legislature in March and has scheduled a signing ceremony at 10 a.m. ET (1400 GMT), which would make him the fourth governor to sign such a law since mid-March.

Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio have passed heartbeat laws recently, and Iowa passed one last year. Courts have blocked the Iowa and Kentucky laws, and the others face legal challenges. The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia has vowed to sue to stop this law.

Even so, anti-abortion advocates have seized the political and judicial opening in their favor, introducing measures in 15 states to ban abortion as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, according to Rewire.News, a site specializing in the issue.


7. Pope in Macedonia praises care for migrants, refugees.

By Elise Harris, Crux, May 7, 2019

When Pope Francis landed in Skopje, North Macedonia Tuesday, he offered a different tone than his visit to neighboring Bulgaria, praising the nation for their welcome of migrants and refugees.

In his speech to Macedonian authorities after landing in nation’s capital May 7, Francis thanked the “generous efforts” made by the republic and organizations such as the Red Cross, the Catholic charity Caritas, and other NGOs, “to welcome and provide assistance to the great number of migrants and refugees coming from different Middle Eastern countries.”

For the thousands who began pouring into Europe in 2015-2016 when the migration crisis exploded, crossing Macedonia in hopes of making it to northern and western European nations, “they found a secure haven” in Macedonia, he said, adding that the solidarity offered to those who left their homes and families “does you honor.”

Francis urged North Macedonia to continue the path they have taken, increasingly becoming “a beacon of peace, acceptance and fruitful integration between cultures, religions and peoples. Drawing from their respective identities and the vitality of their cultural and civil life.”


8. With death of Jean Vanier, Catholicism loses a living saint.

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, May 7, 2019

20th century Catholicism bred a handful of such figures, among whom both Mother Teresa and Jean Vanier figured especially prominently – making it apt, perhaps, that Vanier died on the very day Pope Francis is in North Macedonia paying tribute to the feisty “saint of the gutters” with whom Vanier was so often compared, and paired, in life.

Vanier, who was 90, died from cancer Tuesday morning in a facility in Paris run by the L’Arche community that he founded in 1964. Upon hearing the news, Pope Francis released a brief statement through a spokesman saying he’s “praying for [Vanier] and for the entire L’Arche community.”

If one measure of a life is the way it shapes others, then Vanier’s living legacy in such unlikely venues as Ukraine suggests that his life was a prodigy indeed. Requiescat in pace, Jean Vanier.


9. Abortion battles heat up with Kavanaugh on Supreme Court.

By Reid Wilson, The Hill Online, May 7, 2019, 6:00 AM

Abortion rights advocates and opponents are racing to pass some of the most aggressive laws in recent history as each side prepares for coming legal fights that are likely to culminate in a new challenge to Roe v. Wade.

Those involved in the fight say Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation last year has spurred both sides to action.

Conservatives have advanced new restrictions that go well beyond constitutional limits set by Kavanaugh’s predecessor, former Justice Anthony Kennedy, while liberal states are working on measures to protect abortion access in the event that Roe is overturned.

“This has been one of the most prolific legislative seasons that I’ve seen in many, many years in the abortion debate. I think that the Kavanaugh hearing and the potential maybe for one more seat on the court is putting states on notice that, likely, Roe may be overturned,” said Sue Swayze Liebel, who directs state policy for the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List.


10. Pennsylvania State Representative Harasses a Peaceful Pro-Life Activist.

By Alexandra DeSanctis, National Review Online, May 6, 2019, 3:08 PM

State representative Brian Sims, elected in 2012 to represent part of Philadelphia, evidently believes that his job requires him to avoid the state house and instead police the space in front of abortion clinics, protecting some of his citizens from pious pro-lifers.

This weekend, Sims filmed a livestream video as he harassed an older woman praying on the sidewalk in front of a Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania location. “She is an old white lady, who is going to try to avoid showing you her face,” Sims says from behind the camera, angling it to capture the woman on tape.

He proceeds to harangue her for several minutes, calling her “disgusting” and “racist,” and repeating “shame on you,” as she studiously ignores him. “Have you fed any children today, or have you just stood out in front of a Planned Parenthood shaming people for something that they have a constitutional right to do?” Sims asks, describing her protest as “an attack on the Constitution.”

The incoherence of claiming to champion the unenumerated constitutional right to abortion while intimidating a woman for exercising her free-speech rights evidently has escaped Sims.

Sims appears as unable to discern irony as he is to comprehend the First Amendment. Who is the bully: the woman standing silently on the sidewalk, or the politician shouting at her and chasing her away? And who is the misogynist: the pro-life woman praying the rosary, or the man calling her a disgusting racist?

For this feminist hero, chasing an elderly lady down the sidewalk isn’t resistance enough. “If you know who this woman is, if you can give me her address,” Sims says on film. “We’ll protest out in front of her home.”

This is the effort in which Brian Sims is engaged, an elected state representative taking to the streets to intimidate citizens who would exercise their free-speech rights in order to question his own flawed moral reasoning and the cavalier dismissal of unborn human life.


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