02 Nov

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective


Pontiff’s reply to journalist asking about church’s position is not change in stance, but will disappoint advocates of change

Pope Francis rules out women ever serving as priests in the Roman Catholic church on a plane on Tuesday. Francis suggests the ban would last forever, referring to a 1994 document by Saint Pope John Paul II that closed the door on female priesthood. He also says that countries taking in refugees need to organise adequate integration into communities

Pope Francis has ruled out a woman ever serving as a priest in the Roman Catholic church.

The declaration is not a change in stance for the Argentinian pope, who has always said the door was closed on women being ordained as priests.

But when he was asked and then pressed on the matter by a Swedish journalist during a press conference onboard the papal plane, Francis suggested the ban would be eternal.

“Saint Pope John Paul II had the last clear word on this and it stands, this stands,” Francis said in his initial response, referring to a 1994 document stating that women could never join the priesthood.

“But for ever, for ever? Never, never?” the reporter asked in a follow-up question, as the papal delegation flew back to Rome from Sweden on Tuesday.

Francis replied: “If we read carefully the declaration by St John Paul II, it is going in that direction.”

The pope went on to say women did “many other things better than men”, emphasising what has been called the “feminine dimension of the church”.

“People ask me: ‘Who is more important in the theology or in the spirituality of the church, the apostles or Mary, on the day of Pentecost?’ It is Mary,” he said. He then added: “More.”

But Francis’s praise of women will do little to comfort feminist Catholics who want women to have a broader role in the church, including ordination.

The church has always responded to criticism of the ban on women by pointing out that Jesus only chose men as his apostles. Proponents of a change argue, among other points, that the church is facing a shortage of priests.

Francis seemed to open the possibility that women might become ordained deacons earlier this year, when he commissioned a study of the role female deacons played in the early church.

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Police use teargas to quell protests as tension mounts over uncertain fate of 1,500 teenagers due to be relocated

Refugees in the debris of the Calais camp on Tuesday.

Refugees in the debris of the Calais camp on Tuesday. Photograph: Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images

Rioting broke out among teenagers on the site of the largely cleared Calais camp, hours before they were due to be taken from the site in buses to undisclosed locations around France.

About 20 police riot vans arrived early on Tuesday evening and teargas was used to quell fighting and protests among the remaining estimated 1,500 asylum seekers, most of whom are teenagers.

The violence came at the end of a day of mounting tension after minors were told that they were to be removed to “juvenile centres” across France on Wednesday morning. Those with family in the UK, or who have specific vulnerabilities that may make them eligible to claim asylum in the UK, were told that their applications would be processed from the new locations.

The Calais prefecture issued a notice in nine languages informing the people still living in disused shipping containers on the site of the now-demolished camp that they needed to register for wristbands, securing them a place on the buses which will begin leaving at 8am.

British officials would be on the buses, accompanying the asylum-seeking children, the notice added. “No further applications for transfer to the United Kingdom will be dealt with in Calais,” the statement read. “All cases will be handled and all departures for the UK will take place from the juvenile centres.”

The absence of any detail about the destination of the buses caused great anxiety among the child refugees. By the fenced-off container area of the site, there were hundreds of people milling around, most of whom were very confused about what was planned.

Aladdin Adam, 16, from Sudan, had been given a wristband marked 33 and had been told to be ready at 8am. “I am so worried. I don’t know where I will be going. Everyone is feeling worried; some people are feeling angry,” he said.

That anger erupted into protests as dusk fell and large groups of teenage migrants made their way from the shipping containers into the deserted camp, carrying sticks and shouting. Some vehicles’ windows were smashed and some asylum seekers were reported to have been injured.

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Damning assessment of peacekeeping operation blames chaotic leadership for failure to prevent rape, murder and torture

UN troops in South Sudan

The political standoff in South Sudan in July ‘brought unrestrained violence to the capital of the world’s youngest nation’, the report says. Photograph: Jason Patinkin/AP

In Maj Gen Patrick Cammaert’s damning assessment, Unmiss – the UN mission in South Sudan – did not respond effectively to three days of intense fighting in Juba in July that contributed to the collapse of a fragile ceasefire between the president, Salva Kiir, and his former deputy Riek Machar.

Cammaert, a former military adviser to the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, cites an overall lack of leadership, preparedness and integration within Unmiss, judging the command and control arrangements inadequate and citing a risk-averse culture among UN peacekeepers.

His report concludes that the standoff between Kiir and Machar “brought unrestrained violence to the capital of the world’s youngest nation and the participating fighters left a trail of destruction and suffering in their wake”.

A total of 73 people were killed in the violence, including 20 people who were under UN protection, the report says. Two UN peacekeepers were also killed and several more injured.

During an attack by government troops on a refugee camp just one kilometre from the Juba headquarters of Unmiss, “civilians were subjected to and witnessed gross human rights violations, including murder, intimidation, sexual violence and acts amounting to torture perpetrated by armed government soldiers”, the report says.

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President prefers to wait ‘several more weeks’ and see if dispute between Native American leaders and oil pipeline company can be resolved

Burnt-out vehicles at a law enforcement barricade on the Dakota Access pipeline construction route.

Burnt-out vehicles at a law enforcement barricade on the Dakota Access pipeline construction route. Photograph: STRINGER/Reuters

Barack Obama has suggested the Dakota Access pipeline could be rerouted around sacred Native American lands in comments that are the president’s first on the controversial oil project since police arrested hundreds of indigenous protesters during violent clashes.

After months of pleas from activists in North Dakota to stop construction of a pipeline that the Standing Rock tribe says could contaminate its water supply and threaten its cultural heritage, Obama said in an interview released on Tuesday night that the government was “going to let it play out for several more weeks and determine whether or not this can be resolved in a way that I think is properly attentive to the traditions of the first Americans”.

Asked about the high-profile demonstrations against the $3.8bn pipeline, Obama told news website NowThis: “We’re monitoring this closely and I think as a general rule, my view is that there is a way for us to accommodate sacred lands of Native Americans, and I think that right now the army corps is examining whether there are ways to reroute this pipeline.”

In the wake of a demonstration that began in April and has grown into an international symbol of indigenous rights and climate change activism, the US army corps of engineers announced in September that it would temporarily halt permits to dig on federal land near or under the Missouri river.

Obama had been silent since the army corp’s announcement, and Energy Transfer Partners, the company operating the pipeline, has rapidly moved forward with construction, in recent days approaching the massive protest camps and river where Native American leaders fear significant damage.

The pipeline is scheduled to transport 470,000 barrels of crude oil from the Bakken oil field in North Dakota to a refinery near Chicago. Native American leaders said the construction had already disrupted sacred burial grounds.

A judge recently denied a request from tribal leadership to block construction and the resulting protests have led local police to make more than 400 arrests, with law enforcement officials accusing Native American activists, journalists and film-makers of rioting, criminal trespass, resisting arrest and other serious felony charges.

The law enforcement response has sparked significant backlash. Videos and live streams over the last two weeks have shown a highly militarized police force surrounding unarmed activists with army tanks.

Asked about “shocking footage” showing police firing rubber bullets at protesters, Obama said: “It’s a challenging situation. I think that my general rule when I talk to governors and state and local officials whenever they’re dealing with protests, including for example during the Black Lives Matters protests, is there’s an obligation for protesters to be peaceful and there’s an obligation for authorities to show restraint.”

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Native American protesters have reported excessive force, unlawful arrests and mistreatment in jail where activists describe being held in cages

Jailed protesters say they were temporarily kept in cages that felt like ‘dog kennels’, but officials say the allegations of poor treatment are untrue.

Jailed protesters say they were temporarily kept in cages that felt like ‘dog kennels’, but officials say the allegations of poor treatment are untrue. Photograph: Morton County correctional center

A United Nations group is investigating allegations of human rights abuses by North Dakota law enforcement against Native American protesters, with indigenous leaders testifying about “acts of war” they observed during mass arrests at an oil pipeline protest.

A representative of the UN’s permanent forum on indigenous issues, an advisory group, has been collecting testimony from Dakota Access pipeline protesters who have raised concerns about excessive force, unlawful arrests and mistreatment in jail where some activists have been held in cages.

“When you look at what the international standards are for the treatment of people, and you are in a place like the United States, it’s really astounding to hear some of this testimony,” said Roberto Borrero, a representative of the International Indian Treaty Council.

Borrero, a Taino tribe member who is assisting the UN forum in its interviews, told the Guardian on Sunday night that the activists’ stories of human rights violations raised a number of serious questions about police response. “A lot of it was just very shocking.”

The pipeline protests have become increasingly intense over the last two weeks as construction has moved closer to the Missouri river and as police have aggressively responded to activists’ demonstrations with arrests, pepper spray, riot gear and army tanks.

The Standing Rock camps first emerged in April and have since drawn thousands of Native Americans and climate change activists from across North America and beyond to rally against the $3.7bn oil pipeline, which would carry crude oil from the Bakken oil field to a refinery near Chicago.

Native American dancers perform during a peaceful demonstration near the Dakota Access pipeline site on 29 October.

Native American dancers perform during a peaceful demonstration near the Dakota Access pipeline site on 29 October. Photograph: STRINGER/Reuters

The tribal leadership’s attempts to block construction in court have been unsuccessful, and the pipeline operator, Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, has moved forward at a rapid pace, building on lands that indigenous leaders say contain sacred burial grounds.

Despite the 22 October arrests of more than 120 people, activists set up new camps on the sites where construction is planned, not far from the river that they fear could be contaminated by the pipeline.

The Morton County sheriff’s office responded on 27 October by surrounding the protesters and arresting 141 people.

Officials have accused activists and journalists of a range of charges, including criminal trespassing, rioting, and a number of serious felonies. Law enforcement have also set up strictly enforced traffic blockades protecting the pipeline site from protesters and the general public.

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