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PHNO HEADLINE NEWS THIS PAST WEEK
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KIDNAP VICTIMS NOW IN SULU-MISUARI  / Kidnappers allied with Abu, says Davao Mayor Duterte


OCTOBER 1 -From left: Kjartan Sekkingstad, John Ridsel, Robert Hall, and Marithes "Tess" Flor PHOTO COURTESY OF CNN
MORO National Liberation Front founding chairman Nur Misuari said Wednesday he has located the kidnap victims­—three foreigners and a Filipina—in Sulu province and identified the group behind their abduction from the Ocean View Resort Hotel on Samal Island on Sept. 21. “We already know where the kidnap victims are,” said MNLF spokesman Absalom Cerveza quoting Misuari after talking to him by phone. “We are 95 percent sure where they are.” Cerveza did not offer any details, however. Misuari An informed source on Wednesday identified the leader of the kidnappers as Al-Habsi Misaya or Al Bahil, a former member of the Abu Sayyaf Group from Jolo who formed his own gang that now operates in the Zamboanga Sibugay area. The source described Misaya as a leader of the ASG faction that recently kidnapped a Malaysian resort manager Yang Zai Linin in Sabah in 2014 and Malaysian maritime policeman Kons Zakiah Aleip, also in Sabah, and beheaded seven Filipino factory workers in 2007. The source said Misaya met the group from Samal Island and brought them to the foot of Mt. Bud Daho, about 15 to 16 kilometers from the camp of the MNLF. READ MORE...

ALSO: Before the kidnapping, Crime index in Davao region down by 28.38%


OCTOBER 3 -2001 PHOTO: The AP reports that the al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic militant Abu Syyaf group has about 400 gunmen.-AP (Getty) DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/03 Oct) — Before the September 21 kidnapping of three foreigners and a Filipina from a resort in the Island Garden City of Samal, the crime index in the region had gone down by 28.38%. The crime index in the Davao Region went down by 28.38 percent with 13,476 incidents recorded between January and August this year, compared with last year’s 18,936 for the same period. No kidnapping incident was recorded between January and August 2015. Kidnappings are rare in the region comprising the four Davao provinces – Davao del Sur, Davao Occidental, Davao del Norte and Davao Oriental – and Compostela Valley and the cities of Davao, Digos, Panabo, Tagum, Island Garden City of Samal and Mati. The recent kidnapping in Samal came 14 years after a foiled attempt in another resort. The kidnappers, reportedly based outside Davao, have allegedly brought their victims to Sulu. Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, chair of the Regional Peace and Order Council last week cited reports indicating the kidnappers, reportedly allied with the Abu Sayyaf, had brought the victims to Sulu. READ MORE...

ALSO Pope Francis scorecard: liberals take away biggest wins from pontiff's US visit


SEPTEMBER 29 -Pope Francis greets seminarians as he walks the loggia to his address to the bishops at St Martin of Tours Chapel at St Charles Borromeo Seminary in Pennsylvania on Sunday. Photograph: Tom Gralish/AP
Religion correspondent Harriet Sherwood recaps pope’s stance on climate change, immigration, poverty and other key themes of his six-day trip.  Expectations among American Catholics were high for the pope’s first visit to the US. Those on the liberal wing of the church hoped that Francis would focus on his signature themes of poverty and climate change; conservative Catholics were looking for papal reinforcement of their opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage. On the plane to Washington DC from Cuba, Francis sought to play down the notion that he was a leftwing pope. He told reporters he “may have given the impression of being a little more to the left, but it would not be a correct interpretation.” His doctrine was the doctrine of the church, he said: “Nothing more, nothing less.” During his historic six-day trip, however, the pope’s words – accompanied by powerful symbolic gestures – are likely to have boosted liberal Catholics and disappointed conservatives. On the six key themes of his tour, the bottom-line score is a clear liberal win. READ MORE...

ALSO: Pope met, hugged old gay friend in Washington
[However, Vatican says Pope Francis didn't meet privately with Kim Davis — or endorse her. It is true Pope Francis saw Kim Davis last week, but the event, which has been widely been interpreted as a proclamation against same-sex marriage, was misunderstood, the Vatican said in a statement on Friday.]


OCTOBER 3 -Pope Francis waves to the crowd as he arrives for his weekly general audience at St Peter's square on September 30, 2015 at the Vatican. AFP PHOTO / ANDREAS SOLARO FILE
Pope Francis met with a gay friend and his partner while visiting Washington, the Vatican said Friday, confirming a highly symbolic encounter which occurred a day before the pontiff met prominent gay marriage opponent Kim Davis.
CNN, which first reported the meeting, broadcast a video of the encounter showing the pope and his old friend Yayo Grassi sharing a hug at the Vatican embassy in the US capital. It was a gesture typical of the affectionate, tactile pontiff but also one loaded with symbolism in the run-up to a Vatican meeting of bishops which will review the Church’s approach to homosexuality and other divisive family-related issues, over the course of three weeks from Sunday. In a statement, the Vatican’s spokesman said the meeting had been a personal one. “Mr Yayo Grassi, a former Argentine student of Pope Francis, who had already met other times in the past with the Pope, asked to present his mother and several friends to the Pope during the Pope’s stay in Washington,” Father Federico Lombardi said. “As noted in the past, the Pope, as pastor, has maintained many personal relationships with people in a spirit of kindness, welcome and dialogue.” Grassi brought his partner Iwan and several friends to the brief session, he told CNN, adding that the pope arranged the meeting weeks before his six-day visit to the United States at the end of September. “Three weeks before the trip, he called me on the phone and said he would love to give me a hug,” Grassi told the broadcaster. ‘Who am I to judge?’  News emerged this week that the pope had also met privately with Davis, the Kentucky clerk who was briefly jailed for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses. READ MORE, RELATED - Empty tables, deserted streets for pope's Philadelphia visit

ALSO: New US sanctions illustrate sprawling Islamic State network


SEPTEMBER 29 -In this photo released on Jan. 11, 2015, by a militant website, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, an Islamic State militant, center, distributes plastic bags full of stationery and other gifts to Iraqi young students at a school classroom in Mosul, northern Iraq. MILITANT WEBSITE The U.S. government announced sanctions Tuesday against 25 people and five groups connected to the Islamic State, disclosing intelligence that depicts a sprawling international organization with tentacles across Europe, Asia and the Middle East. The moves by the Treasury and State departments are aimed at disrupting the activities of Islamic State financial, logistical and recruiting operatives who may not be suitable targets of American bombs or drone strikes. Many of them reside outside the theaters of war in Iraq and Syria. The sanctions, the largest such effort against the Islamic State, also serve to demonstrate how far and wide the group's ideology has spread. The State Department designated as foreign terrorist organizations Islamic State regional spin-offs in Russia's Caucasus region, Algeria, Indonesia and Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. Among the individuals designated as terrorists was Sally Jones, a British native and the widow of an operative killed recently in an American drone strike. The State Department also designated as terrorists three French nationals and a Russian. Russia, France and other countries cooperated with the U.S. in supplying information that contributed to the sanctions, officials said. The Treasury Department, meanwhile, slapped financial sanctions on Islamic State officials who operate in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen and Tunisia. Among the individuals it sanctioned in Syria was British national Aqsa Mahmood, who is accused of recruiting three British schoolgirls in February to flee the United Kingdom to become wives of Islamic State fighters. She is believed to be in Syria. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Kidnap victims located in Sulu - Misuari


NUR MISUARI

MANILA, OCTOBER 5, 2015 (MANILA STANDARD) By Francisco Tuyay | Oct. 01, 2015 at 12:01am - MORO National Liberation Front founding chairman Nur Misuari said Wednesday he has located the kidnap victims­—three foreigners and a Filipina—in Sulu province and identified the group behind their abduction from the Ocean View Resort Hotel on Samal Island on Sept. 21.

“We already know where the kidnap victims are,” said MNLF spokesman Absalom Cerveza quoting Misuari after talking to him by phone. “We are 95 percent sure where they are.”

Cerveza did not offer any details, however.

Misuari An informed source on Wednesday identified the leader of the kidnappers as Al-Habsi Misaya or Al Bahil, a former member of the Abu Sayyaf Group from Jolo who formed his own gang that now operates in the Zamboanga Sibugay area.

The source described Misaya as a leader of the ASG faction that recently kidnapped a Malaysian resort manager Yang Zai Linin in Sabah in 2014 and Malaysian maritime policeman Kons Zakiah Aleip, also in Sabah, and beheaded seven Filipino factory workers in 2007.

The source said Misaya met the group from Samal Island and brought them to the foot of Mt. Bud Daho, about 15 to 16 kilometers from the camp of the MNLF.

READ MORE...

Misaya or Bahil, the source said, was responsible for the series of kidnappings aimed at foreigners.


From left: Kjartan Sekkingstad, John Ridsel, Robert Hall, and Marithes "Tess" Flor PHOTO COURTESY OF CNN

Kjartan Sekkingstad, Norwegian, and operations manager of the resort; Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall and his Filipino girlfriend only known as Marites Flor were snatched at 11:30 p.m. Monday.

Cerveza said it was the intelligence section of the MNLF that monitored the whereabouts of the captives and immediately transmitted the information to Misuari by phone.

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who was in Zamboanga City, called up Misuari, Cerveza said.

He added that Misuari told Duterte he didn’t want any ransom negotiations.

Cerveza said Misuari, who is wanted for the Zamboanga siege last year, would help only if the government asked him to.

“It is a big problem. The military is directly involved in the situation and we don’t just be entering into the picture without government’s authority to do so,” Cerveza added.

“The military has weapons and the MNLF also has weapons and we don’t want a repeat of the Mamasapano incident,” Cerveza said, referring to the massacre of 44 police commandos by Muslim rebels, including those from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The kidnappers are the subject of a massive military manhunt in Davao Oriental.


Two Canadians, Robert Hall and John Ridsdel, a Norwegian hotel manager and a Filipino woman were kidnapped by gunmen from the Holiday Oceanview Samal resort in the Philippines. (Skyscrapercity.com)

Sources said that from Samal Island, the kidnappers went to the coastal area in Carmen, Panabo, Davao del Norte and traveled by land using a vehicle and negotiated road networks of the provinces of Surigao, and Butuan until they reached Valencia, Bukidnon.

After Valencia, Bukidnon, they went to Kabacan, Cotabato. At that point, it was unclear where they went.

Ten days after the kidnapping, the military has still not said where the victims were taken.


MINDANAO NEWS

Crime index in Davao region down by 28.38% By Antonio L. Colina IV on October 3 2015 10:23 pm


2001 PHOTO: The AP reports that the al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic militant Abu Syyaf group has about 400 gunmen.-AP (Getty)

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/03 Oct) — Before the September 21 kidnapping of three foreigners and a Filipina from a resort in the Island Garden City of Samal, the crime index in the region had gone down by 28.38%.

The crime index in the Davao Region went down by 28.38 percent with 13,476 incidents recorded between January and August this year, compared with last year’s 18,936 for the same period.

No kidnapping incident was recorded between January and August 2015.

Kidnappings are rare in the region comprising the four Davao provinces – Davao del Sur, Davao Occidental, Davao del Norte and Davao Oriental – and Compostela Valley and the cities of Davao, Digos, Panabo, Tagum, Island Garden City of Samal and Mati.

The recent kidnapping in Samal came 14 years after a foiled attempt in another resort.

The kidnappers, reportedly based outside Davao, have allegedly brought their victims to Sulu.

Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, chair of the Regional Peace and Order Council last week cited reports indicating the kidnappers, reportedly allied with the Abu Sayyaf, had brought the victims to Sulu.

READ MORE...

Records from the Police Regional Office (PNP) showed that physical injuries with 6,562 cases comprised the biggest share of the total crime index at 48.69 percent, lower than last year’s 8,606 for the same period.

At the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) meeting at the Grand Men Seng Hotel on Wednesday, Senior Supt. Michael John Dubria, chief of Regional Operations and Plans Division of PRO 11, said the decrease can be attributed to the intensified implementation of its anti-criminality plan, “Lambat-Sibat.”

“Physical injury cases are mostly caused by vehicular accidents and a few cases are due to street fistfights, mauling and stabbing,” he said.

For theft and robbery, cases registered from January to August 2015 were 4,252, down by38.89 percent from 6,328 for the same period in 2014.

Records also show that crime solution and crime clearance efficiencies have improved.

The region’s crime solution efficiency improved by 65.91 percent while the crime clearance efficiency was at 73.057 percent.

“The PRO 11 continues the interventions and countermeasures implemented all throughout the region with the Lambat-Sibat as the main method to deter the occurences of criminality. This comprises, among others, checkpoint, Oplan Bakal, or Sita, (campaign against loose firearms) and the mobile and foot patrol to enhance crime prevention and crime solution,” Dubria said.

On illegal drugs, joint forces of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) 11 conducted 818 anti-illegal drugs operations that led to the arrest of 1,139 suspects engaged in illegal drugs and resulted in the confiscation of P55.7 million.

The PRO 11 also recorded 1,052 cased filed against these suspects for violation of Republic Act (RA) 9165, or Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act.

Davao City Police Office (DCPO) upped the ante in anti-illegal drugs campaign as it launched on Wednesday”KATOK” Droga (Katilingban og Kapulisan Kontra Droga).

DCPO chief Vicente Danao Jr. said they are expecting to increase the number of arrested illegal drug suspects in the city with the new program. Stickers and tarpaulins containing the contact information of DCPO will be distributed to all houses in the city.

DCPO spokesperson Senior Insp. Milgrace Driz said a total of 2,371.32 grams of shabu worth P17.157 million and 1,779 grams of marijuana worth P78,000 were confiscated from January to Ausgust this year.

“With these, the DCPO was recognized by the PNP National Headquarters and adjudged as the best performing City Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operation Task Group of the year 2015,” she said. (Antonio L. Colina IV/ MindaNews)


UK GUARDIAN.COM

Pope Francis scorecard: liberals take away biggest wins from pontiff's US visit  Harriet Sherwood Religion correspondent @harrietsherwood Monday 28 September 2015 12.30 BST Last modified on Monday 28 September 2015 12.45 BST


Pope Francis greets seminarians as he walks the loggia to his address to the bishops at St Martin of Tours Chapel at St Charles Borromeo Seminary in Pennsylvania on Sunday. Photograph: Tom Gralish/AP

Religion correspondent Harriet Sherwood recaps pope’s stance on climate change, immigration, poverty and other key themes of his six-day trip. 

Expectations among American Catholics were high for the pope’s first visit to the US.

Those on the liberal wing of the church hoped that Francis would focus on his signature themes of poverty and climate change; conservative Catholics were looking for papal reinforcement of their opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage.

On the plane to Washington DC from Cuba, Francis sought to play down the notion that he was a leftwing pope.

He told reporters he “may have given the impression of being a little more to the left, but it would not be a correct interpretation.” His doctrine was the doctrine of the church, he said: “Nothing more, nothing less.”

During his historic six-day trip, however, the pope’s words – accompanied by powerful symbolic gestures – are likely to have boosted liberal Catholics and disappointed conservatives. On the six key themes of his tour, the bottom-line score is a clear liberal win.

READ MORE...

Refugees and immigrants: What he said

Almost his first public words on US soil were to introduce himself as “the son of an immigrant family”.

During his trip, Francis repeatedly raised the issue of migration, referring both to refugees fleeing war and persecution, and those seeking a better life for themselves and their children.

He told Congress:

On this continent, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is that not what we want for our own children? We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation.

He urged lawmakers and citizens to reject a “mindset of hostility”.

In Philadelphia, he told around 24,000 people at Independence Hall that immigrants brought “many gifts” to their new nations.

Addressing “members of America’s large Hispanic population”, the pope urged: “Do not be ashamed of what is part of you, your life blood.”

What he did

After addressing Congress, Francis spoke to a crowd of tens of thousands in Washington DC, in his native Spanish.

Using a language he shares with so many immigrants to the US was a powerful gesture of solidarity.


Emotions Run High as 5-Year-Old Girl Breaks Through Security to Give Pope Francis a Letter on Immigration. PHOTO OF Sophie Cruz ..FROM PEOPLE.COM

Later, Francis accepted a letter from five-year-old Sophie Cruz, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, who broke through security along the mall in Washington.

The letter asked him to call on US lawmakers to pass comprehensive immigration reform so she and her family could stop living in fear of deportation.

The pope also met immigrant families at Our Lady Queen of Angels, a Catholic school in East Harlem, New York.

Score: Liberal win

Climate change What he said

Francis repeated a call “to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity. I am convinced that we can make a difference and I have no doubt that the United States – and this Congress – have an important role to play. Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies.”

Later he told the UN: “Any harm done to the environment, therefore is harm done to humanity. The ecological crisis, and the large-scale destruction of biodiversity, can threaten the very existence of the human species.”

He also said that the world’s poor were the disproportionate victims of climate change, linking two of his key themes: the environment and inequality.

What he did


ENVIRONMENTALIST POPE's CAR

To the incredulity of US television commentators, the pope’s choice of vehicle for his US tour was a Fiat 500L. “I wouldn’t put my dog in a car like that,” said one pundit. The modest car, dwarfed by secret service SUVs, was a symbol of an environmentalist pope.

Score: Liberal win

Inequality: What he said

Francis repeatedly spoke about the poor and the marginalised.

Those “trapped in a cycle of poverty ... too need to be given hope. The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes.”

But the pope also spoke of “the many thousands of men and women who strive each day to do an honest day’s work, to bring home their daily bread, to save money and – one step at a time – to build a better life for their families.”

He softened earlier trenchant criticism of capitalism as “the dung of the devil”, instead describing business as a “noble vocation” that could be a “fruitful source of prosperity”.

And he accidentally omitted a section of his speech to Congress in which he warned politicians not be a “slave” to the economy or finance.

What he did

After addressing the most powerful legislature in the world, the pope had lunch with more than 300 homeless people at a Catholic Charities meals programme, in another symbolic gesture.

He was too busy shaking hands and posing for selfies to eat his own lunch.

Score: Liberal win

Religious freedom: What he said

Analysis: Obama and the pope defend 'religious liberty' – but where and for whom?

Francis’s White House speech appeared to focus on domestic religious freedoms while the president sought to extend the issue globally, in what some religious advocates believe to be another sign that Obama is ‘anti-Catholic’

The pope raised the issue of religious freedom several times during his trip, touching on an issue that has become a flashpoint between the Obama administration and faith campaigners over same-sex marriage and contraception provision.

Efforts to build a just society should “respect [Catholics’] deepest concerns and their right to religious liberty. That freedom remains one of America’s most precious possessions,” he said. “All are called … to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.”

In Philadelphia, Francis denounced discrimination against religion. “Religious freedom certainly means the right to worship God, individually and in community, as our consciences dictate,” he said.

What he did


'Pope Francis reflects with the Little Sisters in Washington about care for the elderly.

Francis made an unscheduled visit to the Little Sisters of the Poor community in Washington in a clear gesture of support for their long legal battle over Obamacare.

The order of Catholic nuns, which runs 30 nursing homes across the country, are fighting the requirement under the Affordable Care Act for employers to include contraception provision in health insurance.

Score: Conservative win

Family: What he said

Francis seemed to allude to same-sex marriage when he said:

I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family. 

In Philadelphia, the city hosting the Catholic church’s World Meeting of Families, he ditched a prepared speech in favour of spontaneous acclaim for “families who bring up their children to grow and to move forward. Who create, who develop a society of truth, goodness and beauty.”

'Pope Francis didn't say 'abortion' – and that's what conservative Catholics need to hear', Anthea Butler

The speech, released later by papal aides, made only a passing reference to marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Significantly, the text said:

 “Perfect families do not exist. This must not discourage us. Quite the opposite. Love is something we learn; love is something we live; love grows as it is ‘forged’ by the concrete situations which each particular family experiences.”

Throughout his trip, the pope barely touched on the issue of abortion.

In addressing American bishops in Washington, he said attention should be paid to the “innocent victims of abortion” and in his speech to Congress he spoke of “our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development”.

What he did

Perhaps it’s more significant what Francis didn’t do.

He did not bless any newly-wed couples nor did he visit any pro-life groups.

But neither did he consciously meet lesbian or gay Catholics, nor repeat his recent order for priests to absolve women who have had abortions if they express contrition.

Score: No clear win for either liberal or conservatives

Death penalty

The pope called for the abolition of the death penalty, a pointed intervention in the US where 35 prisoners were executed last year, and more than 3,000 languished on death row:

Every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes. Recently my brother bishops here in the United States renewed their call for the abolition of the death penalty. Not only do I support them, but I also offer encouragement to all those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.

What he did


Pope Francis blesses a prisoner as he visits the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia. Pope Francis encourages prisoners to explore religion Sept. 27. (CNS photo| Paul Haring)

On the last day of his trip, Francis visited the Curran-Fromhold correctional facility in Philadelphia to meet around 100 prisoners in the overcrowded jail, nine of whom have been charged with murder. It was a clear message about rehabilitation, his opposition to the death penalty and concern for the welfare of prisoners.

“I am here as a pastor, but above all as a brother, to share your situation and to make it my own,” he told them, hugging and blessing inmates following his speech.

Score: Liberal win


MANILA BULLETIN

Pope met, hugged old gay friend in Washington by AFP October 3, 2015 Share1 Tweet1 Share0 Email0 Share8 image: http://www.mb.com.ph/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/pope1.jpg


Pope Francis waves to the crowd as he arrives for his weekly general audience at St Peter's square on September 30, 2015 at the Vatican. AFP PHOTO / ANDREAS SOLARO FILE

Pope Francis met with a gay friend and his partner while visiting Washington, the Vatican said Friday, confirming a highly symbolic encounter which occurred a day before the pontiff met prominent gay marriage opponent Kim Davis.

CNN, which first reported the meeting, broadcast a video of the encounter showing the pope and his old friend Yayo Grassi sharing a hug at the Vatican embassy in the US capital.

It was a gesture typical of the affectionate, tactile pontiff but also one loaded with symbolism in the run-up to a Vatican meeting of bishops which will review the Church’s approach to homosexuality and other divisive family-related issues, over the course of three weeks from Sunday.

In a statement, the Vatican’s spokesman said the meeting had been a personal one.

“Mr Yayo Grassi, a former Argentine student of Pope Francis, who had already met other times in the past with the Pope, asked to present his mother and several friends to the Pope during the Pope’s stay in Washington,” Father Federico Lombardi said.

“As noted in the past, the Pope, as pastor, has maintained many personal relationships with people in a spirit of kindness, welcome and dialogue.”

Grassi brought his partner Iwan and several friends to the brief session, he told CNN, adding that the pope arranged the meeting weeks before his six-day visit to the United States at the end of September.

“Three weeks before the trip, he called me on the phone and said he would love to give me a hug,” Grassi told the broadcaster.

‘Who am I to judge?’


October 2, 2015 Jeva LangeVINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images

WELL ACTUALLY... Vatican says Pope Francis didn't meet privately with Kim Davis — or endorse her. It is true Pope Francis saw Kim Davis last week, but the event, which has been widely been interpreted as a proclamation against same-sex marriage, was misunderstood, the Vatican said in a statement on Friday.

Davis, who defied the law by denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples, was one of dozens of guests to be invited to "greet" the Pope, an encounter the Vatican described as "brief," "routine," and characteristic of the pope's "kindness and availability."

Davis was not, however, given private audience with His Holiness, according to the statement, which further clarified that, "The pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs. Davis and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects."

The encounter has proven controversial, with Davis supporters saying the pope was endorsing her stand and critics arguing that Francis did not know its details. Others say the meeting is simply being over-analyzed by both sides. The Vatican seems to be in the latter camp.

News emerged this week that the pope had also met privately with Davis, the Kentucky clerk who was briefly jailed for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses. FROM THE WEEK,COM

READ MORE...

Acting in the name of religion, Davis was defying what is now the law of the land, since same sex marriage became legal following a historic Supreme Court ruling in June.

The Vatican said in a statement earlier on Friday that the meeting with Davis should not be interpreted as support for her stance over what it termed a complex issue.

Grassi said the pope used to teach him literature and psychology in high school in Argentina in the 1960s.

He said the pope had long known he was gay but never condemned his sexual orientation or his same sex relationship.

“He has never been judgemental,” Grassi said. “He has never said anything negative.”

Pope Francis has won praise for shifting the focus of the Catholic church’s approach to homosexuality away from condemnation to a more understanding approach encapsulated by a famous 2013 remark in which he said of gays: “Who am I to judge them?”

He remains opposed to the legalisation of gay marriage however and while the tone has changed at the top of the Church, it is far from certain that the upcoming synod will produce any concrete steps to make life easier for gay believers.

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RELATED FROM PHILSTAR

Boonless visit: Empty tables, deserted streets for pope's Philadelphia visit By Michael R. Sisak and Michael Rubinkam (Associated Press) | Updated September 29, 2015 - 8:00am 2 0 googleplus0 0


Pope Francis arrives for a Mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

PHILADELPHIA — One restaurant owner spent $7,500 on food she couldn't sell. A smoothie shop's business was down more than 50 percent.

Even as hundreds of thousands of people thronged the Benjamin Franklin Parkway on Sunday for Mass with Pope Francis, his weekend visit to Philadelphia apparently failed to deliver the economic boon predicted by organizers.

Some businesses closed early, some downtown hotel rooms went unfilled and normally bustling city streets were deserted over the weekend as residents either stayed home or left town, and pilgrims kept their wallets in their pockets.

Celebrity chef Marc Vetri, whose eponymous restaurant is a fine-dining landmark, took to Facebook to rail against city leaders who he said "decided to roll out the red carpet for everyone making the pilgrimage, and roll us up in the carpet to place in storage until yesterday." He said he was "haunted by the empty streets and shuttered windows."

One of Vetri's smaller pizzerias, at least, was enjoying a brisk business as people were leaving after Mass and the global gathering ended; the pizzeria near a security checkpoint was packed with an hour wait for a table. And at an outside tent, it was doing a brisk business selling pizza by the slice, pies, and drinks.

At Midtown III restaurant, co-owner Vivian Tafuri rented a refrigerated truck, filled it with $7,500 worth of food and spent another $1,000 on a parking space.

"It's all wasted," Tafuri fumed Sunday. "All the time our mayor was saying a million and a half people, and nothing. Wasted."

Liz Furey, a bartender at the restaurant, said the pope's visit chased away the regulars.

"The people who are visiting are having a good time at the parkway. But as far as the local businesses were concerned, what we were promised didn't happen at all," Furey said.

READ MORE...

The World Meeting of Families, the Vatican-sponsored conference that drew Francis to Philadelphia, had estimated 1.5 million people would show up for the pope's weekend visit, with 10,000 staying overnight and business sales of $390 million.

Meryl Levitz, president and chief executive of Visit Philadelphia, the main tourism marketing agency, acknowledged Sunday that many shops and restaurants were hurting for business. Pilgrims went to Philadelphia to "be in the aura of the pope," not to spend a lot of money, she said.

"To look at a grassroots spiritual event in terms of immediate economic benefit is asking too much of it," she said.

City officials who for months had issued dire warnings about long walks and security lines to reach Pope Francis' events recalibrated their message last month amid fears they were scaring people away, launching an "I'll be There" campaign as well as the OpenInPhl hashtag for city businesses.

But their efforts came too little, too late for some merchants.

With sales down more than 50 percent, Robek's, a juice and smoothie shop, decided to close early Sunday.

Manager Dave Deener blamed the intense security, including concrete barriers and a vehicle checkpoint near the entrance. National Guard troops and a police officer sat on folding chairs nearby.

"It's awful. Everybody got scared off because of the security detail," he said.

Philly Cupcake went all out for Pope Francis' visit, making papal and Jesus cupcakes and plastering the windows with his picture. One window even had a big sign showing the pontiff holding a cupcake as if it were a communion wafer.

"A lot of people take pictures with it, but they don't come in," said store associate Silvia Pulido.


Pope Francis waves to the crowd at Philadelphia International Airport in Philadelphia as he departs for Rome on Sunday. Francis wrapped up his 10-day trip to Cuba and the United States on Sunday. Philadelphia businesses said the pope's visit didn't yield the retail boom they anticipated. | AP BUSINESS headline: Philly off the parkway like a ghost town when pontiff comes calling, businesses lament. PHOTO COURTESY OF JAPAN TIMES

The impact of the pope's visit on business was especially apparent Saturday night.

Some Center City hotel rooms went unfilled — though officials said it was a near sell-out — and tables could be had at some of the city's trendiest restaurants. On normally bustling South Street, bars, restaurants, sneaker stores and smoke shops — usually filled on weekends with city residents, suburban gawkers and tourists — were empty.

Stephen Starr, one of the city's most prominent restaurateurs with about 20 eateries, told The Philadelphia Inquirer the pope's visit "affected business worse that Hurricane Sandy."

Mayor Michael Nutter on Sunday thanked the businesses that stayed open and proclaimed the papal visit a success.

"Estimates are estimates. I think there was no perfect way to know how many people were going to come, but our job in city government was try to be as prepared as possible," he told WPVI-TV.

Levitz, the tourism executive, is taking a long view of things.

The city's role was to make the pilgrims' stay as comfortable and pleasant as possible and encourage them to come back, Levitz said, adding that saturation media coverage of the pope's visit has been a marketing boon for the nation's fifth-largest city.

"This is a transcendent event for Philadelphia and the region and it's up to all of us to make it generate the kind of economic benefit that people are looking for."

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RELATED FROM PHILSTAR

Critics slam Philadelphia ex-archbishop's role in pope visit By Michael R. Sisak (Associated Press) | Updated September 30, 2015 - 8:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0


FILE - In this Sept. 26, 2015, file photo, Pope Francis delivers his homily during a Mass at Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. Cardinal Justin Rigali, second from right, who retired as Archbishop of Philadelphia amid allegations he put church interests ahead of clergy sexual abuse victims returned to the city over the weekend to help Pope Francis celebrate Mass, drawing criticism from advocates who said his visibility "rubs salt into deep wounds." (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

PHILADELPHIA — A former archbishop who retired amid allegations he put church interests ahead of clergy sexual abuse victims returned to the city over the weekend to help Pope Francis celebrate Mass, drawing criticism from advocates who said his visibility "rubs salt into deep wounds."

The current archbishop, Charles Chaput, defended Cardinal Justin Rigali's role in the service Saturday at the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, saying Monday his predecessor did nothing wrong and is "always welcome to be here."


July 22, 2011 PHOTO: Archbishop Charles Chaput, who takes over for Cardinal Justin Rigali, was known as an outspoken leader of the Denver Archdiocese. (CHARLES FOX / Staff photographer) By WILL BUNCH, unchw@phillynews.com 215-854-2957 POSTED: July 22, 2011

Rigali, 80, sat to Chaput's right and stood with the pope as he consecrated the Eucharist. A spokesman said he also participated in several other events with US bishops, including the Vatican-sponsored World Meeting of Families conference that brought the pope to Philadelphia.

Rigali retired to the Diocese of Knoxville, Tennessee, in 2011, months after a grand jury accused the Archdiocese of Philadelphia of sheltering more than three dozen credibly accused priests and lying about it to victims and others.

Chaput, who attended the pope's meeting with sex abuse victims on Sunday, has removed several priests from church work since replacing Rigali. He bristled Monday when asked about Rigali at a post-papal visit news conference, asserting the grand jury reports released during the cardinal's tenure did not accuse him of "doing anything inappropriate or not handling things appropriately."

"In some ways we should get over this wanting to go back and blame, blame, blame," said Chaput. "The church is happy to assume its responsibility, but I'm really quite tired of people making unjust accusations against people who are not to be blamed."

Rigali said through a spokesman he was honored to participate in the papal events and appreciates Chaput's "supportive comments."

Priests, nuns and canon lawyers who advocate for clergy abuse victims last week called on the pope to investigate Rigali's child protection records through a tribunal planned to hold bishops accountable over failures in handling sex abuse cases.

Another advocacy group, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said Rigali's appearance was a reminder that "no matter how much you enable or hide predator priests, if you're a bishop, you'll always be welcome in and by the Catholic hierarchy."

Ana Maria Catanzaro, who led the archdiocese's internal investigative panel on priest abuse, wrote in a 2011 essay that Rigali and his bishops had "failed miserably at being open and transparent" about problem priests.

After the 2011 grand jury report, Rigali wrote in a letter to parishioners that no priests in active ministry had an "admitted or established allegation" against them. He later suspended 21 of them.

Chaput disputed the portrayals of Rigali's leadership, saying, "it's important for people not to make judgments that are not based on facts."

"He is always welcome to be here in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia," said Chaput. "He's one of the former bishops, and I was very happy that he was there."


PHILSTAR

New US sanctions illustrate sprawling Islamic State network By Ken Dilanian (Associated Press) | Updated September 29, 2015 - 10:30pm 0 0 googleplus0 0


In this photo released on Jan. 11, 2015, by a militant website, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, an Islamic State militant, center, distributes plastic bags full of stationery and other gifts to Iraqi young students at a school classroom in Mosul, northern Iraq. MILITANT WEBSITE

WASHINGTON — The U.S. government announced sanctions Tuesday against 25 people and five groups connected to the Islamic State, disclosing intelligence that depicts a sprawling international organization with tentacles across Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

The moves by the Treasury and State departments are aimed at disrupting the activities of Islamic State financial, logistical and recruiting operatives who may not be suitable targets of American bombs or drone strikes. Many of them reside outside the theaters of war in Iraq and Syria.

The sanctions, the largest such effort against the Islamic State, also serve to demonstrate how far and wide the group's ideology has spread.

The State Department designated as foreign terrorist organizations Islamic State regional spin-offs in Russia's Caucasus region, Algeria, Indonesia and Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. Among the individuals designated as terrorists was Sally Jones, a British native and the widow of an operative killed recently in an American drone strike.

The State Department also designated as terrorists three French nationals and a Russian. Russia, France and other countries cooperated with the U.S. in supplying information that contributed to the sanctions, officials said.

The Treasury Department, meanwhile, slapped financial sanctions on Islamic State officials who operate in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen and Tunisia. Among the individuals it sanctioned in Syria was British national Aqsa Mahmood, who is accused of recruiting three British schoolgirls in February to flee the United Kingdom to become wives of Islamic State fighters. She is believed to be in Syria.

READ MORE...

Previously, Treasury had sanctioned just four Islamic State officials, one of whom was killed in a U.S. drone strike in June.

Some of those sanctioned by Treasury are also expected to be placed Tuesday on the United Nations' al-Qaida Sanctions List, officials said in a news release.

The announcement came before a meeting between President Barack Obama and other world leaders on countering the Islamic State on the margins of the U.N. General Assembly meetings in New York.

The financial sanctions are designed to make it harder for the Islamic State to use its immense wealth, Daniel Glaser, Treasury's assistant secretary for terrorist financing, said in an interview.

"These sanctions will prevent them from engaging in financial transactions and make it harder for them to travel," he said.

Financial institutions around the world tend to honor U.S. sanctions, he said. The State Department designations mean that anyone who supports the individuals or groups can be prosecuted under U.S. law.

Much of the Islamic State's income is generated internally, Glaser said, from oil sales, taxation and extortion, so sanctions can't cut that off. Instead, they are meant "so that they can't get supplies, parts, things that you need to run a state, things that you need to engage in a war," he said.

Given the extensive smuggling networks across the region, it's unclear how effective the sanctions will be in doing that.

In July, Glaser said the Islamic State is clearing as much as $500 million per year from oil sales, more than enough to meet a payroll he estimated at a high of $360 million a year.

The public announcement of sanctions, which draws on intelligence gathered by the CIA and other agencies, offers a window into insights the U.S. has garnered about the Islamic State.

Notably, the U.S. believes al-Qaida and the Islamic State have been working together on a tactical level, despite official hostility to one another.

Yemeni national Mu'tassim Yahya 'Ali al-Rumaysh, for example, is described by Treasury as "a financial and foreign fighter facilitator" for the Islamic State "who also has held membership in al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)."

He helped an Islamic State member procure funds for the travel of foreign fighters from Yemen to Syria transiting Turkey, Treasury said in a news release, coordinating AQAP and the Syrian al-Qaida affiliate, the Nusra Front, to facilitate the travel of Islamic State members.

In November 2013, al-Rumaysh sent a group of Yemeni extremists to Turkey, Treasury said, and they made their way to an AQAP facilitator in Syria.


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