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Pope faces coronavirus ‘tempest’ alone in St Peter’s Square

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Pope Francis stood alone in vast Saint Peter’s Square Friday to bless Catholics around the world suffering under the coronavirus pandemic, urging people to ease their fears through faith.

“Thick darkness has gathered over our squares, our streets and our cities; it has taken over our lives, filling everything with a deafening silence and a distressing void, that stops everything as it passes by,” he said.

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In a historic first, the Argentine performed the rarely recited “Urbi et Orbi” blessing from the steps of the basilica to an empty square, addressing those in lockdown across the globe via television, radio and social media.

“We find ourselves afraid and lost,” he said in a homily ahead of the blessing, as he stood under a canopy protecting him from a downpour.

He described the coronavirus “tempest” which he said had put everybody “in the same boat”.

The hour had come to “reawaken and put into practice that solidarity and hope capable of giving strength, support and meaning to these hours when everything seems to be floundering”, he said.

‘Did not listen’

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The blessing — which translates as “To the City (Rome) and the World” — is usually given on just three occasions: when a pope is elected, and each year at Christmas and Easter.

The pontiff traditionally speaks out against armed conflicts around the globe before delivering the Urbi et Orbi blessing.

But on Friday, the COVID-19 pandemic which has already killed more than 23,000 people was in his sights — and humanity’s errors and lack of faith leading up to the crisis.

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“We have gone ahead at breakneck speed, feeling powerful and able to do anything. Greedy for profit, we let ourselves get caught up in things, and lured away by haste,” said Francis in his homily.

“We were not shaken awake by wars or injustice across the world, nor did we listen to the cry of the poor or of our ailing planet. We carried on regardless, thinking we would stay healthy in a world that was sick.”

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Today was not “the time of your judgement,” the Pope clarified, but rather a time for people to focus on the important, “a time to separate what is necessary from what is not.”

‘Forgotten people’

The pontiff saluted “ordinary people – often forgotten people” who are showing courage and selflessness in the current crisis, citing doctors and nurses, supermarket employers, police forces, volunteers, priests and nuns.

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And at the end of the service, Francis granted Catholics the chance to have a rare remission for the punishment of sins.

Earlier this month, when the Italian capital was already in lockdown, Francis made a solitary pilgrimage to two of the city’s churches.

At one, he borrowed a crucifix believed to have saved Rome from plague in the 16th century. On Friday, that crucifix was placed in front of Saint Peter’s.

“During the plague in the Middle Ages, the Church was the only visible presence in public, through the processions of priests who were supposed to produce miracles,” Vatican expert Marco Politi told AFP.

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“The Pope wants to recapture a part of that scene and of the collective imagination,” he said.

The head of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics is a high-risk subject for the virus himself. Since coming down with a cold late last month, the 83-year-old has remained largely secluded within the Vatican.

Italian media reported that the pope had tested negative for coronavirus after a prelate who lived at his residence — a guest house in the Vatican — was hospitalised on Wednesday with the virus.

“The anti-contagion cordon has been tight around the pope for weeks,” La Stampa daily wrote.

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The Vatican has only officially reported four positive cases of the coronavirus within the tiny city state, without confirming the alleged case in the guest house.


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‘They just fired on us’: Horrifying videos of cops ‘using journalists for target practice’ in Minneapolis

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Journalists covering the protests in Minneapolis reported on being targeted by police on Saturday.

Multiple reports -- including live coverage on CNN -- showed police firing rubber bullets at journalists.

It’s open season on the media for the cops in Minneapolis. Evil. https://t.co/ZR3Nnf9ofH

— Nick Stellini (@StelliniTweets) May 31, 2020

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Scientists warn of ‘superspreaders’ as Americans flock back to restaurants, salons and churches

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SAN DIEGO — Churches. Hair salons. Restaurants. Malls. What do they all have in common?They’ve all been cleared to reopen in San Diego County amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic — and by and large, they all require people to congregate inside, potentially with strangers.This comes as an increasingly vocal group of scientists has sounded the alarm about the danger of indoor gatherings due to the potential for airborne transmission of the disease by “superspreaders.”This week Kimberly Prather of UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography penned an urgently worded perspective paper in t... (more…)

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About 75% of Trump’s proposed coronavirus capital gains tax cut would go to the top 1% of earners

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Roughly three-quarters of the benefits from the capital gains tax cut floated by President Donald Trump as part of the administration's coronavirus relief plan would go to the top 1% of earners, according to the Tax Policy Center.

Trump has repeatedly floated a cut to capital gains taxes, which are taxes paid by investors on profits made when an asset, like stock or real estate, is sold. The capital gains tax rate is already 35% lower than the top income tax rate, and only about 6% of households in the bottom 80% of earners claim any capital gains, meaning the overwhelming majority of benefits would flow to the wealthy.

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