Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition
Pope, Presbyterian and Anglican leaders decry anti-gay laws
ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE — Pope Francis, the head of the Anglican Communion and top Presbyterian minister together denounced the criminalization of homosexuality Sunday and said gay people should be welcomed by their churches.
The three Christian leaders spoke out on LGBTQ rights during an unprecedented joint airborne news conference returning home from South Sudan, where they took part in a three-day ecumenical pilgrimage to try to nudge the young country’s peace process forward.
They were asked about Francis’ recent comments to The Associated Press, in which he declared that laws that criminalize gay people were “unjust” and that “being homosexual is not a crime.”
South Sudan is one of 67 countries that criminalizes homosexuality, 11 of them with the death penalty. LGBTQ advocates say even where such laws are not applied, they contribute to a climate of harassment, discrimination and violence.
Francis referred to his Jan. 24 comments and repeated that such laws are “unjust.” He also repeated that parents should never throw their gay children out of the house.
“To condemn someone like this is a sin,” he said. “Criminalizing people with homosexual tendencies is an injustice.”
“People with homosexual tendencies are children of God. God loves them. God accompanies them,” he added.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, recalled that LGBTQ rights were very much on the agenda of the Church of England, and said he would quote the pope’s own words when the issue is discussed at the church’s upcoming General Synod.
“I wish I had spoken as eloquently and clearly as the pope. I entirely agree with every word he said,” Welby said.
Recently, the Church of England decided to allow blessings for same-sex civil marriages but said same-sex couples could not marry in its churches. The Vatican forbids both gay marriage and blessings for same-sex unions.
The Rt. Rev. Iain Greenshields, the Presbyterian moderator of the Church of Scotland who also participated in the pilgrimage and news conference, offered an observation.
“There is nowhere in my reading of the four Gospels where I see Jesus turning anyone away,” he said. “There is nowhere in the four Gospels where I see anything other than Jesus expressing love to whomever he meets.
The Church of Scotland allows same-sex marriages.
More pope travel: Pope Francis said Sunday that he is planning to visit India next year and is studying a possible trip to Mongolia later in 2023 in what would be a first for a pope.
Francis outlined his upcoming travel schedule during his flight back to Rome from South Sudan.
He confirmed that he would be in Lisbon, Portugal, for World Youth Day the first week of August and would participate in a Sept. 23 meeting of Mediterranean bishops in Marseille, France.
He said there was “the possibility” that he would fly from Marseille to Mongolia.
Looking further ahead, Francis said he thought he would visit India in 2024, after plans for a trip in 2017 fell apart. Britain politics: Former British Prime Minister Liz Truss says her failure wasn’t her fault.
Truss on Sunday blamed a “powerful economic establishment” and internal Conservative Party opposition for the rapid collapse of her government, and she said she still believes her tax-cutting policies were the right ones.
Britain’s shortest-serving prime minister resigned in October, six weeks into the job, after her inaugural budget plan sparked market mayhem.
Breaking her post-premiership silence in the Sunday Telegraph newspaper, Truss said she underestimated the resistance her free-market policies would face from “the system.”
“I am not claiming to be blameless in what happened, but fundamentally I was not given a realistic chance to enact my policies by a very powerful economic establishment, coupled with a lack of political support,” she wrote. Iran amnesty: Iran’s supreme leader Sunday reportedly ordered an amnesty or reduction in prison sentences for “tens of thousands” of people detained amid anti-government protests shaking the country, acknowledging for the first time the scale of the crackdown.
The decree by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, part of a yearly pardoning the supreme leader does before the anniversary of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, comes as authorities have yet to say how many people they detained in the demonstrations.
State media also published a list of caveats over the order that would disqualify those with ties abroad or facing spying charges — allegations that have been met with wide international criticism.
Activists dismissed Khamenei’s decree.
“Khamenei’s hypocritical pardon doesn’t change anything,” wrote Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam of the Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights. “Not only all protesters must be released unconditionally, but also it is a public right that those who ordered the bloody repression and their agents are held accountable.”
Iraqi protests: Dozens of Iraqi protesters gathered Sunday to decry the so-called honor killing of a 22-year-old YouTube star who was allegedly strangled by her father, adding fuel to calls for legal reforms protecting women.
Interior Ministry spokesman Saad Maan on Friday announced that Tiba Ali was killed Jan. 31 in the central city of Diwaniyah by her father, who then turned himself in to the police.
Reports say the father strangled Ali at night while she was asleep.
The so-called honor killing was met with condemnation from women’s rights groups and residents, who sounded the alarm on violence against women in Iraq and the need to reform legislation to impose harsher punishments on perpetrators.
Article 41 of the country’s penal code allows husbands to “discipline” their wives, which includes beatings. Article 409 reduces murder sentences for men who kill or permanently impair their wives or female relatives because of adultery to up to three years in prison.
Turkey bus crash: A passenger bus crashed off a road and overturned Sunday in western Turkey, killing at least eight people and injuring dozens.
The governor’s office of Afyonkarahisar province said the bus was traveling from the southeastern Diyarbakir province to the Aegean city of Bodrum.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca tweeted that 42 people were injured, with three in critical condition.
An injured passenger told Anadolu news agency that he was half asleep when the bus “flew” and said people were stuck under the bus.