Pope Benedict XVI Has Died At 95

Arguably the most incendiary issue Benedict faced upon becoming pope was the ongoing fallout from the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests, as well as accusations of a cover-up effort on the part of church administration.

When Benedict became pope in 2005, the Catholic Church was in the midst of a very public reckoning with its history of sex abuse — a crisis about which he was very well informed. In 2001, John Paul II empowered the CDF to centralize all investigations into abuse allegations, removing that power from local dioceses after it became clear that they often failed to take action against predatory priests. As the head of the CDF, then-cardinal Ratzinger worked to establish new procedures for reporting and punishing clergy accused of sexual abuse.

As pope, Benedict repeatedly spoke out against the church’s legacy of child sex abuse, apologized to victims, and defrocked hundreds of priests who had been found guilty. However, for many, his actions fell short, in part because he failed to make public the Vatican’s investigations into abuse accusations — a lack of transparency that enabled dioceses to keep these accusations secret from parishes and law enforcement authorities.

“In the Church’s entire history, no one knew more but did less to protect kids than Benedict,” the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) said in a statement in 2013, in response to the pope emeritus’s public claim that he did not engage in a ‘cover-up’ of clerical abuse. “As the head of the CDF, thousands of cases of predator priests crossed his desk. Did he choose to warn families or call the police about even one of those dangerous clerics? No. That, by definition, is a cover up.”

Rumors of corruption and secret cabals in the Holy See also plagued Benedict’s tenure as pope, culminating in the “Vatileaks” scandal in 2012.

on Feb. 10, 2013, Benedict shocked the world by announcing his resignation from the papacy. “After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry,” he said in his official statement.

His decision to retire was later dramatized in the 2019 film The Two Popesin which Benedict was portrayed by Anthony Hopkins, who was nominated for an Oscar for his performance.

As pope emeritus, Benedict made a conscious effort to stay out of the public eye. He apparently disliked being known by such a lofty title following his resignation and asked others to call him simply “Father Benedict.” He did, however, make public appearances at events of theological significance, such as the Canonization Mass of Pope John XIII and Pope John Paul II on April 27, 2014.

On Sept. 4, 2020, at the age of 93 years, four months, and 19 days, Benedict became the longest-living pope in history.

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St Kitts and Nevis is not totally free under King Charles III, says PM

The statement also added that the monarch “has long acknowledged the discussion about constitutional arrangements”, and referred to a speech to Commonwealth leaders last year when King Charles III said: “I want to say clearly, as I have said before, that each member’s constitutional arrangement, as republic or monarchy, is purely a matter for each member country to decide.”

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Brittney Griner Remains In Russia; Trevor Reed Is Released

US Marine veteran Trevor Reed is on his way home after being released from Russia, where officials said he was wrongfully detained since 2019.

“Today, our prayers have been answered and Trevor is safely on his way back to the United States,” his family said in a statement.

Reed’s release came as part of a prisoner swap with Russia, with the US sending back Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot sentenced in 2011 to a 20-year prison term for importing more than $100 million of cocaine.

The surprise prisoner exchange was the result of long and difficult negotiations between the US and Russia, according to both countries. The fraught diplomacy was made all the more extraordinary because of the utter collapse of relations between Washington and Moscow over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

President Joe Biden, who met with the Reed family last month, said in a statement on Wednesday that the negotiations to release him “required difficult decisions that I do not take lightly.”

“I heard in the voices of Trevor’s parents how much they’ve worried about his health and missed his presence,” Biden said. “And I was delighted to be able to share with them the good news about Trevor’s freedom.”

Reed, 30, was imprisoned for apparently assaulting a police officer while he was drunk, but his family and US diplomats said he was innocent, describing the evidence against him at trial as “preposterous” and “absurd.” Instead, they said he was being held as a bargaining chip.

In recent weeks, Reed’s health had deteriorated and he had been hospitalized with signs of tuberculosis and a possible broken rib, according to the State Department, making his release all the more urgent.

Reed’s family said Biden’s decision to go ahead with the prisoner swap may have saved the former Marine’s life. They had previously expressed fears that Reed might suffer the same fate as Otto Warmbier, the American student held for 17 months in North Korea who went into a coma after his 2017 release and died.

The State Department has previously declined to identify exactly how many Americans have been detained in Russia, but there are at least two high-profile prisoners who remain behind bars there: Paul Whelan and WNBA star Brittney Griner.

Whelan, another former Marine, has been the longest, having been first arrested at the end of 2018, and accused of being an American spy. His family denied this, but he was sentenced in 2020 to 16 years in prison.

Ryan Fayhee, a former Justice Department official now acting as a pro bono attorney for the Whelan family, said they had “complex feelings” about Wednesday’s news.

“They wish the family the very best, but they also see this as a missed opportunity,” Fayhee said, pointing to the different crimes the two swapped prisoners were convicted of. “It was a pretty high price to pay. If you make a comparison between the two people who’ve gone home today, to not include Paul in that is a missed opportunity.”

Fayhee

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China Protests COVID Lockdowns After Xinjiang Fire

Protests are continuing in China against strict COVID lockdown restrictions after a deadly apartment fire brought some people closer to a breaking point.

Across the country, demonstrators took to the streets — a mass movement that is rare in China — and defied laws designed to curb the spread of COVID-19. Some appeared with sheets of blank white paper, in place of traditional protest signs, as a criticism of the censorship limiting citizens from speaking freely.

After the fire in Xinjiang that left at least 10 people dead, which critics say was due to the stay-at-home measures that resulted in the building’s doors being locked, protests intensified Sunday. In major cities like Shanghai, protestors gathered to demand the end of the country’s ruling party and the resignation of the president. In clips circulating social media, some demonstrators can be heard repeatedly chanting, “Communist Party step down, Xi Jinping step down.”

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Where Should a King Sit? A 700-Year-Old Chair Will Do.

LONDON — There is a piece of furniture so famous and so important to British history that it sits in its own chapel at Westminster Abbey, behind an iron gate so that onlookers may gawk at it but never touch it.

The item, the Coronation Chair, was commissioned by King Edward I of England to accommodate the Stone of Scone, which was captured from the Scots in 1296. The chair was constructed in the early 1300s, and the stone sits directly under its seat.

The Abbey says that the chair is the oldest piece of furniture in Europe still being used for its original purpose, and that 26 monarchs have been crowned on it since the coronation of Edward II in 1308. Although scholars have questioned whether the chair’s original purpose was to be used in coronations, they agree that it has been a centerpiece of such ceremonies for centuries.

Last month, the Abbey announced that the chair, which was last used during Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953, would undergo conservation work ahead of King Charles III’s coronation on Saturday. The chair last underwent a restoration from 2010 to 2012.

According to the Abbey, the conservation work will concentrate on cleaning the surface of the chair, which is made of oak and stands at 6 feet 9 inches. Sponges and cotton swabs will be used to remove dirt and stabilize the remaining layers of gilding on both the chair and its base, which was built in the early 18th century.

Krista Blessley, Westminster Abbey’s paintings conservator, is responsible for the restoration of the chair, which is also called St. Edward’s Chair. While the Abbey declines to offer an interview with Ms. Blessley, citing her need to focus on her work, last fall she told Channel 5, a British broadcasting company, that the chair was “very fragile” and that its gilded layers were prone to flaking. Its seats are also covered in graffiti from visitors and Westminster students in the 18th and 19th centuries, she said.

In an interview this spring with The Royal Family Channel, Ms. Blessley said the chair originally had gilded glasswork and would have appeared to be metallic. The chair is also decorated with punchwork — tiny dots used to make patterns and images — of birds, saints, kings and foliage.

The Stone of Scone, sometimes called the Stone of Destiny, weighs 336 pounds. Over the years, it has been the subject of intense rivalry between Scotland and England. It was stolen by Scottish nationalists on Christmas Day 1950 but recovered months later. The stone was returned to Edinburgh Castle in Scotland in 1996 and will be brought down to London for the coronation.

“It’s actually not a very remarkable looking thing,” David Torrance, a monarchy specialist at the House of Commons Library, said of the stone. “It is, at the end of the day, a sort of crudely cut rectangle of sandstone” that has been damaged and pinned back together, he said.

Because the chair

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