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Pope Francis to evict Cardinal Raymond Burke from Vatican

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US Cardinal Raymond Burke has been a leader in the Catholic Church for decades (BBC)

Pope Francis is evicting US Cardinal Raymond Burke, an outspoken critic, from his Vatican apartment and revoking his salary.

Cardinal Burke is part of a group of American conservatives who have long opposed the Pope’s plans for reforming the Catholic Church.

A Vatican source told the BBC that Pope Francis has not yet carried out his intention to evict the 75-year-old and the decision is not meant as a personal punishment, the source added. Instead, it comes from the belief that a person should not enjoy cardinal privileges while criticising the head of the church.

Still, the move is “unprecedented in the Francis era”, Christopher White, a Vatican observer who writes for the National Catholic Reporter, told the BBC. “Typically, retired cardinals continue to reside in Rome after stepping down from their positions, often remaining active in papal liturgies and ceremonial duties,” he said. “Evicting someone from their Vatican apartment sets a new precedent.”

White warned that the decision could “provoke significant backlash” and deepen divides between the Vatican and the US church, where there is already “fragmentation”.

Cardinal Burke has yet to respond to the news and the BBC has reached out to his office for comment.

The Pope revealed his plan to act against the cardinal at a meeting with heads of Vatican offices last week. His frustration with US detractors who take a more traditional or conservative view on several issues appears to be coming to a boil.

Earlier this month, he fired Joseph Strickland, a conservative Texas bishop who had blasted his attempts to move the church to more liberal positions on abortion, transgender rights and same-sex marriage. The removal followed a church investigation into governance of the diocese.

A few months before, the Pope told members of the Jesuit religious order in Portugal that there was “a very strong, organised, reactionary attitude in the US church”, which he called “backward”, according to the Guardian.

Tensions with Cardinal Burke, who was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI, have been simmering for nearly a decade, with the American prelate openly criticising Pope Francis over both social and liturgical issues.

“Cardinal Burke’s situation seems to stem from his gradual alienation from the Pope,” said  White. “It appears the Pope perceives Burke as fostering a cult of personality, centred around traditionalism or regressive ideals. This action seems aimed at limiting Burke’s influence by severing his ties to Rome.”

Pope Francis with hand up in front of Vatican building
Pope Francis waves to crowds while leaving St Peter’s Square (pic BBC)
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Most recently, the cardinal held a conference called The Synodal Babel in Rome on the eve of the Pope’s synod, or meeting of bishops, last month.

He also joined fellow conservatives in publishing a “declaration of truths” in 2019 that described the Catholic church as disoriented and confused under Pope Francis, saying that it had moved away from core teachings on divorce, contraception, homosexuality and gender. Notably, he disagreed with the Pope promoting Covid vaccines.

Within church politics, he and Pope Francis were at odds over the firing of the head of the Knights of Malta after the order’s charity branch was found to have distributed condoms in Myanmar.

The Pope, in turn, has demoted Cardinal Burke within the church hierarchy or moved him to posts with less influence over the years.

Michael Matt, a columnist for the right-wing Catholic newspaper The Remnant, wrote that the most recent action taken against Cardinal Burke showed that Pope Francis was “cancelling faithful prelates who offer hierarchical cover to pro-life, pro-family, pro-tradition hardliners”. He accused the Pope of putting critics into “forced isolation”.

(BBC)



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Intruder spills 60,000 litres of wine worth €2.5m at Spanish winery

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The intruder was reportedly familiar with the winery grounds (BBC)

A Spanish winery has suffered losses of more than €2.5 million (£2.1 million) after an unidentified intruder emptied 60,000 litres of wine.

A representative of the Cepa 21 winery told the BBC the wine spilled came from two of the winery’s most expensive varieties, Horcajo and Malabrigo.

He said the incident took place at about 03:30 local time (02:30 GMT) on Sunday and that the intruder was likely familiar with the winery grounds.

Police are investigating the case. In CCTV, a hooded person can be seen moving between tanks and rapidly opening them, causing their contents to spill on to the floor.

The Cepa 21 representative told the BBC that it was “very hard to open the tanks”, which include a security mechanism, without prior knowledge. Therefore, he said, it could be assumed that the intruder “is used to opening these tanks and is familiar with this kind of machinery”. He added: “This person was moving very smoothly across the winery grounds, even though it was dark and there was no light. “This must be a person who knows the grounds well.”

But he said it was too early to speculate on their identity and said there were no grounds to suspect current or former employees at this stage.The intruder opened five tanks, although only three were filled with wine.

Cepa 21 is located in Castrillo de Duero, a small village in north-western Spain. Horcajo wine retails for around £80 a bottle in the UK, while Malabrigo sells for £35.

(BBC)

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Nebraska zoo extracts 70 coins from white alligator’s stomach

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Thibodaux. a 36-year-old white alligator, had 70 coins removed from his stomach (BBC)

An alligator at a US zoo had to undergo surgery after veterinarians discovered 70 coins in the animal’s stomach.

The coins were found in a rare, 36-year-old leucistic alligator, which has translucent white skin and blue eyes.

Veterinarians identified “metal foreign objects in the stomach of an iconic resident” – Thibodaux.  The Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha, Nebraska said patrons threw coins into the enclosure, which were eaten by the animal between cleanings.

He has recovered from the procedure and is back in his habitat.

The zoo urged visitors to avoid throwing “coins into any bodies of water at the zoo”, after the sizeable amount of change was pulled from the animal’s stomach.

All 10 alligators – including Thibodaux – participated in a routine examination which involved blood collection, radiographs and more. When zoo workers discovered the coins, they acted fast and performed surgery on Thursday, removing the coins from Thibodaux “before they caused any problems”.

“With the help of his training, Thibodaux was anesthetized and intubated to allow us to safely manage him during the procedure,” associate veterinarian Christina Ploog, who led the procedure, said in a statement.  “A plastic pipe was placed to protect his mouth and safely pass the tools used to access the coins, such as a camera that helped us guide the retrieval of these objects.”

The zoo said in a statement that X-ray imaging confirmed that the objects were successfully removed, adding that “Thibodaux recovered well from the procedure”. Taylor Yaw, director of animal health at the zoo, said the procedure is not “common”.

Ms Ploog told a local news outlet that people do not realise how coins can harm animals. She said not only could animals ingest the coins, but they could also contain dangerous chemicals.

The zoo answered one concerned person online who asked if the coins get swept up by the zoo. “We do routine cleanings in the habitats of this area and throughout the zoo,” the zoo wrote on Facebook. “In between cleanings is when our alligators still manage to get them before they are removed.”

(BBC)

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South Korean doctors strike in protest of plans to add more physicians

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Doctors staged rallies in Seoul last week protesting against the government's plan to bump up numbers (BBC)

South Korea’s government has ordered more than 1,000 junior doctors to return to work after many staged walk-outs in protest of plans to increase the number of doctors in the system.

More than 6,000 interns and residents had resigned on Monday, said officials.

South Korea has one of the lowest doctor-per-patient ratios among OECD countries so the government wants to add more medical school placements. But doctors oppose the prospect of greater competition, observers say.

South Korea has a highly privatised healthcare system where most procedures are tied to insurance payments, and more than 90% of hospitals are private.

Its doctors are among the best-paid in the world, with 2022 OECD data showing the average specialist at a public hospital receives nearly $200,000 (£159,000) a year; a salary far exceeding the national average pay.

But there are currently only 2.5 doctors per 1,000 people – the second lowest rate in the OECD group of nations after Mexico. “More doctors mean more competition and reduced income for them, that is why they are against the proposal to increase physician supply,” said Prof Soonman Kwon, a public health expert at Seoul National University.

Patients and health officials expressed concerns on Tuesday as reports emerged of doctors declining to come into hospitals across the country.

Junior doctors form a core contingent of staff in emergency wards, and local media reported that up to 37% of doctors could be affected at the biggest hospitals in Seoul.

The health ministry said 1,630 doctors had not shown up to work on Monday, amid a wider group of 6,415 who had submitted resignation letters. Organisers had pledged an all-out strike from Tuesday.

“We are deeply disappointed in the situation where trainee doctors are refusing to work,” Second Vice Health Minister Park Min-soo had told reporters earlier this week. He also warned that the government may resort to legal means to get doctors back to work.

Second Vice Health Minister Park Min-soo speaks during a press briefing
Minister Park has condemned the strike action by doctors (BBC)

 

Under the country’s Medical Services Act, authorities have the power to revoke a doctor’s practicing licence over an extended labour action which threatens the health care system. The country has attempted prosecutions before in relation to other doctor protests- which were later dropped.

“We earnestly ask the doctors to withdraw their decision to resign en masse,” Mr Park said.

The government has consistently condemned the doctors’ opposition. Prime Minister Han Duck-soo has said: “This is something that takes the lives and health of the people hostage”.

The extent of the strike’s impact so far is yet unclear, although officials had warned there could be delays to surgeries and gaps in care. Some hospitals have announced switching to contingency plans. The government has also fully expanded telehealth services.

The protests are similar to events in 2020, when up to 80% of junior doctors joined strikes against the government’s recruitment plans.

South Korean policy makers have tried for years to increase the number of trained doctors, as the country is dealing with a rapidly-ageing population which will put extra burden on the medical system. There’s a projected shortfall of 15,000 doctors by 2035.

The country also has critical gaps in care in remote areas, and in specialities such as paediatrics and obstetrics – which are seen as less lucrative fields compared to dermatology.

To combat this, President Yoon Suk-yeol has proposed adding 2,000 spots per year to medical schools – which currently take a cohort of just over 3,000 students every year – a rate that has not changed since 2006. It’s a policy very popular with the public – with local polls showing 70-80% of voters support it.

However the plan has been strongly opposed by the medical profession, with groups like the Korean Medical Association arguing an increase would be a strain on the money available under the national health insurance scheme.

The union has also argued that more doctors wouldn’t necessarily address the shortages in specific fields. It announced the strike action on Sunday after an emergency meeting with hospital representatives. While junior doctors are the first to strike there are fears that more across the profession will join too.

Doctors successfully staved off the government’s previous attempt to introduce more graduates in 2020. The government conceded at the time, partly due to the pressure of the Covid pandemic, commentators say.

“It is not easy to predict who will win this time,” said Prof Kwon. He noted that President Yoon “seems very determined” because the policy has provided a ratings-bump for an unpopular leader otherwise tarnished by some political scandals. “But a private sector dominated health system is quite vulnerable to physician strikes, i.e. it can be really shut down if doctors join full-scale strikes.”

(BBC)

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