Pope caps visit to Arabian Peninsula with historic Mass
By NICOLE WINFIELD and AYA BATRAWY
Tuesday, February 5
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The soft hymns of “Hallelujah” boomed from speakers Tuesday as Pope Francis celebrated the first papal Mass in the Arabian Peninsula for about 180,000 people, capping a visit to the United Arab Emirates that emphasized the presence of minority Christians in the region and a greater understanding with Islam.
It was considered to be the largest display of public worship by Christians on the peninsula, the birthplace of Islam. A large, golden-hued cross on an all-white stage provided a simple and profound backdrop.
The Mass at Zayed Sports City Stadium, named for the founding father of the UAE, drew Catholics from 100 countries, including the Philippines, India, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Uganda and Lebanon, reflecting the range of nationalities drawn to the Emirates’ promise of jobs, safety and tolerance.
Cheers erupted inside and outside the stadium when Francis arrived and looped through the crowd in his open-sided pope mobile, with chants of “Viva il Papa” and “We love you!” Yellow and white Vatican flags decorated the stadium, and smaller versions were handed out to worshippers inside.
Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said about 180,000 people attended, with 135,000 tickets distributed for spots inside and outside the stadium to throngs eager for a glimpse of the pope.
Also in attendance were about 4,000 Muslims — evidence of the enormous diversity and emphasis for interreligious tolerance that the UAE promotes among the country’s 9 million people.
In his homily, delivered in Italian and translated into Arabic with English subtitles on giant video screens, Francis spoke to the many migrant workers who endure years of separation from their families in order to send money home.
“It is most certainly not easy for you to live far from home, missing the affection of your loved ones, and perhaps also feeling uncertainty about the future,” he said. “But the Lord is faithful and does not abandon his people.”
Many worshippers wept throughout the sermon, their heads bowed in prayer; others kept their eyes focused on the pope and the screens carrying his message.
Monica Birungi, a hotel employee in Dubai who supports her family and 2-year-old daughter in Uganda, said Francis’ words about sacrifice resonated deeply with her.
“I came to Dubai to work for money to help my family, so when they talked about that … it made me feel at home,” she said.
The pope also told his flock — many of them low-wage earners — that they need not be involved in “superhuman” works to be faithful. It was a message extolling humility in a country that is home to the world’s biggest skyscraper, the Burj Khalifa, and known for opulence and excess.
Jesus “did not ask us to build great works or draw attention to ourselves with extraordinary gestures. He asked us to produce just one work of art, possible for everyone: our own life,” Francis said.
The Mass came a day after the pope joined hands with Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, the grand imam of Al-Azhar, the more than 1,000-year-old seat of learning in Sunni Islam, to produce a joint appeal for Christian and Muslim leaders to work together to promote peace and reject war.
A front-page photo in Abu Dhabi’s The National newspaper featured Francis and el-Tayeb hugging under the words “One Human Family.”
The papal trip to the UAE, which began Sunday evening and ended after Tuesday’s Mass, was infused with symbolism, state pageantry and calls for peace. The logo for the visit depicted a dove with an olive branch.
The pope met with senior Muslim clerics in the grand Sheikh Zayed Mosque on Monday before delivering a speech in front of Abu Dhabi’s powerful crown prince and hundreds of imams, ministers, rabbis and swamis in the Emirati capital that began with the Muslim salutation “Asalaam alaikum” — or “peace be upon you.”
Francis’ appeal for peace comes as the UAE’s forces are involved in a Saudi-led war in Yemen that has driven the Arab world’s poorest country to the brink of famine and created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
In comments to reporters on his flight back to Rome, Francis said he sensed “good will to bring about a process of peace” in Yemen during his meetings with officials from the UAE, Saudi Arabia’s key ally in the war.
Asked what he made of the Emirates’ military-heavy welcome ceremony, which featured an artillery salute and an aircraft flyover, the pope said he viewed it as a gesture that was appropriate for the culture of his hosts.
“What I found here was a welcome so big that they wanted to do everything, big and little things, to show that the pope’s visit was good,” he said. “They wanted to make me feel that I was welcome.”
Francis added that he was struck in particular by the wisdom of the Muslim elders with whom he met and the wide diversity of people who live in the Emirates.
At the Mass, the elated crowd expressed appreciation for the pope’s homily.
“He is almost divine. He has a special charisma, which appeals to each one,” said Raphael Muntenkurian, 64, an Indian native and former seminarian who has lived in the UAE for more than 30 years.
“Everybody is actually mesmerized by his appeal for peace and tolerance,” he said. “His simplicity and humility is always praiseworthy.”
The crowd also expressed appreciation to UAE rulers for organizing the Mass in a country where Islam is the official religion.
“We have to say it is really a big event for us which we never expected,” said Sumitha Pinto, an Indian native who has lived in the UAE for nearly 20 years. She attended the Mass with her husband and four sons, the youngest of whom held up sign with the pope’s photo that read: “Welcome Pope Francis. Make Me a Channel of Your Peace.”
Pinto and her husband said that as Christians, they did not always feel safe in India, but in the UAE, “we feel we all are one. … They treat everyone equally.”
The Emirates’ Catholic community, estimated at 1 million, is something of an anomaly for the region — large, diverse and thriving at a time when the wider Middle East has seen Christians fleeing persecution at the hands of the Islamic State group and others.
Catholics in the UAE usually are foreigners working in jobs ranging from white-collar finance to construction. Most are Filipino and Indian, and can face precarious labor conditions, which human rights groups regularly denounce.
In an indication of the diversity of the Catholic flock, the prayers during Mass were read in a variety of languages and addressed the variety of hardships many face.
A prayer in the Indian language of Konkani called for public officials to be “illuminated” and promote the dignity of all, while the one in the Filipino language of Tagalog urged prayers for migrants and workers in the UAE so that “their sacrifice and work may blossom and sustain their families.” The one in French called for those who foment violence to change their ways and “stop wars, overcome hatred and help us forge links of justice and peace.”
Francis’ trip came 800 years after his peace-loving namesake St. Francis of Assisi visited an Egyptian sultan and marked the culmination of years of Holy See efforts to improve relations with the Muslim world after they hit a low during the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI.
Since then, religious fanaticism and faith-inspired wars have only grown, inspiring the pontiff’s efforts to promote tolerance and understanding.
Associated Press writer Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed.
Pope tamps down Maduro’s hopes for Vatican intervention
Tuesday, February 5
ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (AP) — Pope Francis on Tuesday acknowledged receiving a request from embattled Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro to help relaunch talks to end the country’s political crisis but ruled out any involvement unless opposition leader Juan Guaido requests it.
Francis acknowledged that he hadn’t read Maduro’s letter, which he said arrived at the Vatican via diplomatic pouch. He added, “We’ll see what can be done.”
But speaking to reporters en route home from the United Arab Emirates, he recalled that a previous Vatican diplomatic effort to facilitate talks between Maduro and the opposition “went up in smoke.” And he insisted on the basic diplomatic requirement that two sides to any conflict must jointly request external facilitation or mediation of negotiations.
“I’ll have a look at the letter, I’ll see what can be done. But the preliminary conditions are that both sides ask for it,” he told reporters, without citing Guaido by name.
However, Venezuela’s opposition, led by Guaido, has made it clear that any offers of dialogue must start with negotiating the terms of Maduro’s exit.
Dozens of countries, including the United States and most of the European Union, have recognized congressional leader Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president, arguing that Maduro’s re-election was invalid. But Maduro, too, has widespread international backing and holds practical control over the crisis-wracked nation’s institutions, including the military.
Maduro said in a statement that he sent the letter to Pope Frances, explaining that he’s deeply Christian in both prayer and action.
“I ask the pope to put forth his best effort, his willingness to help us move down a path of dialogue and hopefully a positive response,” Maduro said.
Francis had been asked about whether he might follow in the footsteps of St. John Paul II, who helped mediate a border crisis between Argentina and Chile over the Beagle Channel that almost brought the two countries to war in 1978.
The Argentine pope, who was a young Jesuit provincial at the time, called John Paul’s intervention “courageous” because it “avoided a war that was on the horizon.”
But he noted both Chile and Argentina requested the Holy See’s intervention, and that besides, there are plenty of “small steps” that can be taken diplomatically before arriving at actual mediation of a conflict.
Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused European Union countries of “vileness” and acting against democracy a day after more than a dozen of them endorsed Guaido as the country’s interim president.
In an address to his ruling party’s legislators on Tuesday, Erdogan said the EU countries had “delivered the presidency of a nation to someone who hasn’t even been through an election.”
Sixteen European countries recognized Guaido on Monday. Turkey is among at least nine nations — including Russia and China —that have declared support for embattled President Nicolas Madura.
“Where’s democracy? What’s this vileness?” Erdogan said of the EU countries. “On one hand you say ‘democracy, democracy, democracy’… and then you’re going to topple a government with force and cheating?”
Dying while black: Perpetual gaps exist in health care for African-Americans
February 5, 2019
Author: Yolonda Wilson, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Howard University
Disclosure statement: Yolonda Wilson does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Several years ago, MapQuest directed me on a 10-hour drive to visit my father in a Florida hospital. Complications from diabetes, including blindness, kidney failure, congestive heart failure, and a below-the-knee amputation, had taken their toll. This time my father, 69, was hospitalized for an infection of unknown origin that physicians could not name, despite their many attempts to grow cultures.
I did not know it at the time, but my father was dying.
Once I arrived at the hospital from Durham, North Carolina, I could hear his screams from the nurses’ station. “Never mind. I hear him,” I told the nurse whom I had just asked the location of my father’s room. “I’ll follow the sounds.”
That any patient would be left in so much pain that his screams could be heard down the hall was unacceptable to me. That this patient was my father, a man I had always known as a big, strong former football player – the kind of man other men didn’t dare cross (but who was also loving and gentle) – was difficult for me to process. Yet, here I was, being guided to his hospital room by the sound of his cries. Despite being a trained philosopher with an interest in bioethics, I had not yet begun to think about the ways in which racialized health disparities manifest even at the end of life. My father’s excruciatingly painful process of dying was but one example.
Gaps while living, gaps while dying
It is well documented that African-Americans experience excess mortality, or deaths beyond the expected mortality rate. However, even if disparities in the mortality rate for African-Americans were rectified tomorrow, the fact remains that we will all eventually die. And how we die matters.
According to a 2013 Pew Research survey, 72 percent of American adults have given at least some thought to their end of life wishes, with 37 percent of American adults having given their end of life wishes a “great deal of thought.” Some of these wishes include decisions about pain management, maintaining quality of life, and whether to continue aggressive medical treatment for terminal illness.
Additionally, research shows that people tasked with making treatment decisions for loved ones who cannot express their own wishes sometimes experience distress about watching their loved one suffer. Even months or years later, they wonder whether they made the “right” decision.
Black patients generally receive worse pain management in primary care environments and emergency rooms. Even black children are not treated for their pain to the extent that white children are. Some attribute this to false beliefs about biological differences between black and white patients, including the belief that black people have “thicker skin” and, therefore, do not experience as much pain as whites. These false beliefs lead to inaccurate pain assessments by physicians evaluating black patients and an unwillingness to take the pain complaints of black patients as seriously.
This disparity in black patients’ pain management continues even as black patients are dying. Families often want to ensure that their loved ones are as comfortable as possible once patients reach the point where death is near. Racialized gaps in pain management lead to a denial of humane comfort care that contributes to unnecessary suffering for black patients and their loved ones.
Inadequate pain management is but one aspect of the lower quality of care that black patients report in general that affects when and how black patients die. In December 2015, 57 year-old Barbara Dawson was arrested and forcibly removed from Calhoun Liberty Hospital near Tallahassee, Florida, after she refused to leave without further treatment. Although she had been evaluated in the hospital, she was discharged despite her continued complaints of difficulty breathing. Hospital personnel apparently assumed she was faking her symptoms and called police to arrest her for being disruptive. Dawson collapsed before she could be placed in the police cruiser and was returned to the hospital where she died an hour later from an undetected blood clot in her lungs.
Dawson may or may not have been at the end of life when she arrived at the hospital. However, hospital staff allowed her condition to deteriorate by not taking her complaints seriously. She died only feet away from people who could have, at minimum, eased her process of dying. The hospital was later fined US $45,000, and Dawson’s estate settled a lawsuit against the hospital for $200,000 in 2017.
Dawson’s experience is a dramatic and appalling case. Nevertheless, one groundbreaking study revealed that physicians generally interact less – both verbally and nonverbally – with black patients who are dying than with white patients who are dying. At the end of their lives, black patients do not receive the same comfort care, including eye contact and touch, from physicians that white patients do.
The U.S. health care system can improve care for all patients at the end of life. However, this system still denies black patients the kinds of interventions that white patients often take for granted. This denial contributes to more painful, horrific deaths of black patients and compounds the grief of their loved ones.
In my father’s case, even as part of me still hoped for a miracle, the thing I wanted most in the world was for him to be as comfortable as possible. That this did not happen despite my best efforts still haunts me when I think about the end of my father’s life.
Tobacco farmer’s son endorses smoking ban in most workplaces
By ADAM BEAM
Tuesday, February 5
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The son of a tobacco farmer running for governor in Kentucky endorsed a statewide smoking ban in most workplaces on Tuesday, a sign of the evolving tobacco politics in a state once dominated by the cancer-causing cash crop.
Adam Edelen grew up on a tobacco farm in Meade County and said he was raised to believe “Santa Claus lived in the tobacco patch.” But in a state with one of the highest adult and youth smoking rates in the country, Edelen said he felt compelled to endorse a plan that would ban smoking at enclosed workplaces, including bars and restaurants with three or more employees. Facilities that specialize in tobacco products and services would be exempt, he said.
“I also understand, I think better than anybody, the cultural hold that tobacco has had on Kentucky,” Edelen said. “But Kentuckians have got to stop being victims of our history. We’ve got to start building a better future.”
For decades, tobacco was an important cash crop that formed a pillar of this rural state’s economy. But like the coal industry, tobacco has faltered recently because of a mix of market and political forces. Now, state regulators have painted anti-smoking murals on former tobacco barns that once filled the countryside.
Kentucky’s major cities have had public smoking bans in place for years. And most workplaces already ban smoking. But many rural areas of the state don’t have smoking bans, and it’s still OK to light a cigarette in some rural manufacturing plans and bars and restaurants, including bingo halls, according to Bonnie Hackbarth, spokeswoman for the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. Out of Kentucky’s 173 school districts, 99 do not ban tobacco products on school property or at school-sponsored events.
Legislative efforts to pass a statewide workplace smoking ban in Kentucky have stalled in recent years. Tobacco companies have spent millions of dollars lobbying the state legislature and are often among the top spenders for each session.
But public support for a statewide smoking ban has been growing. A 2017 poll by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky found more than seven in 10 people in Kentucky supported a statewide smoking ban, according to a telephone survey of 1,580 adults that had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percent.
“I think one of the reasons that we’ve not been successful in getting this passed is we haven’t had governors lead form the front on this issue,” Edelen said.
At least 25 states have enacted workplace smoking bans, and another five states have banned smoking in bars and restaurants, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, who is running for re-election, has said smoking bans should be a local issue. But he has chosen for his running mate Republican state Sen. Ralph Alvarado, a medical doctor who has led the fight for a statewide smoking ban.
Recently, Alvarado and other lawmakers have shifted their focus to ban all tobacco products at Kentucky’s public schools and school-sponsored events, a proposal that is gaining traction in the state legislature this year.
“It isn’t as simple as a governor saying, ‘I want it,’ or not. You have to have the buy-in of the legislature,” Alvarado said.
Kentucky’s Republican-controlled legislature raised cigarette taxes by 50 cents last year, bringing total taxes to $1.10 a pack. Lawmakers used the extra money to balance the budget, which included an increase in public education spending.
Tuesday, Edelen proposed increasing the cigarette tax to the national average of $1.70 a pack. He said he would use some of the extra money on smoking cessation programs. Edelen said he is a former smoker who quit “cold turkey” when his sons were born.
“I am not a nanny state candidate. I believe if you want to smoke you should be able to,” he said. “But I also believe those who choose not to smoke, those who choose to protect their health in the workplace or the health of their children have a right to a law that protects them.”
Edelen is one of four Democrats running for governor this year. The others are state Attorney General Andy Beshear, state House Minority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins and former state employee Geoff Young.
On the Republican side, Bevin is seeking re-election but faces challenges from William Woods, Ike Lawrence and state Rep. Robert Goforth.
The Republican and Democratic primaries are May 21.