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VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis issued a letter to Catholics around the world Monday condemning the crime of priestly sexual abuse and its cover-up and demanding accountability, in response to new revelations in the United States of decades of misconduct by the Catholic Church.

Francis begged forgiveness for the pain suffered by victims and said lay Catholics must be involved in any effort to root out abuse and cover-up. He blasted the clerical culture that has been blamed for the crisis, with church leaders more concerned for their reputation than the safety of children.

“With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives,” Francis wrote. “We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them.”

The Vatican issued the three-page letter ahead of Francis’ trip this weekend to Ireland, a once staunchly Roman Catholic country where the church’s credibility has been devastated by years of revelations that priests raped and molested children with impunity and their superiors covered up for them.

Priestly sex abuse was always expected to dominate the trip, but the issue has taken on new gravity following revelations in the U.S. that one of Francis’ trusted cardinals, the retired archbishop of Washington, Theodore McCarrick, allegedly sexually abused and harassed minors as well as adult seminarians.

In addition, a grand jury report in Pennsylvania last week reported that at least 1,000 children were victims of some 300 priests over the past 70 years, and that generations of bishops failed repeatedly to take measures to protect their flock or punish the rapists.

In the letter, which was issued in seven languages, Francis referred to the Pennsylvania report, acknowledged that no effort to beg forgiveness of the victims will be sufficient but vowed “never again.”

He said, looking to the future, “no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated.”

Francis didn’t, however, provide any indication of what concrete measures he is prepared to take to sanction those bishops — in the U.S. and beyond — who covered up for sexually abusive priests.

Francis several years ago scrapped a proposed Vatican tribunal to prosecute negligent bishops, and he has refused to act on credible reports from around the world of bishops who have failed to report abusers to police or otherwise botched handling cases, and yet remain in office.

Francis also has kept on his nine-member kitchen cabinet a Chilean cardinal long accused of covering up for pedophiles, an Australian cardinal currently on trial for historic sex abuse charges and a Honduran cardinal recently implicated in a gay priest sex scandal involving his trusted deputy.

In Chile, where a church sex abuse scandal exploded earlier this year, Francis strong-armed the country’s 31 active bishops to offer their resignations en masse over their handling of abuse. So far he has accepted five of their resignations.

Unlike the U.S. bishops’ conference, which has referred only to “sins and omissions” in their handling of abuse in response to the Pennsylvania report, Francis labeled the misconduct “crimes.”

“Let us beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others,” he wrote in the letter. “An awareness of sin helps us to acknowledge the errors, the crimes and the wounds caused in the past and allows us, in the present, to be more open and committed along a journey of renewed conversion.”

It was the second Vatican response in recent days to the Pennsylvania grand jury report, which has sparked a crisis in confidence in the U.S. Catholic leadership and led to calls for ordinary faithful to withhold donations.

Last week, the Vatican spokesman issued a statement calling the abuses described in the report “criminal and morally reprehensible” and said there must be accountability for those who raped children “and those who permitted abuse to occur.”

Subsequently, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said it was planning to ask Francis to authorize a Vatican investigation into the McCarrick scandal, since it was apparently an open secret in some Catholic circles that the cardinal regularly invited seminarians to his New Jersey beach house, and into his bed.

There has been no comment from the Vatican as to whether the pope would approve such an investigation. The question is delicate, given there is evidence that Vatican officials knew as early as 2000 of McCarrick’s penchant for seminarians, yet still appointed him as Washington archbishop and a cardinal.

The Vatican has long been loath to investigate its own, especially since many of the Vatican officials in charge in 2000 are still alive, albeit retired.

Any investigation into McCarrick that goes to the top would likely implicate St. John Paul II and his closest advisers. They have already been implicated in the decades-long cover-up of one of the 20th century’s most notorious priestly pedophiles, the late founder of the Legion of Christ, the Rev. Marcial Maciel, but have never been held to account.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says he is canceling his plans for a military parade through the streets of Washington because the price was “ridiculously high.”

On Twitter, Trump accused local politicians of price gouging, although the projected $92 million cost was largely attributed to Pentagon costs for aircraft, equipment and personnel.

Trump tweeted “maybe we will do something next year when the cost comes WAY DOWN.”

The Defense Department had already said the parade wouldn’t happen this year.

Trump had called for the patriotic show of force last year after watching France’s Bastille Day celebration in the center of Paris at the invitation of the French president. But the project has been beset with logistical hurdles, such as the damage heavy tanks would do to city streets and an exorbitant price tag.

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VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican expressed “shame and sorrow” on Thursday about a scathing Pennsylvania grand jury report about clergy who raped and molested children in six dioceses and decried the abuse as “criminally and morally reprehensible.”

In uncharacteristically strong language for the Holy See even in matters like the long running abuse scandals staining the U.S. church, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said that victims should know “the pope is on their side.”

Pope Francis himself wasn’t quoted in the statement, and there was no mention of demands in the United States among some Catholics for the resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington.

The grand jury report made public this week accused the cardinal of helping to protect some molester priests while he was previously bishop of Pittsburgh, Pennsylania.

Burke, in the statement, described the abuse in the report as “betrayals of trust that robbed survivors of their dignity and their faith. The church must learn hard lessons from its past, and there should be accountability for both abusers and those who permitted abuse to occur.”

Pope Francis had recently accepted the resignation from cardinal’s rank of former Washington archbishop Theodore McCarrick for alleged sexual misconduct. It was the first time a prelate had lost his cardinal’s rank in a sexual abuse scandal, and Francis was stepping up his crackdown on the abuse to include some of the highest ranking churchmen.

Burke said that Francis “understands well how much these crimes can shake the faith and the spirit of believers and reiterates the call to make every effort to create a safe environment for minors and vulnerable adults in the church and in all of society.”

The grand jury report documented how pedophile priests were often protected by church hierarchy or moved to other postings without the faithful being told of the priests’ sexual predatory history.

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JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The new leader of Amnesty International says many world leaders, especially President Donald Trump, are rolling back gains made in respecting human rights.

Kumi Naidoo describes the Trump administration’s separation of families at U.S. borders as “one of the worst atrocities” the world has seen in a long time.

The South African-born former anti-apartheid activist began a four-year term at the helm of the London-based rights group on Wednesday. He says the challenges to human rights in the world today mean that his organization must show “maximum courage.”

He singles out the governments of Saudi Arabia, Hungary, Yemen and the Philippines as ones he says are failing to respect human rights.

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GENOA, Italy (AP) — The death toll from the collapse of a highway bridge in the Italian city of Genoa that is already confirmed to have claimed 39 lives will certainly rise, a senior official said Thursday.

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini told reporters: “Unfortunately, the toll will increase, that’s inevitable.” as searchers continued to comb through tons of jagged steel, concrete and dozens of vehicles that plunged as much as 45 meters (150 feet) into a dry river bed on Tuesday, the eve of Italy’s main summer holiday.

Salvini declined to cite a number of the missing, saying that would be “supposition,” but separately Genoa Chief Prosecutor Francesco Cozzi told reporters there could be between 10 and 20 people still buried under the rubble.

“The search and rescue operations will continue until we find all those people that are listed as missing,” Sonia Noci, a spokeswoman for Genoa firefighters, told The Associated Press.

Italy is planning a state funeral for the dead in the port city Saturday, which will be marked as a day of national mourning. The service will be held in a pavilion on the industrial city’s fair grounds and led by Genoa’s archbishop, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella has said the collapse is an “absurd” catastrophe that has stricken the entire nation.

At least six of the dead are foreigners — four French citizens and two Albanians.

Authorities say they don’t know how many vehicles were on the bridge when it collapsed in a violent rain storm.

Cozzi has said the investigation of the cause is focusing on possible inadequate maintenance of the 1967 Morandi Bridge or possible design flaws.

Premier Giuseppe Conte says his government won’t wait until prosecutors finish investigating the collapse to withdraw the concession from the main private company that maintains Italy’s highways, Atlantia.

The bridge links two heavily traveled highways, one leading to France, the other to Milan.

A 20 million-euro ($22.7 million) project to upgrade the bridge’s safety had already been approved, with public bids to be submitted by September. According to business daily Il Sole, improvement work would have involved two weight-bearing columns that support the bridge — including one that collapsed Tuesday.

The bridge, considered innovative when it opened in 1967 for its use of concrete around its cables, was long due for an upgrade, especially since it carried more traffic than its designers had envisioned. Some architects have said the choice of encasing its cables in reinforced concrete was risky since it’s harder to detect corrosion of the metal cables inside.
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Frances D’Emilio reported from Rome. Colleen Barry in Milan contributed to this report.

Follow D’Emilio at http://www.twitter.com/fdemilio

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ROME (AP) — Italy’s deputy premier, Luigi Di Maio, is blaming the collapse of a major highway bridge in Genoa on a lack of maintenance by the private company that operates many of the nation’s toll highways.

Speaking in Genoa, Di Maio said Wednesday that he was looking at revoking highway concessions.

He said of the holding company that controls Autostrade Per Italia: “instead of investing money for maintenance, they divide the profits and that is why the bridge falls.”

Di Maio, who leads the anti-business 5-Star Movement party that is part of Italy’s coalition government, took a swipe at the Benneton group, which controls Autostrade SRL through its Atlantia holding company. He blamed previous Italian governments of turning a blind eye to the health of the nation’s toll highways because of political contributions.

Autostrade controls 3,020 kilometers (1,876 miles) of Italian highways.

Genoa prosecutor Francesco Cozzi says the investigation into the fatal bridge collapse is focusing on maintenance and the design of the 51-year-old bridge.

Cozzi told reporters Wednesday that he didn’t know if anyone bore legal responsibility for the collapse that killed at least 39 people but he said “for sure it was not an accident.”

Cozzi said there were no pending complaints involving the bridge in recent years, and that they were also checking archives.

But he noted if there had been serious concerns about the safety of the bridge in the prosecutor’s office “none of us would have driven over that highway 20 times a month as we do.”

Still, the head of Italy’s transport department has said that a $22.7 million safety upgrade for the bridge had been planned.

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MILAN (AP) — A bridge on a main highway linking Italy with France collapsed Tuesday in the Italian port city of Genoa during a sudden, violent storm, sending vehicles plunging 45 meters (nearly 150 feet) into a heap of rubble. Italian officials said at least 20 people were killed, although some people were found alive in the debris.

A huge section of the Morandi Bridge fell at midday over an industrial zone, sending tons of twisted steel and concrete onto warehouses below. Photos from the Italian news agency ANSA showed a massive gap between two sections of the bridge.

The head of Italy’s civil protection agency, Angelo Borrelli, said 30-35 cars and three heavy trucks were on the 80-meter (260-foot) section of the bridge that collapsed.

Hundreds of firefighters and emergency officials were searching for survivors in the rubble with heavy equipment. Firefighters said at least two people were pulled alive from vehicles and taken by helicopter to a hospital.

Video of the collapse captured a man screaming: “Oh, God! Oh, God!” Other images showed a green truck that had stopped just short of the gaping hole in the bridge and the tires of a tractor trailer in the rubble.

There was confusion over the exact death toll.

Borrelli said at a news conference in Rome that 20 people were killed and 13 injured. All the victims appeared to all have been in vehicles that plunged from the bridge, he said.

But an Italian transport official, Edoardo Rixi, had said 22 people were killed and 13 injured, and the governor of the Liguria region, Giovanni Toti, also said 22 were killed. Rixi said the death toll was expected to rise.

The collapse came on the eve of a major Italian summer holiday on Wednesday called Ferragosto, which marks the religious feast of the Assumption of Mary. It’s the high point of the Italian summer holiday season when most cities and business are closed and Italians head to the beaches or the mountains. That means traffic could have been heavier than usual on the Genoa highway.

The Morandi Bridge is a main thoroughfare connecting the A10 highway that goes toward France and the A7 highway that continues north toward Milan. Inaugurated in 1967, it is 45 meters (148 feet) high and just over a kilometer (.6 miles) long.

Borrelli said highway engineers were checking other parts of the bridge and that some areas were being evacuated as a precaution. He said they were still trying to figure out the reason for the collapse.

“You can see there are very big portions of the bridge (that collapsed). We need to remove all of the rubble to ascertain that all of the people have been reached,” he said, adding that more than 280 rescue workers and dogs units were on the scene.

“Operations are ongoing to extract people imprisoned below parts of the bridge and twisted metal,” he said.

Borrelli said there was no construction going on at the time on the bridge.

Firefighters told The Associated Press they were worried about gas lines exploding in the area from the collapse.

Transportation Minister Danilo Toninelli called the collapse “an enormous tragedy.”

ANSA said Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte will travel to Genoa later in the day.

“We are following minute by minute the situation,” Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said on Twitter.

The disaster occurred on a highway that connects Italy to France, and northern cities like Milan to the beaches of Liguria.

On Aug. 6, another major accident occurred on an Italian highway near the northern city of Bologna. A tanker truck carrying a highly flammable gas exploded after rear-ending a stopped truck and getting hit from behind. The accident killed one person, injured dozens and blew apart a section of a raised eight-lane highway.

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LONDON (AP) — A car crashed into pedestrians and cyclists near the Houses of Parliament in London Tuesday and police arrested a man on suspicion of terrorism, heightening tensions in a city that has seen a string-of vehicle-based terror attacks.

Two people were taken to local hospitals, but authorities said the injuries aren’t believed to be life-threatening.

Armed police swooped into the area after the incident was reported at 7:37 a.m., arresting the car driver and cordoning off streets surrounding the heart of Britain’s government. The nearby Westminster subway station was closed, and police asked people to stay away from the area.

“At this stage, we are treating this as a terrorist incident and the (Metropolitan Police) Counter Terrorism Command is now leading the investigation,” the police said in a statement.

A man in his late 20s was arrested at the scene on suspicion of terrorist offenses, police said. Images from Sky News and social media showed a man in a puffy black jacket who was surrounded by officers before being handcuffed and led away from a silver car.

Eyewitnesses said the car was traveling at high speed when it hit several pedestrians and cyclists, then crashed into barriers outside the Houses of Parliament. Several suggested the incident was deliberate.

“The car drove at speed into the barriers outside the House of Lords. There was a loud bang from the collision and a bit of smoke,” Ewelina Ochab told The Associated Press.

“The driver did not get out. The guards started screaming to people to move away.”
Jason Williams also saw a car moving at high speed.

“It didn’t look like an accident,” he said. “How do you do that by accident?”

The same area was the site of a terror attack in March 2017, when Khalid Masood ploughed a car into crowds on Westminster Bridge, killing four people. Masood abandoned his car and then stabbed and killed a police officer before being shot dead in a courtyard outside Parliament.

Less than three months later, a van rammed into pedestrians on London Bridge before three men abandoned the vehicle and attacked weekend revelers in the nearby Borough Market. Eight people were killed and 48 injured in the attack.

On June 19, 2017, a man drove a van into a crowd of worshippers leaving a mosque in north London, killing one man and injuring eight others.

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ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey’s president appeared to escalate a dispute with the United States that has helped foment a Turkish currency crisis, claiming Tuesday that his country will boycott U.S.-made electronic goods. Behind the scenes, however, diplomats resumed contact to ease tensions.

Addressing a conference of his ruling party faithful in the capital, Recep Tayyip Erdogan added fuel to the spat with the U.S., even as local business groups called on his government to settle the dispute through diplomacy.

Investors seemed to look through the fiery rhetoric, pushing the lira off record lows on reports that Turkish and U.S. government officials held talks on Monday.

“We will implement a boycott against America’s electronic goods,” Erdogan told the conference. He suggested Turks would buy local or Korean phones instead of U.S.-made iPhones, though it was unclear how he intended to enforce the boycott.

The move is seen to be in retaliation to United States’ decision to sanction two Turkish ministers over the continued detention of an American pastor on terror-related charges, and to double tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum imports.

Behind the scenes, however, diplomatic dialogue appears to have resumed. Turkey’s state-run news agency and U.S. officials say U.S. National Security adviser John Bolton had met with the Turkish ambassador to Washington on Monday.

That helped ease tensions in financial markets, with the Turkish lira stabilizing somewhat near record lows. It was up 5 percent on Tuesday, at 6.55 per dollar, having fallen 42 percent so far this year, with most of those losses coming in recent weeks.

Investors are worried not only about Turkey’s souring relations with the U.S., a longtime NATO ally, but also Erdogan’s economic policies and the country’s high debt accumulated in foreign currencies. Independent economists say Erdogan should let the central bank raise interest rates to support the currency, but he wants low rates to keep the economic growth going.

In a joint statement issued Tuesday, the industrialists’ group TUSIAD and the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges called on the government to allow the central bank to raise interest rates to help overcome the currency crisis.

The business groups also urged diplomatic efforts with the United States and an improvement in relations with the European Union, which is Turkey’s major trading partner.

The state-run Anadolu Agency said the finance chief would address hundreds of foreign investors on Thursday in a teleconference.

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