Italy military chaplain hits back at vaccine-mandate critic

Publish Date : 2022-02-02 00:00:00


Italy military chaplain hits back at vaccine-mandate critic

ROME (AP) — Italy’s Catholic military chaplain has pushed back strongly against calls by a former Vatican ambassador for the armed forces to resist COVID-19 vaccine mandates, saying the ambassador’s “conspiracy theories” were a source of confusion and disinformation.

Archbishop Santo Marcianò penned a letter to Italian law enforcement personnel in response to the latest missive from Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the Vatican’s onetime U.S. ambassador who went rogue in 2018 after calling for Pope Francis to resign over the clergy sexual abuse scandal.

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Vigano’s anti-Francis missives have become increasingly unhinged, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, which he has denied and termed a criminal pretext by a “globalist oligarchy” to enslave humanity. He nevertheless has some supporters and recently appeared via video at a protest in Rome where he called for acts of civil disobedience to resist vaccine mandates.

Marciano didn’t identify Vigano by name in his letter on Monday to Italy’s armed forces, but he was clearly referring to him when he recalled that a “former apostolic nuncio, noted for his conspiracy theories, has recently urged men and women in law enforcement to acts of disobedience.”

Marciano said he felt the need as a pastor to address the military in light of such “extreme positions that are in dissonance with the directives of health and public authorities as well as in open contrast with the indications of the church.”

His aim, he said, was “to strengthen their commitment and reassure their consciences, reaffirming the position of our Church in terms of vaccination against Covid 19, filially and decisively aligned with the teachings and testimony of the Holy Father.”

Italy has required health care workers, teachers, law enforcement personnel and everyone over age 50 to be vaccinated. It has maintained strict mask mandates indoors and out and is beginning to see a sharp decline in daily cases following the latest omicron-fueled spike.

Omicron is less likely to cause severe illness than the previous delta variant, according to studies. Omicron spreads even more easily than other coronavirus strains, and has already become dominant in many countries. It also more easily infects those who have been vaccinated or had previously been infected by prior versions of the virus.

Marciano thanked Italy’s armed forces for their service and recalled that both civilians and military have a responsibility to protect their own lives and those of others.

Marciano is one of the few prelates to publicly push back against Vigano, a leading Francis critic whose missives are usually ignored by the Catholic hierarchy.

Oil cartel OPEC and allied producing countries are sticking with cautious increases in the amount of oil they send to the global economy, a decision likely to support prices that are near seven-year highs amid fears of a Russian military move against Ukraine.

The alliance of OPEC members led by Saudi Arabia and non-members led by Russia agreed Wednesday to add 400,000 barrels per day in March. That is in line with plans by the OPEC+ group to add that amount of oil every month and gradually restore deep cuts made during the depths of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

The move comes as oil prices hover near their highest levels since 2014, pushing up gasoline costs for drivers. U.S. oil traded up 1.2% at $89.28, while international benchmark Brent crude was priced at $90.09, up 1%.

Prices at those levels have led to pressure for more production from the U.S. and other consuming countries, which in November announced a coordinated release of oil from national reserves, a step that has not done much to curb the increase in prices as the economy bounces back from the pandemic and consumes more fuel for travel and industry.

U.S. drivers are paying an average of $3.36 per gallon for gasoline, up 8 cents from a month ago and 94 cents from a year ago, according to motor club federation AAA. In Germany, gasoline prices hit a record 1.71 euros per liter, the equivalent of $7.31 per gallon. Taxes make up a larger proportion of gas prices in Europe.

Recent price rises also have been fed by the tensions in eastern Europe, where uncertainty around Russia and Ukraine has raised fears that Russian oil supplies could be interrupted if diplomatic talks break down and U.S. and European sanctions materialize.

Russia is a major oil and gas producer. Some analysts think, however, that any sanctions imposed by the U.S. and Europe would seek to spare energy supplies.

Some OPEC member countries, such as Nigeria and Angola, have been unable to ramp up production due to lagging oil investment. That raises the question of whether countries that can produce more — such as de facto OPEC leader Saudi Arabia — can fill the gap.

OPEC+ has a stake in stable price developments: While higher prices benefit state budgets in producing countries, members may not want to see them shoot to levels over $100 per barrel, when they might begin to erode demand from transportation and industry.



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