Pope Francis in Iraq, Dalai Lama Receives COVID Vaccination, Catholic Bishops: Avoid Johnson & Johnson COVID Vaccine, Who is a Jew? COVID Vaccine Mandatory for 2021 Hajj, Methodist Split Moving Forward

Pope Francis in Iraq
Pope Francis Visits Sick NunIn the Ancient Iraqi City of Ur, which Christians, Muslims and Jews revere as the birthplace of Abraham, Pope Francis met with interfaith leaders and denounced extremism as a betrayal of religion. He praised recovery efforts after the defeat of ISIS and singled out young Muslim volunteers of Mosul who helped repair churches. The Pope decried the deaths of Yazidi men and Yazidi women, girls and children who were kidnapped and sold as slaves. Pope Francis also broke new ground when he met with Shia Muslim cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

Dalai Lama Receives COVID Vaccination

The Dalai Lama received an Oxford AstraZeneca COVID vaccination and urged others to get the vaccine. He later said on Twitter: “As we teach children to observe physical hygiene for its health benefits, we need to teach them to cultivate emotional hygiene — to tackle destructive emotions and find peace of mind.”

Catholic Bishops: Avoid Johnson & Johnson COVID Vaccine
New York Wants to Ban Religious Vaccine Exemptions to Help Control the Measles OutbreakOn March 2, Officials of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement on the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine recently approved for use in the United States: “The Johnson & Johnson vaccine … was developed, tested and is produced with abortion-derived cell lines raising additional moral concerns. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has judged that ‘when ethically irreproachable Covid-19 vaccines are not available … it is morally acceptable to receive Covid-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process.’ However, if one can choose among equally safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, the vaccine with the least connection to abortion-derived cell lines should be chosen. Therefore, if one has the ability to choose a vaccine, Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccines should be chosen over Johnson & Johnson’s.”

Who is a Jew?

Israel’s Supreme Court ruled recently that people who convert to Judaism through the Reform and Conservative movements are also Jewish and entitled to become citizens. The ruling focused on who is Jewish and gave an important victory to the Reform and Conservative movements which have been marginalized in Israel and which represent the majority of affiliated American Jews.

COVID Vaccine Mandatory for 2021 Hajj

Muslim Hajj

Muslim Hajj

Saudi Arabia’s Health Ministry has ruled that in order to attend the Hajj in Mecca this year, Muslims must have received the COVID-19 vaccine. Only 1,000 Saudi citizens were allowed to attend the 2020 Hajj because of the pandemic, even though it is the duty of all Muslims to attend once in their lives. The Hajj this year is expected to start around July 17.

Methodist Split Moving Forward
Methodist Pastor Fired for Marrying LGBT CoupleThe United Methodist Church has been planning to divide over the issue of homosexuality, and drafted a “Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation.” The meeting to ratify the plan was delayed by the pandemic, but some details have emerged. Traditionalists committed to leaving the church have chosen “Global Methodist Church” as the name for the denomination they plan to launch. The work toward a new denomination is guided by a transitional leadership council, which includes some retired United Methodist bishops.