Mallorca Dethrone Real Madrid As La Liga Leaders

Real Madrid’s Spanish defender Sergio Ramos gestures during the Spanish league football match RCD Mallorca against Real Madrid CF at the Iberostar estadi stadium in Palma de Mallorca on October 19, 2019. JAIME REINA / AFP

 

Real Mallorca handed Real Madrid their first league defeat of the season on Saturday, to leave Barcelona who beat Eibar 3-0 earlier on top of La Liga.

Junior Lago scored what will be the only goal of the game just seven minutes in with the much-criticised Thibaut Courtois failing to stop the first shot sent his way.

Newly-promoted Real Mallorca held on after that, putting on a disciplined defensive display to the delight of their fans at the Estadi de Son Moix in Palma.

The victory lifted them out of the relegation zone and marks a step back for Zinedine Zidane whose men have failed to convince in the league and face a battle to avert disaster in the Champions League after failing to win their first two group clashes.

Real Madrid had come into the game deprived by injury of several first-team members. Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, Dani Carvajal, and Raphael Varane were unavailable and Eden Hazard was left out after his wife gave birth.

In their absence, Zidane fielded an attack-minded team with Isco and James Rodriguez getting the nod in midfield, while Vinicius Junior and Luka Jovic joined Karim Benzema upfront.

Eder Militao partnered Captain Sergio Ramos at centre-back, while Alvaro Odriozola replaced Carvajal at right-back.

Fans would have expected Real to easily pick up all three points, Lago Junior’s beautiful early strike put Mallorca on course for victory.

Odriozola, in particular, had a poor game being partly at fault for the first goal and picking up a second yellow card late in the second half to leave a Real Madrid side already short of ideas with a mountain to climb.

Not only did they fail to accomplish the task, but they were also fortunate not to concede a second goal as they left themselves exposed on occasions as they pushed for an equaliser.

Messi, Suarez, Griezmann All On Target As Barca Move Top Of La Liga

Barcelona’s Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez (L) celebrates after scoring during their match against SD Eibar at the Ipurua stadium in Eibar on October 19, 2019. STRINGER / AFP

 

Barcelona’s ‘MSG’ strike force is finally clicked into gear as Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann all scored in a ruthless 3-0 victory over Eibar on Saturday.

Griezmann’s place in the newly-formed attacking trident has not been secure but the Frenchman opened the scoring at Ipurua before teeing up Messi and then playing the crucial pass for Suarez to make it three.

“There will be good and bad days but we are getting to know each other and bit by bit we will do even better,” said Griezmann.

An authoritative Barca display thrust them to the top of La Liga, for a few hours at least before Real Madrid play Real Mallorca. They moved three points clear of Atletico, who drew 1-1 at home to Valencia.

The victory also dismissed suggestions their players might be affected by Friday’s postponement of next Saturday’s Clasico due to protests in Catalonia.

Violence in Barcelona and disruptions at El Prat airport meant Ernesto Valverde’s side altered their pre-match routine and embarked on a 589-kilometre bus trip to the Basque County on Friday.

All the while, discussions continued over the Clasico against Real Madrid, which is now expected to go ahead in December.

“It is fashionable not to agree on political issues but at least let’s agree on the date of the Clasico,” Valverde said afterwards. “It doesn’t seem to me that difficult.”

Perhaps chaos off the pitch inspired Barca to unite on it.

This was their fifth consecutive victory in all competitions, a sequence which is swiftly erasing memories of a stumbling start to the season.

The resurgence has coincided with Messi’s return from injury yet it was the fluidity and cohesion of the front three, rather than the Argentinian’s familiar solo brilliance, that will have been most pleasing for Valverde.

“Great players always understand each other,” Valverde said. “With time and matches they will understand each other even more.”

Four for Griezmann

Griezmann has four goals since joining Barca from Atletico Madrid last summer but a series of underwhelming showings led to Ousmane Dembele starting against Sevilla before the international break.

There was good news too for Barcelona in defence, where Samuel Umtiti came through 90 minutes in what was his first appearance of the season. Umtiti, who has been out with a foot injury, replaced the banned Gerard Pique.

The only blot on the result was an injury to Sergi Roberto, who hurt his left knee and was replaced at half-time. He will be a doubt for the Champions League game away at Slavia Prague on Wednesday.

The visiting fans chanted in support of the nine Catalan leaders imprisoned last week for a failed independence bid in 2017.

Griezmann’s finish clipped the inside of the post and found the net after 13 minutes.

Messi should have made it two before half-time but was denied one-on-one by goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic. Suarez’s effort was ruled out for offside.

Barca made it two just before the hour as Frenkie de Jong’s incisive ball was collected by Suarez. As he lost control, Griezmann took over, flicking left to Messi, who made no mistake.

The third involved all three again. Griezmann’s superb reverse pass set Messi clear and he generously slipped the ball left for Suarez who was left with an open goal.

Atletico lost ground as they were undone by a late Dani Parejo free-kick against Valencia at the Wanda Metropolitano, where both sides finished the game with 10 men.

Diego Costa scored a first-half penalty and in a frantic final 10 minutes, Joao Felix limped off with all three of Diego Simeone’s substitutes already used.

Parejo struck in the 82nd minute and Valencia’s Lee Kang-In was sent off in injury-time.

Atletico confirmed Felix suffered a “bad twist” in his right ankle. His fitness will be a concern for Simeone ahead of Atletico’s Champions League game at home to Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday.

“At first it didn’t look like much but the doctors think it could be serious,” said Simeone.

AFP

Man City Return To Winning Ways But Guardiola Wants Killer Touch

Manchester City’s Spanish midfielder David Silva (C) celebrates after scoring their second goal during the match. Ian KINGTON / AFP

 

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola called on his side to be more clinical after they brushed aside in-form Crystal Palace 2-0 on Saturday to narrow the gap to Premier League leaders Liverpool to five points.

The defending champions travelled to London with questions over their ability to sustain a title challenge after two defeats in four league games but produced some incisive football without applying their usual killer touch.

City had 21 shots but Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey kept his side in the game and the visitors had their own ‘keeper, Ederson, to thank for a couple of outstanding saves at the other end.

“We played good, created a lot of chances,” said City boss Guardiola. “They are always so strong for the second ball. Unfortunately, we could not convert the chances we had but it was an important three points after the international break.

“Hopefully we can start from here and continue our good performance. Their ‘keeper made a lot of saves but hopefully, we can be more clinical.”

He praised his makeshift defence on a day when John Stones made his first appearance, from the bench, since September.

READ ALSO: Alli Saves Spurs From Another Defeat

City were quickly into their stride against Roy Hodgson’s men, dominating possession and forcing Palace onto the back foot but they did not break the deadlock until shortly before half-time.

Jesus strikes

The visitors were rewarded for their dominance in the 39th minute when Bernardo Silva whipped in a left-footed cross. Gabriel Jesus shaped to head the ball but it came off his shoulder and crept into the net off the far post past a rooted Hennessey.

They doubled their lead just two minutes later following a speedy counter-attack.

When the ball came to Raheem Sterling he produced a delightful chip from just inside the area into the path of David Silva, who watched it drop over his left shoulder before guiding it into the net.

Palace occasionally looked threatening, with Wilfried Zaha a flickering menace, but failed to make the most of their few opportunities to test City’s back four.

Jesus was preferred to Sergio Aguero while Riyad Mahrez was also missing from the starting side, with Fernandinho and Rodri at the heart of defence.

The second half followed a similar pattern to the first, with City in charge. Kevin De Bruyne was denied a penalty after a VAR check backed up the referee’s original decision not to award a spot-kick.

Jesus forced a smart save from Hennessey before Bernardo Silva forced Hennessey into a one-handed save with a curling left-foot shot from the angle.

Hodgson threw on Christian Benteke for Luka Milivojevic with about 15 minutes to go and the Belgian almost scored with his first touch, rising highest to head the ball goalwards from a corner only to see Ederson push the ball onto the crossbar.

City should have killed the game off moments later but Jesus failed to square the ball to the unmarked De Bruyne.

Ederson produced another stunning save from Zaha’s strike minutes before the end.

Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, who have a perfect record of eight wins out of eight games, can restore their eight-point lead if they beat Manchester United on Sunday.

City’s next two Premier League games against Aston Villa and Southampton look winnable but they face a crucial match against Liverpool at Anfield on November 10.

AFP

Coppola Backs Scorsese, Calls Marvel Films ‘Despicable’

US film director Francis Ford Coppola (R) speaks next to French filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier (L) during the 11th Lumiere Film Festival in Lyon, France, on October 18, 2019.
ROMAIN LAFABREGUE / AFP

 

 

Francis Ford Coppola jumped into a controversy over the Marvel superhero movies Saturday, not just backing fellow director Martin Scorsese’s critique of the films but denouncing them as “despicable”.

Earlier this month Scorsese, director of classics such as “Taxi Driver” and “Goodfellas”, described the Marvel universe films as more theme parks than cinema, even if they were well made.

His remarks made waves across social media for days, as fans of his work and the Marvel hits such as the Avengers films, argued the merits.

But Coppola, speaking to journalists in the French city of Lyon, where he has just been awarded the Prix Lumiere for his contribution to cinema, backed his fellow Italian-American Scorsese.

“When Martin Scorsese says that the Marvel pictures are not cinema, he’s right because we expect to learn something from cinema, we expect to gain something, some enlightenment, some knowledge, some inspiration.

“I don’t know that anyone gets anything out of seeing the same movie over and over again,” the 80-year-old filmmaker said.

“Martin was kind when he said it’s not cinema. He didn’t say it’s despicable, which I just say it is.”

Veteran filmmaker Martin Scorsese (pictured at the international premiere of his critically acclaimed film “The Irishman” in London on October 13, 2019) does not think highly of Marvel films. DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP

 

Coppola also said he was working on his biggest project yet: “Megalopolis”, a film about a utopia, a project he has nurtured for two decades.

“I wanted to make a film about a human expression of what really is heaven on earth.

“I would say it’s the most ambitious film (I’ve worked on) — more than ‘Apocalypse Now’. That’s the problem,” he added.

“Apocalypse Now”, his 1979 war epic starring Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando, is notorious for the vast amount of time and money it ate up during production.

“I think it would cost more than ‘Apocalypse Now’,” said Coppola. “It would be the biggest budget I ever had to work with.”

Coppola, the director of the “Godfather” films, joins an illustrious list of film-makers and actors to have received the Prix Lumiere, including Scorsese, Pedro Almodovar and Milos Forman.

AFP

Alli Saves Spurs From Another Defeat To Bottom Club Watford

Tottenham Hotspur’s English midfielder Dele Alli (C) controls the ball during the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Watford at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, on January 1, 2019. Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

Dele Alli struck four minutes from time to prevent Tottenham suffering another demoralising Premier League defeat, but their struggles continued in a 1-1 draw with bottom-of-the-table Watford on Saturday.

The Hornets have still not won in the league since April and will rue a series of missed chances after Abdoulaye Doucoure put them in front after just six minutes.

Spurs seemed set for a third straight defeat after humiliating heavy losses to Bayern Munich and Brighton before the international break.

But a mix-up between Ben Foster and Kiko Femenia handed Alli an equaliser to at least salvage a point for last season’s Champions League finalists.

Mauricio Pochettino insisted prior to the game that he remained sure Spurs’ quality will eventually shine through this season.

But once again the Argentine again failed to rouse a response from his side as doubts over his ability to turn the tide in his sixth season in charge grow.

Tottenham have now won just three of their first 12 games in all competitions and, just like at Brighton a fortnight ago, they paid a heavy price for a slow start.

The match had barely started before Watford were forced into a substitution when Danny Welbeck hobbled off to be replaced by Gerard Deulofeu.

And Spurs were caught napping when play got back underway as Daryl Janmaat got in behind Danny Rose and crossed for Doucoure to apply the finish.

Impotent Spurs

After his exertions in a World Cup qualifier in North Korea for South Korea in midweek, Pochettino left Son Heung-min and club-record signing Tanguy Ndombele on the bench.

But Son’s spark was badly missed from an impotent Spurs before the break.

Indeed the hosts were fortunate to be just 1-0 down at half-time as Jan Vertonghen somehow escaped conceding a penalty for bringing down Deulofeu despite a VAR review.

Son was introduced for Davinson Sanchez at the break as Pochettino switched formation and he instantly offered more pace and directness to the Spurs’ attack.

His powerful drive from a narrow angle was tipped onto the bar by Foster on 50 minutes.

But in Tottenham’s search for an equaliser they were leaving huge gaps for the visitors to exploit on the counter-attack and Quique Sanchez Flores’s men lived to regret not at least doubling their advantage.

Serge Aurier’s last-ditch challenge denied Roberto Pereyra a simple chance after a purposeful burst from Deulofeu.

Doucoure then eased through the Spurs midfield before setting up Janmaat, who miscued his shot with the goal gaping.

Just as Tottenham seemed to be running out of ideas, Watford gifted them an equaliser when Foster collided with his own defender in Femenia and spilled the ball into the path of Alli, who swept the ball into an empty net for his first goal since January.

The visitors were infuriated as VAR checked the goal for a potential handball by Alli, but not a push by Harry Kane in the build-up.

Watford did at least withstand a late flurry from Tottenham to secure a point, but they remain rooted to the foot of the table.

AFP

Alonso Strike Gives Chelsea Victory Over Newcastle

Chelsea’s Spanish defender Marcos Alonso (R) shoots to score during the match on October 19, 2019. Oliver GREENWOOD / AFP

 

Chelsea climbed to third in the Premier League as Marcos Alonso clinched a 1-0 win that silenced the Newcastle fans who jeered the Spanish defender at Stamford Bridge.

Alonso’s blistering strike ended Newcastle’s stubborn resistance with 17 minutes left and provided the perfect riposte to the taunts from the stands.

The Chelsea left-back spent the second half of the 2013-14 season on loan at Newcastle’s arch-rivals Sunderland and played in a derby win at St James’ Park.

The Magpies supporters clearly hadn’t forgotten as they booed him throughout Saturday’s match.

But Alonso’s first goal since April gave him the last laugh as Chelsea made it five successive victories in all competitions.

After winning just two of their opening eight games under Frank Lampard, the Blues are beginning to find their stride.

The mature way Lampard’s young side kept probing and found a way to beat obdurate Newcastle bodes well for the future.

And for only the second time in Lampard’s 13 games in charge, Chelsea kept a clean sheet as the Blues boss celebrated just his second home league.

While a title challenge is likely to be beyond Chelsea, they look well equipped to challenge for a top-four finish.

Alonso celebrates after scoring the goal which helped Chelsea climb to third place in the Premier League. GREENWOOD / AFP

 

Newcastle have now won just one of their last 26 league visits to Chelsea after a defeat that punctured the momentum from their 1-0 win against Manchester United before the international break.

Fikayo Tomori, Ross Barkley, Mason Mount, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Tammy Abraham all featured for Chelsea, making it five English players in their starting line-up in the Premier League for the first time since February 2013.

Homegrown charge

Hudson-Odoi led the charge of Chelsea’s homegrown youngsters when he cleverly worked space for a cross that Willian headed wide.

Mount was next to contribute when the midfielder collected Hudson-Odoi’s pass and spun for a fierce shot that was pushed away by Martin Dubravka.

Alonso earned a yellow card for a crunching challenge on DeAndre Yedlin, prompting a barrage of abuse from the Newcastle supporters crammed into one corner of the Shed End.

Willian drilled wide from a tight angle as Chelsea monopolised possession without delivering the knockout blow.

Chelsea suffered a blow when Barkley limped off with a leg injury just before half-time.

But Lampard’s team continued to push Newcastle back after the interval and came close to taking the lead through Abraham.

With nine goals already this term, Abraham was inches away from getting into double figures when his header from Willian’s corner crashed against the bar.

Frustrated by Chelsea’s failure to make the breakthrough, Lampard sent on Christian Pulisic for Mount just after the hour.

Abraham was narrowly off-target with a towering header from Chelsea’s eighth corner.

Hudson-Odoi was a constant menace with his mesmerising bursts and when his cross found Pulisic, the United States winger was denied by Dubravka’s fine scrambling save.

Dubravka kept out Willian’s near-post drive as Chelsea poured forward.

The pressure finally told in the 73rd minute when Hudson-Odoi teed up Alonso, unmarked inside the Newcastle area, for a powerful effort that flashed under Dubravka’s hand into the far corner.

It took a superb block from Yedlin to stop Abraham increasing the lead, while Ciaran Clark looped a header just over as Newcastle nearly snatched a draw that would have been cruel on Chelsea.

AFP

British MPs Vote To Delay Brexit Deal Decision

A video grab from footage broadcast by the UK Parliament’s Parliamentary Recording Unit (PRU).
PRU / AFP

 

British MPs on Saturday voted to delay a decision on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, arguing they needed more time to study its contents before an October 31 deadline.

Lawmakers backed an amendment which effectively forces Johnson to ask Brussels for an extension until January next year, while they scrutinised the proposed domestic legislation to enforce the deal.

Johnson was defiant in responding to the result, despite conceding that the so-called “meaningful vote” on his divorce agreement with Brussels “has been voided of meaning”.

But he added: “The best thing for the UK and for the whole of Europe is for us to leave with this new deal on October 31.”

“I will not negotiate a delay with the EU, and neither does the law compel me to do so,” he said.

Johnson earlier argued that further delay — more than three years after the landmark 2016 referendum to leave the bloc — would be “pointless, expensive and deeply corrosive”.

MPs could still meet the October 31 deadline when the government introduces its formal withdrawal agreement bill in parliament next week.

In opting to back a delay, they are seeking to ensure they do not run out of time debating it and deliver by accident the no-deal Brexit they oppose.

Separate legislation passed last month requires Johnson to write to the EU requesting an extension if a deal has not been passed by October 19.

Johnson has said he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than ask for more time, but has also promised to obey the law.

The gathering marked parliament’s first Saturday sitting since the 1982 Falklands War.

 

Jury Recommends Death Sentence For ‘Hollywood Ripper’

Jury recommends death sentence for 'Hollywood Ripper'
In this file photo taken on May 2, 2019 photos of the deceased are displayed in court during opening statements in Los Angeles, California, in the trial of Michael Gargiulo (screen R).  Al SEIB / POOL / AFP

 

A jury in California recommended the death sentence on Friday for a man dubbed the “Hollywood Ripper” who was earlier found guilty in the gruesome killings of two women at their homes.

Michael Gargiulo, 43, was convicted in August on two counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder by a Los Angeles jury.

A judge is set to sentence Gargiulo, also described as the “boy next door killer,” on February 28.

Among his victims was 22-year-old Ashley Ellerin, who was found in her Hollywood home with 47 stab wounds in February 2001. On the night of her murder, Ellerin had been due to go on a date with actor Ashton Kutcher, who testified at the trial.

The second murder victim was Maria Bruno, a 32-year-old mother of four and neighbor of Gargiulo who was attacked in her sleep in December 2005 and “quite literally butchered,” prosecutors said.

Those who testified at the trial included Gargiulo’s teenage son, who pleaded with the jury to spare his dad’s life, and Michelle Murphy. She was stabbed eight times in her home by Gargiulo in April 2008 but survived.

Murphy said she woke up on that fateful night to find a man straddling her while he stabbed her in the arms and chest. She managed to fight him off and as he fled from the apartment he yelled “I’m sorry,” she testified.

In this file photo taken on August 6, 2019, Michael Gargiulo listens during closing statements in his capital murder trial in Los Angeles Superior Court. Lucy Nicholson / POOL / AFP

 

Prosecutors during the trial described Gargiulo, an air-conditioning repairman, as a ruthless killer who targeted women who lived near him and waited for the perfect opportunity to attack them at night in or near their homes in “totally planned killings.”

“Two and a Half Men” actor Kutcher told jurors he had gone to Ellerin’s home in Hollywood to pick her up for a date on the night she was murdered, but had arrived late and nobody had answered the door.

He said he had looked through a window and seen what he thought was red wine spilled on the floor before leaving, assuming she had already gone out.

Kutcher said he and Ellerin, a fashion design student, were acquaintances.

Gargiulo was arrested following the attack on Murphy in 2008 in her Santa Monica apartment.

His defense team has argued that he should not get the death sentence, describing their client as a mentally ill man who suffered abuse while growing up.

When his trial in Los Angeles ends, Gargiulo is set to be transferred to Illinois where he is facing charges for the 1993 murder of Tricia Pacaccio, 18, who was killed in front of her home after an evening out with friends.

Gargiulo at the time lived near Pacaccio’s home in the Chicago area and was friends with her brother. Years after the murder, when Gargiulo was already living in Los Angeles, his DNA was matched to the crime scene thanks to improved testing methods.

AFP

 

FG, Labour Reach Agreement On Implementation Of N30,000 Minimum Wage

 

The Federal Government and organised labour have reached an agreement on the implementation of the new minimum wage after three days of talks that ran through nights and ended in the wee hours of mornings.

At a meeting which started around 7 pm on Thursday and ended after 2 am on Friday, both sides finally agreed on the percentage increase for grade levels seven to 17.

The adjustments for the various wages structures were decided as follows:

COMESS wage structure

Grade level seven= 23 per cent, level 8=20 per cent, level 9=19 per cent, level 10 -14 = 16 per cent, level 15-17=14 per cent.

CONHES, CONRRISE, CONTISS, etc

Level 7= 22.2 per cent

Level 8-14 = 16 per cent

Level 15-17 = 10.5 per cent

The meeting also increased the salaries of military and paramilitary officers, but the percentages were kept confidential.

According to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, the details of the increase will be communicated to the military and paramilitary organisations through the appropriate channels.

Dr Ngige expects the adjustments to be implemented immediately.

The Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Mr Festus Keyamo, had first tweeted about a breakthrough in the talks around 10 pm on Thursday.

Strike Averted

The talks between the Federal Government and labour leaders which started on Monday had helped to prevent workers from embarking on a nationwide industrial action.

After failing to reach an agreement with the government on the full implementation of the new minimum wage, more than five months after it was signed into law, labour issued a two-week ultimatum to the government.

The source of disagreement was the percentage for the consequential wage increase for workers based on the new minimum of N30,000.

Organised labour had initially demanded a 66 percent salary increase for workers on levels seven to 17. It later reduced the percentage downward to 29 percent for levels seven – 14 and 24 percent for levels 15 to 17.

The Federal Government, however, offered to pay 11 percent for workers on grade levels seven to 14 and 6.5 percent for those on levels 15 to 17.

In rejecting the government’s offer, labour leaders argued that the percentages being offered by the government would be ineffective for workers in the light of the currency devaluation, fuel price hike, value-added tax increase and electricity tariff increase all of which occurred in recent years with the minimum wage at N18,000.

Two days to the expiration of the ultimatum, both sides returned to the table, first averting a strike and coming to a compromise for the full implementation of the new minimum wage.

Second Whistle-Blower Comes Forward In Trump-Ukraine Scandal – Report

Trump is facing an impeachment inquiry for allegedly using his position for political gain

 

A second person has decided to come forward with corroborating first-hand information about US President Donald Trump’s alleged attempts to pressure Ukraine for personal political gain, ABC News reported on Sunday.

ABC News said lawyer Mark Zaid said the second whistleblower was an intelligence official who “has first-hand knowledge of some of the allegations outlined in the original complaint and has been interviewed by the head of intelligence community’s internal watchdog.”

Zaid retweeted ABC’s tweet on the development, implicitly confirming it. He was expected to appear on ABC’s “This Week.”

 

Four Killed, Five Injured In US Bar Shooting

Four people were killed and five others wounded early on Sunday in a shooting at a Kansas City bar, police and local Kansas media reported.

“9 shot, four dead at 10th and Central Ave,” the Kansas City police department said on its Twitter account.

KSHB television quoted a police spokesman as saying one or more suspects entered the KC Tequila bar at that location and began shooting.

Shells from a handgun were reported to have been found at the scene.

Police spokesman Thomas Tomasic told KSHB no one was in custody, and police did not know if there was more than one shooter.

He said the five wounded were taken to area hospitals and were believed to be in stable condition.

 

Pope Francis Blames Amazon Fires On Destructive ‘Interests’

Pope Francis speaks as he celebrates a mass on October 6, 2019, at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, for the opening of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region. Tiziana FABI / AFP

 

Pope Francis opened a synod on Sunday to champion the Amazon’s poverty-stricken and isolated indigenous communities by condemning the destructive “interests” he blamed for the fires that devastated the region.

The three-week synod, or assembly, is to unite 184 bishops, including 113 from the nine countries of the pan-Amazon region, including Brazil.

Brazil is home to 60 percent of the world’s largest rainforest, which is vital for the planet but is suffering from its worst outbreak of fires in years.

The fires, mostly caused by humans with the goal of clearing land for farming and cattle ranching, are having a grievous effect on the forest.

Representatives of indigenous peoples, some with their heads adorned with coloured feathers, also gathered in Saint Peter’s Square to hear the pope’s inaugural mass.

“The fire set by interests that destroy, like the fire that recently devastated Amazonia, is not the fire of the Gospel,” the pontiff said in his homily.

“The fire of God is warmth that attracts and gathers into unity. It is fed by sharing, not by profits.

“The fire that destroys, on the other hand, blazes up when people want to promote only their own ideas, form their own group, wipe out differences in the attempt to make everyone and everything uniform.”

‘Predatory and ecocidal development’

The working document for the synod denounced in scathing terms social injustices and crimes, including murders, and suggested a Church action plan.

“Listen to the cry of ‘Mother Earth’, assaulted and seriously wounded by the economic model of predatory and ecocidal development… which kills and plunders, destroys and devastates, expels and discards,” the 80-page document said.

The run-up to the synod saw some 260 events held in the Amazon region involving 80,000 people, in a bid to give the local populations a voice in the document.

Among those attending the synod as an observer was Sister Laura Vincuna, a missionary trying to protect the territories of the Caripuna indigenous people in the Brazilian Amazon.

“Help us defend our motherland, we have no other home!” she said on Saturday.

“Earth, water, forest: without these three elements nobody can do anything”.

Jose Luiz Cassupe, a member of an indigenous community from Brazil’s Ronodia state, said the Brazilian government “did not keep its word”.

“We are asking the world for help because we are very worried about the new mining exploration policy in the Amazon,” he told AFP, wearing a headdress of indigo blue feathers.

The Amazon is suffering from its worst outbreak of fires in years. In this file photo taken on August 23, 2019, aerial picture showing a fire raging in the Amazon rainforest about 65 km from Porto Velho, in the state of Rondonia, in northern Brazil, on August 23, 2019. Carl DE SOUZA / AFP

 

‘New forms of colonialism’

Sunday’s gathering comes as Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a climate-change sceptic, told the United Nations that the world’s media were lying about the Amazon, and attacked indigenous leaders as tools of foreign governments.

In his 2015 encyclical on ecology and climate change “Laudato Si”, Francis denounced the destruction of the Amazonian rainforest in the name of “enormous international economic interests”.

Last year, the world’s first Latin American pope visited Puerto Maldonado, a village in southeastern Peru surrounded by the Amazon jungle, to meet thousands of indigenous Peruvians, Brazilians and Bolivians.

That trip was the first step towards the synod which opened Sunday.

The pope in his homily also voiced regret that the Church had in the past promoted “colonisation rather than evangelisation”, but warned against “the greed of new forms of colonialism”.

Francis’ hopes of bringing the Catholic faith to far-flung populations will also see the bishops gathered in Rome debate a highly controversial proposal — allowing married men to become priests.

The issue deeply upsets some traditionalists, who argue that making an exception for the Amazon would open the door to the end of celibacy for priests, which is not a Church law and only dates back to the 11th century.

The German Catholic Church in particular, which has an influential progressive wing, has been hotly debating the subject.

The synod will also reflect on making official roles for women, who already play a central part in the Amazonian Church.

AFP