- POPE FRANCIS has a habit of causing shock-waves with seemingly off-the-cuff remarks.The pontiff seemed open to the possibility of ordaining women to the rank of deacon: in other words to a form, at least in the loose sense, of priesthood.The following day, a Vatican spokesman made clear the pope was not about to introduce women as deacons nor as priests. But liberal optimists were still pleased that the issue had been raised. If it can be shown that women were elevated to an important rank in early Christian times, that would strengthen the case for doing so now.. And as the questioner reminded Pope Francis, a woman named Phoebe is clearly described as a deacon, using the word diakonos with a feminine article.In Christian texts over the next few centuries, we also find references to the role of “deaconess” (diakonissa), a female servant of the church whose jobs included assisting at the baptism or immersion of adult women.But radical change in this area is unlikely, for the simple reason that the people at the Vatican charged with investigating such matters have a record of traditionalism.
- OVER the past four decades, officials negotiating an end to Europe’s oldest frozen conflict, the dispute between the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus and the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), have had plenty to chew on. A deal now appears possible.Yet there is one area where Greek and Turkish Cypriots already see eye to eye: cheesemaking. Last year, the Greek south exported €103m ($116m) worth of halloumi cheese, much of it to Britain. In the TRNC, hellim made up a full quarter of all exports.Last July the two sides filed a joint application to have the cheese anointed by the European Union as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) product.For Turkish Cypriot cheesemakers, however, PDO status will count for little without a peace settlement. Cyprus has been a member of the EU since 2004, but the bloc’s laws apply only in the Greek part of the island. As a result hellim, like other northern products, remains frozen out of Europe’s single market. Much of it ends up in Turkey, the only country to recognise the TRNC.
- On May 13th delegates at the 66th FIFA Congress in Mexico City voted to admit the Kosovar national team, along with that of Gibraltar, as the group’s 210th and 211th members. Both are now likely to participate in qualification for the 2018 World Cup. In Europe, seven of the qualifying groups have six teams, while two only have five, making it logistically simple for the two new members to slot in. FIFA’s vote followed Kosovo’s admission to the International Olympic Committee, ahead of its debut in the Games this summer—while a number of other athletic bodies have also accepted them.Serbia has consistently opposed Kosovo’s attempts to join FIFA, and may file a complaint with the Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport on the grounds that Kosovo’s membership is against UEFA’s statutes.
- The four constituent parts of the United Kingdom—England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales—play as separate entities in football and rugby, in which Northern Ireland join up with the Republic of Ireland to play as an all-Ireland side. The Faroe Islands, an island country within the Kingdom of Denmark, also hold FIFA membership, as do several Pacific isles. The IOC and FIFA have each admitted Puerto Rico, Hong Kong, Taiwan (as Chinese Taipei) and Palestine.For Kosovo, one critical issue to be resolved is whether players of Kosovar background who have appeared for other countries will be eligible to switch allegiance. This would defy normal FIFA rules, under which players can only represent one nation in competitive matches during their career. Although the territory of Kosovo only has a population of around 2m, it has produced many fine talents.In similar situations other sports have been known to make exceptions. The International Cricket Council allowed all players qualified for South Africa representing other nations to switch when the country was readmitted to international cricket in 1991
- Israel’s atomic secrets have always been closely guarded, so little is known about the plant at Dimona. However, officials at the Israel Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC) admitted at a scientific conference last month that the reactor is showing its age. An ultrasound inspection of the aluminium core found 1,537 small defects and cracks, they said. The lifetime of such a reactor is usually around 40 years. At 53, Dimona is one of the world’s oldest operating nuclear plants.Many of the ancillary systems in the reactor have been renewed or replaced but the core itself cannot be swapped out. The flaws that have been detected are closely monitored and there is no serious suggestion that the reactor is unsafe.Israel has never used its reactors for generating electricity. Along with America, Russia and China, Israel is one of the few countries believed to have mastered the nuclear “triad”. It can deliver nuclear weapons as bombs dropped from an aircraft, as warheads on a land-launched missile (since the 1970s) and on missiles fired from submarines.