Pope Francis’ doctor dies from COVID-19 ‘complications’
The EU is under huge pressure as member states show their frustration at the European Commission’s decision making since a coronavirus jab emerged. The biggest frustration occurred after Brussels threatened to put checks on the Northern Ireland border in a bid to stop EU-produced vaccines from reaching the UK. The likes of Germany, led by health minister Jens Spahn, were particularly vocal in their insistence that protocols be put in place, after it emerged the UK would receive its contracted supplies from drug-supplier AstraZeneca, while the EU was expected to endure a shortfall in doses.
It caused major divisions between the EU and UK, just weeks after a trade deal had eased years of tensions over Brexit negotiations.
The split in the EU was something Francis had hoped would not come, as during many of his addresses to worshippers throughout the pandemic he wanted Europe to collaborate.
In one rousing speech, he said it was vital this happened so that “Europe manages to have this unity, this fraternal unity which the founding fathers of the European Union dreamed”.
Lynda Telford, author of Women in the Vatican – Female Power in a Male World, told Express.co.uk that the current drama over the vaccine roll-out would frustrate Francis.
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She argued that Germany’s apparent decision to front the campaign to stop vaccines leaving the EU was another ploy that showed how disunited the EU had become.
When asked whether Francis would be angry with the bloc, Ms Telford said: “I should imagine he will be, particularly at the marginalisation of Italy at this time, after they’ve suffered such terrible losses too.
“The EU are certainly not showing the unity that Pope Francis urges, far from it, when countries such as Hungary are reduced to having to source their supplies from China.”
She added: “The Pope’s unity is not one of staying together in a German Federation, but one of equal standing and that is more likely to be achieved if each country is free to make its own decisions.”
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Questions over Francis’ long-term future as the head of the Vatican have developed in recent weeks, after he was forced to cancel a number of appearances due to his ongoing issues with sciatica.
But he will likely maintain his position of calling for a united Europe, as he has done since he was elected pontiff in 2013.
After a two-day Vatican conference called Re-Thinking Europe, a year after the Brexit vote, Francis said more solidarity, teamwork and “mutual sacrifice” was needed to stop anti-Brussels rhetoric.
He said: “A European Union that, in facing its crises, fails to recover a sense of being a single community that sustains and assists its members – and not just a collection of small interest groups – would miss out not only on one of the greatest challenges of its history, but also on one of the greatest opportunities for its own future.
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“Particular and nationalist agendas risk thwarting the courageous dreams of the founders of Europe.”
But Ms Telford previously told Express.co.uk that Francis’ position on Italy’s membership in the EU could actually be entirely different to the one he has offered in public.
She claimed that Francis could accept any move for Italexit – Italy’s answer to Brexit – if it ensured Italians were allowed to prosper, and the increasing rate of poor people in the country reversed.
Many critics argue that since Italy adopted the euro at the end of the millennium, restraints on its economy have stifled Rome.
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Ms Telford said: “I think Francis’ view on Italy is certainly important, and he is concerned for poor people.
“And Italy has got poorer since it’s been in the EU.
“I’d imagine that Francis, who is a very sensible person, just wants to see his people, able to lead a decent life again, have work and just lead a normal life.”
More recently, the EU reversed its decision to implement checks in Northern Ireland, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said “steps forward” had been made with AstraZeneca.
The UK-Swedish drug company said it would now supply an extra nine million COVID-19 vaccines by March.
However, the overall total of 40 million doses now expected to be given to the bloc is still only around half of what leaders in Brussels had hoped for.