World briefs: Pope deplores materialism

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DAEJEON, South Korea — Pope Francis called Friday for Catholics to combat the allure of materialism, an appeal that might be a hard sell in South Korea, a newly rich and hyper-competitive country.

Far from being considered an evil, the trappings of wealth are often linked here to the hard work, sacrifice and gritty persistence of generations who hustled their nation out of war, dictatorship and poverty into an Asian powerhouse.

Pope Francis made the call during his first public Mass in Asia. He received a boisterous welcome from tens of thousands of young Asians gathered for a Catholic festival in the central city of Daejeon.

It’s a theme he has raised frequently during his pontificate, railing against the “idolatry of money” and the excesses of capitalism that leave the poorest even further on the margins of society. While his message has been met with skepticism among some conservatives in the U.S. who have branded him a Marxist, it has been welcomed in much of the developing world and even some South Koreans said Friday he had a point.

Sanctions faulted

BUDAPEST, Hungary—Hungary joined Slovakia in calling on the European Union to reverse its sanctions on Russia, saying that the restrictions are harming the 28-nation bloc.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that he’s “doing everything” to push for a change to the EU’s sanctions regime, and called for a summit with Russia to discuss long-term cooperation and the conflict in Ukraine that prompted the tit- for-tat punitive measures. The bloc’s foreign ministers met in Brussels Friday to discuss Ukraine after Russia imposed retaliatory sanctions that may cut off about 10 percent of EU food exports.

Obama, Baltic leaders

WASHINGTON— President Barack Obama will travel to Estonia early next month to reaffirm the United States’ commitment to defend NATO allies in a Baltic region nervous about Russia’s activities in Ukraine.

In Tallin, the capital of Estonia, Mr. Obama will meet with Estonian President Toomas Ilves and Prime Minister Taavi Roivas “to discuss bilateral ties, strategic and regional cooperation, and our shared commitment to the trans-Atlantic partnership, ”the White House said. Mr. Obama will also huddle with Latvian President Andris Berzins and Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite.

India's prime minister

NEW DELHI — Breaking his silence on rising sexual assaults against women, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday told parents to raise their sons properly during a wide-ranging and highly anticipated first Independence Day speech.

Although he spoke extensively about women’s safety during the election campaign, Mr. Modi had remained largely silent on the issue after assuming office in May. On Friday, he said stringent laws will address the crimes, but he also reminded families of their responsibility to raise their sons well.

Japan’s war shrine

TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a ritual offering to the Yasukuni war shrine Friday, the 69th anniversary of Japan’s World War II defeat, but opted not to visit the controversial site in person.

His absence was widely viewed as a diplomatic move aimed at easing tensions with China, in the hopes of a first meeting with President Xi Jinping in November.

But China and South Korea, which both view Yasukuni as a symbol of Japan’s militaristic aggression during the first half of the 20th century, denounced Mr. Abe’s offering.

-- Compiled from wire reports


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