Éric Zemmour, the far-right writer and TV star who has been rising in the polls before the presidential elections next year, has long attacked Islam and gained popularity on the right by styling himself as a great defender of France’s Catholic culture — even though he is Jewish and his parents settled in France from Algeria.

Isabelle de Gaulmyn, a top editor at La Croix, France’s leading Catholic newspaper, said that the church’s decline might have made it reluctant to tackle the issue of sexual abuse head-on, for fear of adding to its existing challenges.

“The evolution was very brutal,” she said of the church’s drop in power. “So there is a bit of a feeling that it is a fortress under siege.”

That feeling is also fueled by a sense that the church is poor. Unlike its counterpart in Germany, which is supported by a government-collected tax, the French church receives no steady stream of subsidies and must rely almost exclusively on donations from worshipers, although, under France’s complex secularism law, the state pays for the upkeep of almost all church buildings

Victims of sexual abuse, who expect compensation from the church, are quick to point out that some dioceses have sizable real estate assets.

Olivier Savignac, who was sexually abused by a priest as a minor and who founded an association for victims, said that they wanted compensation to recoup years of medical bills, “not a small symbolic amount” covered by churchgoer donations.

“We want the dioceses to pay out of their pockets,” he added.

Many say the report has put the Church at a turning point — reform, or fade further.

“It’s now,” Father Stalla-Bourdillon said. “Not later.”

Léontine Gallois contributed reporting.

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Marriage Records in England and Wales Will Now Include Mothers’ Names

LONDON — Marriage certificates in England and Wales have traditionally left space for the names and professions of just one parent: the fathers of the couple tying the knot.

That changed on Tuesday, with couples now allowed to add mothers’ names to their official marriage record. The change corrects “a historic anomaly” and is part of a larger overhaul of how marriages are registered in the two nations, the British government said. Unions will also now be recorded in a single electronic registry instead of in registry books.

The changes are the biggest to the registration system since the Marriage Act came into effect in 1837, the Home Office said, and they have been in the works for several years. In 2014, David Cameron, then the prime minister, said the system did not reflect “modern Britain” and pledged to make modifications.

But the final stages of legislation to include both parents did not come before Parliament until last month, spurred by a larger bill that passed in 2019. The earlier bill included the changeover to an electronic marriage registry and the extension of the right to civil partnerships to all couples.

witnesses to their marriage to get around the requirements and make sure that they were included on the certificates.

Caroline Criado Perez, a British author and women’s rights activist, said she had refused to get married until the certificates included mothers. “It sat so wrong with me to willingly take part in the erasure of women,” she wrote on Twitter. Others criticized the overhaul as a small and largely meaningless step compared with the other barriers that women face.

reduced the application fee for those looking to legally change their gender in England and Wales from 140 pounds, or about $195, to £5. Activists for L.G.B.T.Q. rights had criticized the cost as a barrier for transgender people looking to officially recognize their gender identity on a certificate.

Almost 6,000 such certificates were granted from 2005 to 2020, though an estimated 200,000 to 500,000 transgender people live in Britain, the Government Equalities Office said, adding that it was also working “at speed” to move the application process online.

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Georgia Faith Leaders Urge Boycott of Home Depot Over Voting Law

A major coalition of Black faith leaders in Georgia, representing more than 1,000 churches in the state, called on Tuesday for a boycott of Home Depot, arguing that the company had abdicated its responsibility as a good corporate citizen by not pushing back on the state’s new voting law.

The call for a boycott, led by Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, who oversees all 534 African Methodist Episcopal churches in Georgia, represents one of the first major steps to put significant economic pressure on businesses to be more vocal in opposing Republican efforts in Georgia and around the country to enact new restrictions on voting.

“We don’t believe this is simply a political matter,” Bishop Jackson said in an interview. “This is a matter that deals with securing the future of this democracy, and the greatest right in this democracy is the right to vote.”

Home Depot, Mr. Jackson said, “demonstrated an indifference, a lack of response to the call, not only from clergy, but a call from other groups to speak out in opposition to this legislation.”

Coca-Cola and Delta have spoken out against the state’s new voting law, Home Depot has not, offering only a statement this month that “the most appropriate approach for us to take is to continue to underscore our belief that all elections should be accessible, fair and secure.”

While not publicly wading into the fray, one of the company’s founders, Arthur Blank, said in a call with other business executives this month that he supported voting rights. Another founder, Ken Langone, is a vocal supporter of former President Donald J. Trump.

Mr. Jackson said that the faith leaders were calling for four specific actions from Home Depot: speaking out against the Georgia voting law, publicly opposing similar bills in other states, offering support for the John Lewis Voting Rights Act in Congress, and backing litigation against the Georgia law.

Not all voting rights groups are on board with a boycott.

“I can’t fully support a boycott within Georgia,” said Aunna Dennis, the executive director of the Georgia chapter of Common Cause. “The boycott hurts the working-class person. But corporations do need to be held accountable on where they put their dollars.”

Faith leaders acknowledged concerns from state leaders, both Democratic and Republican, about the impact of boycotts, but felt the stakes were high enough.

“It is unfortunate for those who will be impacted by this, but how many more million will be impacted if they don’t have the right to vote?” said Jamal H. Bryant, the senior pastor of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga.

“And so in weighing it out, we understand, tongue in cheek, that this is a necessary evil,” Dr. Bryant said. “But it has to happen in order for the good to happen.”

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‘You Can’t Trust Anyone’: Russia’s Hidden Covid Toll Is an Open Secret

SAMARA, Russia — She burst into the hospital morgue and the bodies were everywhere, about a dozen of them in black bags on stretchers. She headed straight for the autopsy room, pleading with the guard in a black jacket: “Can I speak to the doctor who opened up my father?”

Olga Kagarlitskaya’s father had been hospitalized weeks earlier in a coronavirus ward. Now he was gone, cause of death: “viral pneumonia, unspecified.” Ms. Kagarlitskaya, recording the scene on her smartphone, wanted to know the truth. But the guard, hands in pockets, sent her away.

There were thousands of similar cases across Russia last year, the government’s own statistics show. At least 300,000 more people died last year during the coronavirus pandemic than were reported in Russia’s most widely cited official statistics.

Russian scientists had developed a Covid vaccine widely seen as one of the best in the world — but the Kremlin has put a greater emphasis on using the Sputnik V shot to score geopolitical points rather than on immunizing its own population.

Perhaps the starkest sign, though, of the state’s priorities is its minimization of the coronavirus death toll — a move that, many critics say, kept much of the public in the dark about the disease’s dangers and about the importance of getting a vaccine.

to the World Health Organization — is far lower, when adjusted for the population, than that of United States and most of Western Europe.

However, a far different story is told by the official statistics agency Rosstat, which tallies deaths from all causes. Russia saw a jump of 360,000 deaths above normal from last April through December, according to a Times analysis of historical data. Rosstat figures for January and February of this year show that the number is now well above 400,000.

In the United States, with more than twice the population of Russia, such “excess deaths” since the start of the pandemic have numbered about 574,000. By that measure, which many demographers see as the most accurate way to assess the virus’s overall toll, the pandemic killed about one in every 400 people in Russia, compared with one in every 600 in the United States.

another poll found that 60 percent of Russians said they were not planning to get Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, and that most believed the coronavirus to be a biological weapon.

In the Samara region, Inna Pogozheva’s mother, an obstetrician-gynecologist, died in November after being hospitalized with a Covid-19 referral based on a CT scan. The undertakers, clad in rubber boots and hazmat suits, carried her mother from the morgue into their hearse in a sealed coffin, then doused each other in disinfectant.

But there was no word about Covid-19 on the death certificate.

Ms. Pogozheva said she did not know what to believe about the pandemic — including whether, as the widely circulating and false conspiracy theories go, the Gates Foundation might be behind it. But one thing was certain, she said: She will not get vaccinated, even after seeing Covid’s devastation up close. After all, if she cannot trust her mother’s state-issued death certificate, why should she trust the Russian government about the safety of the vaccine?

“Who the heck knows what they mixed in there?” Ms. Pogozheva said. “You can’t trust anyone, especially when it comes to this situation.”

Ms. Pogozheva is appealing to have her mother’s cause of death reinvestigated. The next of kin of a medical worker shown to have died from Covid-19 caught on the job are entitled to a special payout from the state. Ms. Kagarlitskaya, whose father was a paramedic, succeeded in having his cause of death changed to Covid-19 after her outrage went viral on Instagram and Samara’s governor personally intervened.

For all the death, there has been minimal opposition in Russia — even among Mr. Putin’s critics — to the government’s decision to keep businesses open last winter and fall. Some liken it to a Russian stoicism, or fatalism, or the lack of an alternative to keeping the economy running given minimal aid from the state.

Mr. Raksha, the demographer, noted that the elevated mortality that accompanied the chaos and poverty of the 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, was deadlier than the overall toll of the pandemic.

“This nation has seen so many traumas,” Mr. Raksha said. “A people that has been through so much develops a very different relationship to death.”

In the Samara region, according to the excess death statistics, the pandemic took the life of as many as one in every 250 people. Viktor Dolonko, the editor of a culture newspaper in the city of Samara, says that about 50 people he knew — many of them part of the region’s thriving arts scene — lost their lives during the pandemic. But he does not believe that Samara should have closed its theaters — currently, they are allowed to be filled to 50 percent of capacity — in order to slow the spread of the disease.

The deaths during the pandemic have been tragic, he said, but he believes they have mostly occurred in people who were of a very advanced age or had other health problems, and were not all related to the virus. Mr. Dolonko, 62, says he wears a mask in crowded places and frequently washes his hands — and regularly goes to gallery openings and shows.

“You can choose between continuing to live your life, carefully, or to wall yourself up and stop living,” Mr. Dolonko said. “Unlike you” — Westerners — “Russians know what it means to live in extreme conditions.”

At a Samara church service on a recent Sunday, the Rev. Sergiy Rybakov preached, “Let us love one another,” and the congregants hugged and kissed. One 59-year-old woman, leaving the service, explained why she did not fear catching the virus there: “I trust God.”

A website tracking coronavirus deaths in the Orthodox Church lists seven members of the clergy in the Samara region; Father Sergiy knew several of them well. He said he figured Russia had lifted its coronavirus restrictions because there was no end in sight to the pandemic. He quoted Dostoyevsky: “Man grows used to everything, the scoundrel!”

“We are growing used to living in a pandemic,” Father Sergiy said. “We are growing used to the deaths.”

Allison McCann and Oleg Matsnev contributed research.

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FEMA Will Provide More Money for Covid Funeral Expenses

People who paid for the funeral and burial expenses of someone who died from Covid-19 will be offered expanded federal financial support starting on Monday, according to an announcement by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The coronavirus has claimed the lives of more than 556,000 Americans, according to a New York Times database. Under the expanded assistance program, their survivors can apply for up to $9,000 in reimbursement for the purchase of a plot, burial, a headstone, clergy services, the transfer of remains, cremation or other services associated with a funeral.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has brought overwhelming grief to many families,” the agency said in a statement announcing the expanded benefits. “At FEMA, our mission is to help people before, during and after disasters. We are dedicated to helping ease some of the financial stress and burden caused by the virus.”

Congress approved billions of dollars in funding for funeral benefits in two Covid relief measures, the one signed by former President Donald J. Trump in December and the one known as the American Rescue Plan that President Biden signed last month.

Both measures include added funds for funeral services in an attempt to cushion the financial blow to families, many of whom are already struggling because of the loss of income in the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.

To qualify for reimbursement, an applicant must be a United States citizen or legal permanent resident who has documentation that they paid funeral expenses for someone whose death “‘may have been caused by’ or ‘was likely a result of’ Covid-19 or ‘Covid-19 like symptoms,’” or whose records include “similar phrases that indicate a high likelihood of Covid-19,” according to FEMA. The person who died need not have been a United States citizen or resident, the agency said.

FEMA will reimburse funeral costs for multiple people in the same family, up to a maximum of $35,000, according to the agency. But the amount of federal assistance will be reduced if applicants also received support from other sources, including insurance policies specifically designed to pay for funeral expenses.

The effort to soften the financial burden of the pandemic is one of the largest such efforts ever undertaken by the agency. It also offers an opportunity for fraud, as the agency acknowledges in bright red type on its website.

“Fraud Alert: We have received reports of scammers reaching out to people offering to register them for funeral assistance,” the alert says. “FEMA has not sent any such notifications and we do not contact people prior to them registering for assistance.”

The agency will begin taking applications on Monday. Applicants can call a hotline at (844) 684-6333.

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At Least 36 US States Prioritize Religious Leaders for Vaccines

At least 36 states have made some members of the clergy eligible for a vaccine before the rest of the population, according to a New York Times survey.

The vaccines come at a critical time: As religious leaders continue to work on the front lines of the pandemic in hospitals, mortuaries and long-term care facilities, many are now working with health officials to help combat vaccine hesitancy in their communities.

In Utah, mosques are sharing videos on social media of imams receiving the vaccine. In Michigan, a rabbi is weaving messages of support for vaccination into his sermons and conversations with his congregation. And at the Washington National Cathedral this month, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious-disease specialist, and other health officials joined 25 faith leaders from across the D.C. region as they received their vaccines on camera.

“Religious figures are among the most trusted leaders, so seeing congregation leaders get vaccinated first can relieve anxiety and fears,” Melissa Rogers, the executive director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, said during the vaccination event in Washington.

significantly lower vaccination rates compared with their representation in the general population.

In Baltimore, the Rev. Terris King of Liberty Grace Church of God has set up virtual discussions for members of his predominantly Black congregation with representatives from health care companies, such as Pfizer. Governments need to work with churches, the reverend said, because religious leaders understand their communities’ needs and anxieties, with much of the mistrust stemming from historical and current mistreatment of people of color in the health care system.

“Many of them have seen what, as a researcher in minority health, I’ve always known, and that’s that the church is the trusted source in the African-American community around the country,” he said.

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