After their private talk they exchanged gifts, and Mr. Biden gave the pope a presidential challenge coin that featured Delaware, his home state, and Beau’s Army National Guard unit. “I know my son would want me to give this to you,” he said.

As Francis showed Mr. Biden and Jill Biden, the first lady, to the door, Mr. Biden was in no rush to leave.

He unspooled a folksy yarn that referred to both he and the pope ascending to their positions later in life. In a nod to their ages — he is 78 and Francis is 84 — he relayed a story about Satchel Paige, the legendary Black player who pitched the majority of his career in the Negro Leagues, and who was allowed to join the Major Leagues only in his 40s.

“Usually, pitchers lose their arms when they’re 35,” Mr. Biden said to the pope, who seemed a little lost by the baseball reference. “He pitched a win on his 47th birthday.”

As Mr. Biden explained it, reporters asked the pitcher: “‘Satch, no one’s ever pitched a win at age 47. How do you feel about pitching a win on your birthday?’” and the pitcher responded: “‘Boys, that’s not how I look at age. I look at it this way: How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?’”

The pope looked at Mr. Biden.

“You’re 65, I’m 60,” the president said. “God love ya.”

Jim Tankersley contributed reporting from Rome, and Ruth Graham from Dallas.

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A Journey Through Merkel’s Germany: Affluent, Anxious and Almost Normal

As Germany heads into an election that will see Angela Merkel step down after 16 years as chancellor, she leaves behind a country profoundly changed — and anxious about changing more.


STUTTGART, Germany — The small silver star at the tip of Aleksandar Djordjevic’s Mercedes shines bright. He polishes it every week.

Mr. Djordjevic makes combustion engines for Daimler, one of Germany’s flagship carmakers. He has a salary of around 60,000 euros (about $70,000), eight weeks of vacation and a guarantee negotiated by the union that he cannot be fired until 2030. He owns a two-story house and that E-class 250 model Mercedes in his driveway.

All of that is why Mr. Djordjevic polishes the star on his car.

“The star is something stable and something strong: It stands for Made in Germany,” he said.

But by 2030 there will be no more combustion engines at Daimler — or people making combustion engines.

parental leave in Catholic Bavaria. The married gay couple raising two children outside Berlin. The woman in a hijab teaching math in a high school near Frankfurt, where most students have German passports but few have German parents.

successive crises and left others unattended, there was change that she led and change that she allowed.

phase out nuclear power in Germany. She ended compulsory military service. She was the first chancellor to assert that Islam “belongs” to Germany. When it came to breaking down her country’s and party’s conservative family values, she was more timid but ultimately did not stand in the way.

Konrad Adenauer anchored Germany in the West. Willy Brandt reached across the Iron Curtain. Helmut Kohl, her onetime mentor, became synonymous with German unity. Gerhard Schröder paved the way for the country’s economic success.

Ms. Merkel’s legacy is less tangible but equally transformative. She changed Germany into a modern society — and a country less defined by its history.

She may be remembered most for her decision to welcome over a million refugees in 2015-16 when most other Western nations rejected them. It was a brief redemptive moment for the country that had committed the Holocaust and turned her into an icon of liberal democracy.

“It was a sort of healing,” said Karin Marré-Harrak, the headmaster of a high school in the multicultural city of Offenbach. “In a way we’ve become a more normal country.”

lingering inequality between East and West three decades after reunification is still evident, even though taxpayers’ money has flowed east and things have gradually improved. With the government planning to phase out coal production by 2038, billions more in funding are promised to help compensate for the job losses.

But as Mike Balzke, a worker at the nearby coal plant in Jänschwalde, put it: “We don’t want money — we want a future.”

Mr. Balzke recalled his optimism when Ms. Merkel first became chancellor. Because she was an easterner and a scientist, he expected her to be an ambassador for the East — and for coal.

Instead, his village lost a quarter of its population during her chancellorship. A promised train line from Forst to Berlin was never built. The post office shut down.

Mr. Balzke, 41, worries that the region will turn into a wasteland.

That anxiety runs deep. And it deepened again with the arrival of refugees in 2015.

was up in arms, but only a decade later, it has become the new normal.

Ms. Merkel never backed same-sex marriage outright, but she allowed lawmakers to vote for it, knowing that it would go through.

Mr. Winkler left the party again in 2019 after Ms. Merkel’s successor as conservative leader, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, disparaged same-sex marriage. But he acknowledged his debt to the chancellor.

On June 30, 2017, the day of the vote, he wrote her a letter.

“It is a pity that you could not support opening marriage to same-sex couples,” he wrote. “Still, thank you that you ultimately made today’s decision possible.”

Then he invited her to visit his family, “to see for yourself.”

She never replied. But he and his family used to live just around the corner from Ms. Merkel, who never gave up her apartment in central Berlin. They would see her occasionally in the supermarket checkout line.

“There she was with toilet paper in her basket, going shopping like everyone else,” Mr. Winkler’s partner, Roland Mittermayer, recalled. Even after 16 years, they are still trying to figure the chancellor out.

“She is an enigma,” Mr. Winkler said. “She’s a bit like the queen — someone who has been around for a long time, but you never feel you really know her.”

Six hours northwest of Berlin, past endless green fields dotted with wind farms and a 40-minute ferry ride off the North Sea coast, lies Pellworm, a sleepy island where the Backsen family has been farming since 1703.

Two years ago, they took Ms. Merkel’s government to court for abandoning its carbon-dioxide emission targets under the Paris climate accord. They lost, but then tried again, filing a complaint at the constitutional court.

This time they won.

“It’s about freedom,” said Sophie Backsen, 23, who would like to take over her father’s farm one day.

Sophie’s younger brothers, Hannes, 19, and Paul, 21, will vote for the first time on Sunday. Like 42 percent of first-time voters, they will vote for the Greens.

“If you look at how our generation votes, it’s the opposite of what you see in the polls,” Paul said. “The Greens would be running the country.”

Pellworm is flush with the sea level and in parts even below it. Without a dike ringing the coastline, it would flood regularly.

“When you have permanent rain for three weeks, the island fills up like a bath tub inside the dikes,” Hannes said.

The prospect of rising sea levels is an existential threat here. “This is one of the most important elections,” Hannes said. “It’s the last chance really to get it right.”

“If not even a country like Germany can manage this,” he added, “what chance do we stand?”

Christopher F. Schuetze contributed reporting from Berlin.

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Quebec’s Ban on Public Religious Symbols Largely Upheld

MONTREAL — A Quebec court on Tuesday largely upheld a law barring public sector employees such as schoolteachers, police officers, and judges from wearing religious symbols while at work, in a ruling that human rights advocates said would undermine civil liberties in the province.

But the ruling also made some big exceptions that dissatisfied the provincial government. Both sides said they intended to appeal.

Religious minorities across the province said the decision marginalizes them. While the ban is supported by a majority of Quebecers, it has nevertheless proved deeply polarizing in Quebec society where minority lawyers and teachers, among others, say it has derailed their lives and careers, while fomenting Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.

“The law destroyed my career dreams,” said Noor Farhat, a lawyer who wears a head scarf and aspired to be a public prosecutor. She represented a large Quebec teachers’ union that is one of the plaintiffs in the case. “It is a clear violation of freedom of religion and the government is limiting human rights,” she said.

François Legault, the right-leaning Quebec premier, has said that the law is necessary to ensure that the separation between religion and state is respected in Quebec, a province where secularism holds sway. The law, adopted in June 2019, applies to Muslim head scarves, Jewish skullcaps, Sikh turbans and Catholic crosses, among other symbols.

Lawyers for the Quebec government argued that the law did not impinge on minority rights since people could practice their religion at home. Supporters of the law also argued that it is a force for liberal values, including respect for women and gay people, by preventing religious orthodoxy from encroaching on public life.

But human rights advocates and legal scholars counter that the law breaches the Canadian constitutional right to freedom of religion, while undermining social equality and denying minorities access to jobs in vital fields such as education and law enforcement. They also criticize the law as running counter to Canada’s vaunted model of multiculturalism.

“It will drive religious minorities away rather than bringing them into society,” said Robert Leckey, dean of McGill University’s faculty of law in Montreal and a leading constitutional lawyer. “An inclusive society is surely one where schoolteachers are allowed to look like the kids they are teaching.”

In a 240-page ruling, Justice Marc-André Blanchard of the Quebec Superior Court in Montreal said the Quebec government had the right to restrict the religious symbols worn by public sector employees including teachers, police officers, lawyers and prison guards, while they were at work.

Supreme Court. Simon Jolin-Barrette, Quebec’s minister of justice, also said Quebec planned to appeal the ruling, saying that the exemptions carved out in the court’s decision threatened to effectively create two Quebecs and that the law should apply to all Quebecers.

A legal challenge to the law in the courts has proved difficult because to insulate it from potential court action, the government invoked a rarely used constitutional loophole known as the “notwithstanding clause,” which empowers Canadian legislatures to override some constitutional rights like freedom of religion or expression.

The clause was added to Canada’s 1982 constitution to appease some provinces, which were resistant to including a charter of rights as part of the document.

Ms. Farhat said the law had disproportionately affected visible minorities like Muslim women who wore outwardly conspicuous religious symbols like head scarves. A Catholic cross was less conspicuous since it could be concealed in a blouse or a shirt while at work.

Quebec is hardly alone in imposing such a law. In 2004 France banned religious symbols such as Muslim head scarves at state schools. In May 2018, Denmark banned face veils in public, igniting criticism that the law discriminated against Muslim women.

Identity and religion are sensitive issues in Quebec, a Francophone province surrounded by English-majority Canada. In the 1960s, Quebec underwent a social rebellion known as the Quiet Revolution during which Quebecers revolted against the Roman Catholic Church, which had dominated daily life in the province for decades. The result, sociologists say, is that outward expressions of religious orthodoxy have long been viewed with suspicion.

Julius Grey, a leading Canadian human rights lawyer who has argued frequently before the Supreme Court of Canada, said the decision could potentially open the way for other provinces to defy safeguards of the Canadian constitution by weaponizing the notwithstanding clause.

After the law was passed in June 2019, protests erupted across the province, with some local mayors and school boards in Montreal saying they would refuse to enforce it. The Quebec government passed an amendment appointing inspectors to ensure it was obeyed.

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State Dept. Reverses Trump Policies on Reproductive and Religious Freedoms

WASHINGTON — Women’s access to contraceptives and reproductive care is a global human right that will be monitored by the United States, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken declared on Tuesday, reversing a Trump administration policy that had overlooked discrimination or denials of women seeking sexual health services worldwide.

The announcement was one of several departures Mr. Blinken made from the previous administration’s approach as the State Department issued its annual report on human rights violations, even while he similarly condemned abuses and state-sanctioned oppression from China to Syria to Venezuela that have continued for years.

The report was completed during the Trump administration and, Mr. Blinken said, did not include examples of women who were refused health care and family planning information in nearly 200 countries and territories in 2020. He has directed officials to compile that data and identify violators this year “because women’s rights — including sexual and reproductive rights — are human rights,” Mr. Blinken told reporters at the department.

Mr. Blinken also announced that he had dismantled an advisory committee, set up by Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state at the time, that had prioritized religious liberties and property rights among universal freedoms. Critics of the panel had accused Mr. Pompeo of using it to promote his evangelical Christian beliefs and conservative politics.

had approved the assassination, although the United States has not announced sanctions or other penalties against him.

Prince Mohammed was a key ally to President Donald J. Trump, who had refused to condemn the rising Saudi leader for the death of Mr. Khashoggi, who lived in Virginia. The human rights reports issued by the State Department have also stopped short of directly accusing the crown prince, although Tuesday’s review did note the arrest and abduction by Saudi security forces of the activist Amani al-Zain in May, after she referred to Prince Mohammed as “father of the saw” during a video chat months earlier. Mr. Khashoggi was dismembered by a bone saw when he went to pick up documents in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

Although career diplomats took pains to describe the report as a matter-of-fact rundown of human rights around the world, many of its conclusions divided American activists along political lines.

“It’s unfortunate that the many pro-life, pro-religious freedom positions that President Trump had advanced internationally are being rolled back by the Biden administration,” said Travis Weber, a vice president of the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian organization.

Mr. Pompeo declared Beijing’s treatment of the Uyghurs — including forced sterilization and internment camps — a genocide, a position Mr. Blinken has retained.

Mr. Blinken called the Chinese abuses in Xinjiang evidence that “the trend lines on human rights continue to move in the wrong direction,” and he cited violence or oppression in Myanmar, Russia, Uganda and the northern Tigray region of Ethiopia as other examples.

All are “indications that the Biden administration is taking seriously its commitment to hold both allies and adversaries to a high standard on human rights,” said Sarah Holewinski, the director of the Human Rights Watch office in Washington.

She called the State Department’s return to monitoring reproductive health access for women and girls “a particularly big deal” after it had been cast aside.

“When women die from preventable pregnancy-related causes, there are likely to exist policies and laws that undervalued their life,” Ms. Holewinski said.

Medical workers and reproductive rights activists had long criticized the Trump administration for refusing to fund health clinics that provide abortions or otherwise support women who needed care. That has led to fewer health providers in some of the world’s neediest places, even for women seeking other kinds of medical attention, just as the coronavirus spread around the globe.

As a matter of international law, Mr. Weber said, “there is no right to abortion.”

Mr. Blinken did not specifically mention abortion in his remarks about protecting women’s access to family planning care. But he also noted the strain that the pandemic had placed on women, racial and ethnic minorities, and others based on their disabilities or sexual orientation.

Erosions of human rights, he said, “are being worsened by Covid-19, which autocratic governments have used as a pretext to target their critics.”

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Indonesia Says Schools Can’t Make Girls Wear Head Scarves

The father, a Christian, was upset that his 16-year-old daughter had been ordered to wear an Islamic head scarf at her public school in Indonesia. He met with the school’s vice principal and protested the rule. And he didn’t stop there: He streamed their conversation on Facebook Live.

“This is a requirement,” the vice principal, Zakri Zaini, sternly told the father, Elianu Hia, during their recorded conversation. “It has been stated in the school regulations.”

The video of the two men’s January conversation, which has been viewed more than 830,000 times, sparked a discussion across the majority-Muslim nation about religious discrimination, and it brought a swift declaration from the national government in support of religious freedom.

The government of President Joko Widodo last month issued a decree, which took effect on Friday, ordering public schools to respect religious freedom and prohibiting them from enforcing religious-based dress codes.

a conservative form of Islam, giving rise to greater intolerance of minority groups.

The government’s decree, which declares that public schools cannot “require, order, oblige, encourage or prohibit the use of uniforms with attributes of specific religions,” was lauded by civil rights groups. More significantly, it was held up by the minister of religious affairs as a reaffirmation of Indonesia’s status as a tolerant nation.

The minister, Yaqut Cholil Qoumas, called the head scarf case “the tip of the iceberg” and said the decree was intended, in part, to remind the public that Indonesia is a diverse nation built on pluralism.

“Indonesia is neither a religious state nor a secular state,” said Mr. Yaqut, a leading Muslim cleric and former member of Parliament. “It unites and harmonizes national values ​​and religious values.”

Brad Adams, the Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The new decree is a long overdue step to end discriminatory dress codes.”

The decree applies to all of Indonesia’s 166,000 public schools except those in Aceh Province, which is semiautonomous and operates under a modified form of Islamic, or Shariah, law. Indonesia’s many religious schools are also exempt from the decree.

Jenni Hia, the Christian girl whose father challenged her school’s head scarf requirement, lives in Padang, the predominantly Muslim but not particularly conservative capital of West Sumatra.

The origin of Padang’s head scarf rule came to light when the former mayor, Fauzi Bahar, said he had implemented the policy in 2005. Many people protested at first, he said in an interview, but eventually they complied.

Non-Muslim students were not forced to wear a jilbab, but it was “recommended” because of its “many benefits,” he said. “If non-Muslim students do not wear the jilbab,” he said, “it will show them to be a minority.”

Mr. Hia, 56, an air-conditioning installer, has lived in Padang since 1986, and he and his family are part of a small Christian community.

“I live in harmony in my neighborhood,” he said. “I have good relations with my neighbors. They even support me on this issue and they are Muslim.”

After previously attending Christian schools, Mr. Hia’s daughter, Jenni, started attending classes at Padang Vocational Senior Secondary School 2, a public high school, in early January.

The school had not informed the family of the head scarf rule when she enrolled, Mr. Hia said, and she refused to wear one. She received five warnings before the school summoned Mr. Hia to meet with the vice principal.

Before the meeting, he searched for a provincial or education ministry rule requiring religious attire. He found none.

The situation was so “bizarre,” he said, that he decided to record the meeting and stream it live.

“This is the first time I encountered an incident like this,” he said. “I put it on live so there would be no accusation that I was making things up.”

During the meeting, Mr. Hia argued that it was a violation of his daughter’s rights, and of Indonesian law, for a public school to require her to wear the symbol of another religion.

For her to wear a head scarf, he said, was akin to lying about her religious identity.

“Where are my religious rights?” he asked. “Where are my human rights? This is a public school.”

But Mr. Zakri argued that the requirement was in the rule book. “It becomes awkward for the teachers when there are children who do not follow the rules,” he said.

After the meeting, father and daughter signed a statement that she was not willing to wear a head scarf as dictated by school regulations, and that they would await a decision from “a more authoritative official.”

Two days later, after the video went viral, the school’s principal, Rusmadi, who like many Indonesians uses only one name, offered a public apology for the way the dress code had been applied. He acknowledged that 23 non-Muslim students had been inappropriately required to wear jilbabs.

“I apologize for any mistakes of the staff,” he said. “It is obligatory to obey the rules. It is not obligatory for non-Muslims to wear Muslim clothes.”

He added, “I guarantee that Jenni can still go to school as usual.”

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