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French press review 11 February 2015

The Pope tells priests to keep it brief and not to make it up as they go along.


Catholic daily La Croix gives front-page prominence to the latest advice form Pope Francis to his priests. God's man on the ground wants shorter sermons, less moralising, a more concrete approach overall. As the paper notes with some alarm, the Roman church has been losing ground in this crucial area to the Protestant Evangelical pastors, masters in the art of keeping the faithful awake and on the straight and narrow.

Priests are asked to be more humble and accept feedback from their parishoners if they get it wrong. The faithful want the link between their daily lives and the word of God to be made clear, with plenty of meat for reflection and lots of supporting evidence.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

Among the pieces of advice given by the Pope to his ground troops is the crucial "no improvising". Plan it all in advance, know what you're going to say and why.

Advice that should be listened to not just by priests but also by press reviewers.

Le Monde is still pounding on the doors of the Geneva branch of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC), even if most of the bad guys have already left the building.

This morning the centrist paper reveals that, not content with aiding the well-heeled to keep their readies out of the clutches of the tax authorities, the Swiss-based bank also provided a safe haven for money used to finance Osama Bin Laden's al Qaida, not to mention dubious funds from dodgy diamond trading, arms dealers and the Mafia.

The so-called Swiss leaks have already led to calls for parliamentary inquiries in London and Berne.

The money will, of course, have moved on to safer places before the politicians can even finish clearing their throats. The French tax authorities are delighted to have recovered 300 million euros in back taxes and fines from former HSBC clients. But they still have a long way to go to reduce the annual tax fraud fund, estimated at anywhere between 20-40 billion euros. That upper estimate, I remind you, would be enough to write off the French national debt.

There's to be a further meeting to attempt to resolve the Ukranian crisis later today in Minsk.

I'm afraid, the signs are not promising.

Not only has the European tag-wrestling team of Mutti Merkel and Fearless French Frank failed to ruffle the feathers of Bad Vlad Putin, adding the voice of Ukraine's President, Petro Poroshenko to the mix is not calculated to make the road to peace any smoother. The facts on the ground are all in favour of Moscow, as pro-Russian rebels continue to knock the stuffing out of an ill-equipped and demoralised Ukranian army.

Dossier: The Strauss-Kahn affair rocks France, IMF

Conservative paper Le Figaro describes today's Minsk meeting as a last chance for peace. It's a small chance, with the Western allies divided between a European Union that thinks that more economic sanctions will bring the Russians to heel and the Unites States which is considering giving more and better weapons to those fighting on behalf of the Kiev government.

Putin, says Le Figaro, is doing very nicely, thank you, tightening his grasp on the crucial industry and infrastructure of eastern Ukraine while continuing to make polite noises at all the peace conferences.

European soft talk has clearly failed; it remains to be seen if the threat of American muscle will force the Kremlin to back off. Always assuming that US arms don't simply turn a local struggle into a regional conflict, which the Russians are sure to win anyway.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn was giving evidence yesterday at the trial in which he is accused of being a pimp. The presiding judge noted that, at the time of the alleged events, DSK was "one of the most important men in the world". The accused agreed, modestly accepting that he had contributed to saving the planet from one of the worst financial crises in history.

The court then had to hear the harrowing testimony of a woman identified only as "M," who submitted, unwillingly and in tears according to her account, to being sodomised by the former director of the International Monetary Fund. While she wept with pain and humiliation, she said she had the impression that he was enjoying himself. The sex was brutal but consensual, she said. She badly needed the money.

Cross-examined, Strauss-Kahn said he felt M's testimony was broadly correct, even if his impressions were not the same as hers. He said he believed there was always an element of domination in any sexual relationship but he claims he did not know she was crying. Nor did he know she was a prostitute. The former IMF head said he enjoyed parties, and sexual relations which were playful. The trial continues.

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