National Geographic August 2015, Part 1

I don’t normally comment on the material that comes before the actual articles, but I will make an exception in this case. A few months back, I commented to one of my pharmacists that, if I ever get lice — which is doubtful, but you never know — there is a class of medications that I cannot take because of my hay fever. She had never heard of such a thing and my attempts to find the medication right then came to nothing.

This issue has the answer. The class of medications is ones that are based in pyrethrum. The little article-let thing is on the resurgence of pyrethrum production in Rwanda. Pyrethrum comes from certain species of chrysanthemum, so there is a possible cross-reaction in people with hay fever. The chrysanthemums in the photo, by the way, are single flowers, and not double, like the ones we generally see in the United States.

Generally, pyrethrin, and not pyrethrum, is sold for lice treatment in the United States. RID is one of these medications.

So there you have it. The only medical reason that I know of why I would need to disclose my hay fever when medical personnel ask me if I have any allergies to any medications.

Will the Pope Change the Vatican? Or Will the Vatican Change the Pope? by Robert Draper, photographs by Dave Yoder

During Alex and my 2014 trip to Italy, we went to the Vatican City. We spent three or four hours at the Vatican Museums and then walked around the city walls, the long way, to St. Peter’s Square. As we now (as I write this) live in the first time since the 15th century when there were two living Popes simultaneously, I realized that gave me double the usual chance to see a Pope when we were there and, despite being a dyed-in-the wool Protestant, I kind of hoped that we’d see one, and my preference was for Francis. Alas, we didn’t see even one Pope (though we saw two Swiss Guards who looked to be on-duty, which may indicate that a Pope was nearby).

Fortunately, Yoder didn’t have to look around, hoping to see a Pope. In fact, he was hired by National Geographic to follow the Pope for a six-month period (described in this issue as “off and on”) to take pictures of Pope Francis. Yoder took 67,000 pictures, some of which are reproduced here. Some of the others are in the book Pope Francis and the New Vatican, which came out in September of 2015.

The text of the article goes into some of Francis’s background, including his appearance at a convention of Roman Catholics and Evangelical Christians at which he asked the Evangelicals to pray for him, and for which the ultraconservative Catholic Argentinian newspaper Cabildo labeled him apostate.

Draper’s text also focuses on the changes that Pope Francis has made, from his more humble lifestyle to the attempts of his staff to keep up with his, to them, unpredictable personality. We also see some of the changes that the Papacy has made in Francis. He has accepted that he is now a public figure and has gotten over some of his camera-shyness. One of the changes that resonated with me, was that when he was just plain Jorge Mario Bergoglio, he liked to walk around in Buenos Aires, but he is no longer allowed to wander around Rome in the way he would like to do. The Pope would like to retire someday and return to his home in Buenos Aires. Whether he will be able to do so remains to be seen.

As to the shocking statements and some of the changes he has made, a Buenos Aires-based priest who has known Francis for decades says, “I believe we haven’t yet seen the real change. And I also believe we haven’t seen the real resistance yet either.”

St. Peter's dome from outside the Vatican City
The dome of St. Peter’s Basilica from outside the Vatican City walls

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