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CHICAGO (CBS) — A Chicago church is doing its part to save lives in the pandemic, and it will be at it again on Friday, offering yet another free vaccination clinic.

Greater Mount Vernon Baptist Church, at 8700 S. Laflin St., is hosting a free vaccination event from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.  They’re also offering gift cards with every shot.

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Pastor Charles Rogers said, thanks to frequent vaccination drives, all but one of his congregants has been fully vaccinated and boosted.

“It means we’re doing the good work,” he told CBS 2 Morning Insider Tim McNicholas earlier this week.

“The church is about saving souls, but also saving lives,” Rogers added. “What’s the point of saving a soul, then losing a life?”

As the Omicron COVID-19 variant spreads rapidly, Pastor Rogers wants to expand his work. So he’s teamed up with two other churches—also in areas with below average vaccination rates—to get as many people as possible to this Friday’s clinic.

“And we have gift cards from Target as well,” Pastor Rogers said.

A nationwide group called Choose Healthy Life donated some of the gift cards.

“We know the folks that are not vaccinated at this point are the most diehard folks that are against vaccination for whatever their personal reasons are,” said Carol Bell of Choose Healthy Life. “So we want to encourage with any means we have to get folks vaccinated.”

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“And we feel that by uniting our forces we can be more effective,” added Rogers.

But Pastor Rogers isn’t stopping there. He says another pastor on the West Side told him many of his congregants are still unvaccinated.

So Pastor Rogers will help run a clinic there later this month.

“We’re trying to get everybody within the city vaccinated,” he said.

As for that one remaining congregant here who is vaccinated, but not boosted? His name is Chuck Hawkins, and he will add a line to his vaccine card on Friday.

“I’m actually anxious.” Hawkins said. “The hospitals are filling up. Like I say, I’m a barber. I deal with a lot of people, so I want protect myself.”

Public health clinicians will be giving out those vaccines on Friday at the church at 87th and Laflin from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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As for the event later this month, that will be on Jan. 21 at the New Home Baptist church on West Polk Street.

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Vatican defends Benedict after report faults abuse record

ROME (AP) — The Vatican on Wednesday strongly defended Pope Benedict XVI’s record in fighting clergy sexual abuse and cautioned against looking for “easy scapegoats and summary judgments,” after an independent report faulted his handling of four cases of abuse when he was archbishop of Munich, Germany.

The Holy See’s editorial director, Andrea Tornielli, provided the Vatican’s first substantial response to the report in an editorial that appeared on the Vatican’s media portal, Vatican News. In it, Tornielli recalled that Benedict was the first pope to meet with victims of abuse, that he had issued strong norms to punish priests who raped children and had directed the church to pursue a path of humility in seeking forgiveness for the crimes of its clerics.

“All this can neither be forgotten nor erased,” Tornielli wrote.

A German law firm released the lengthy report last week that had been commissioned by the German church to look into how cases of sexual abuse were handled in the archdiocese between 1945 and 2019. Benedict, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, headed the archdiocese from 1977 to 1982, when he was named to head the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The report’s authors faulted Ratzinger’s handling of four cases during his time as archbishop, and also faulted his predecessors and successors for their own misconduct in allowing predator priests to remain in ministry.

Through his secretary, the 94-year-old Benedict has said he would respond to the findings in due time. He has already acknowledged an editorial error in his own submission to the researchers about a 1980 meeting in which a pedophile priest’s transfer to Munich was discussed. Benedict acknowledged this week that he indeed attended the meeting but denied that his return to pastoral work was discussed at the time. The priest later received a suspended sentence for molesting a boy.

Tornielli didn’t comment on the details of that case or any other, though he lamented that so much attention had “predictably” been paid to Benedict’s four-year term as archbishop in the media. He focused instead on Benedict’s tenure as prefect of the doctrine office, from 1982-2005, and then as pope, from 2005-2013, when he retired.

While he was prefect of the doctrine office, Ratzinger in 2001 directed all cases of clergy sex abuse to be sent to his office for processing, after he saw that bishops around the world were moving rapists from parish to parish rather than punishing them under the church’s in-house canon law. During the final two years of his pontificate, Benedict defrocked nearly 400 priests for abuse.

Tornielli noted that victims were often treated a “enemies” of the church, and that Ratzinger helped change that mentality by listening to victims and asking their forgiveness, even against the wishes of conservatives who considered media reports of abuse an attack on the church.

“It was Benedict XVI, even against the opinion of many self-styled ‘Ratzingerians,’ who upheld, in the midst of the storm of scandals in Ireland and Germany, the face of a penitential Church, which humbles itself in asking for forgiveness, which feels dismay, remorse, pain, compassion and closeness,” he wrote.

Tornielli noted that the Munich report was not a judicial sentence and said it will only help combat the problem if the information is “not reduced to the search for easy scapegoats and summary judgments.”

The current archbishop of Munich, Cardinal Gerhard Marx, is due to hold a news conference Thursday to discuss the report’s findings.

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