Monday Sunrise Briefing: Pope calls for unity amid Iraq’s diversity


Pope Francis finished a historic four-day visit to Iraq by calling on Christians to forgive the injustices committed against them by Islamic State militants and to rebuild. “What is needed is the ability to forgive, but also the courage not to give up,” said the pope Sunday in northern Iraq at a church that’s been renovated after being vandalized by ISIS militants, making it a symbol of recovery efforts. Pope Francis also met privately with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the country’s top Shiite cleric, Saturday, and together they delivered a message of peaceful coexistence. Later, the pope spoke at the Plains of Ur, the traditional birthplace of Abraham, the biblical patriarch revered by Jews, Christians, and Muslims. He was joined by religious figures from across Iraq’s sectarian spectrum. The events gave symbolic and practical punch to the central message of Francis’ visit, calling for Iraq to embrace its diversity.

2. Financial relief for Americans. It wasn’t easy or quick, but President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief plan appears close to the congressional finish line. Final passage is expected in the House Tuesday. This relief bill will likely be the largest of three passed by Congress in the past year. This time, depending on income, stimulus checks will be up to $1,400 for individuals, up to $2,800 for couples, plus $1,400 for each dependent. The bill also extends unemployment benefits set to expire next week. It comes at a time when 10 million fewer Americans have jobs than before the pandemic.

The battle over the passage of a bill popular with all U.S. voters (but getting no Republican backing) illustrates the challenges of a 50-50 Senate and the tensions between the moderate and left wing of the Democratic Party. That could be a problem for Mr. Biden’s legislative efforts on voting rights, immigration reform, and climate change. But there was a glimmer of hope for Democrats: West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin suggested Sunday that he might be open to reforming the filibuster which could pave the way to overcoming the need for 60 Senate votes to pass most legislation.

Joe Pugliese/Harpo Productions via AP, File

A royal break. Prince Harry, left, and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, discuss why they left the British royal family and the country with Oprah Winfrey, broadcast Sunday March 7, 2021.

Why We Wrote This

Good morning! Welcome to your Monday, March 8, 2021, sunrise briefing.

Here are two news events from this past weekend (while you may have been longboarding, mountain climbing, and enjoying an offline life). Also, what to look for in the news this week.

Look Ahead

Monday, March 8

Women’s rights. Speeches, parades, and protests are planned around the globe to celebrate women’s achievements and raise awareness against bias, violence, and inequality on International Women’s Day.

Justice watch. Jury selection is scheduled to begin in the Derek Chauvin trial. The former Minneapolis police officer is charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd last year. 

Justice watch, part II. A Des Moines Register reporter, who was tear gassed and arrested by police while covering a protest against racial injustice, is set to stand trial today on misdemeanor charges in a case seen by critics as an attack on press freedom.

Tuesday, March 9

American relief vote. The U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the $1.9 trillion financial stimulus bill revised by the Senate.

Rules of the game. A virtual U.S. Senate banking committee hearing is scheduled: “Who Wins on Wall Street? GameStop, Robinhood, and the State of Retail Investing.” Watch online starting at 10 a.m.

Wednesday, March 10

Window on US priorities. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to testify before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the Biden administration’s foreign policy agenda.

Thursday, March 11

A year of change. The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic a year ago. 

Remembering Fukushima. Memorial events are planned to mark 10 years since the earthquake and tsunami that left more than 18,000 people dead in Japan on this date in 2011. 

Sunday, March 14

Celebrating musical excellence. The 63rd Grammy Awards are scheduled for 8 p.m. E.T. on CBS. Will Taylor Swift become the first woman to win the album of the year award three times?

Compassion Watch


A Royal Thai Navy officer rescues one of four cats from a sinking fishing boat in the Andaman Sea March 2, 2021.

No cat left behind,” might be the new motto of the Royal Thai Navy.

After rescuing eight human sailors (three Thai and five from Myanmar) from a capsized fishing boat off the southern tip of Thailand, the Thai Navy sent a crew out Tuesday to investigate. Their orders were to see if they could find the cause of the sinking and look for an oil spill. What they found clinging to the wreckage were four tabbies. That’s not too unusual since ships often have mousers on board. But what happened next was a bit out of the ordinary.

One of the navy sailors swam to the boat, wearing a life vest, and one by one, he shuttled the frightened felines back to the naval vessel. Photos of the rescue (and their post-rescue care) went viral after being posted on the Royal Thai Navy Facebook page. And it appears the cats have found a loving home at the crew’s base on the island of Koh Lipe, Reuters reports.

Hidden Gem

Start your week with a recent story that inspired Monitor readers:

India’s blind readers had no lifestyle mag. So this woman made one.

Sneak preview

In tonight’s Daily Edition, watch for our review of Disney’s latest multicultural film: “Raya and the Last Dragon.”

Finally, check out the Monitor’s selected stories from Friday’s subscription-only Daily Edition:

  1. Are Myanmar’s generals open to persuasion? Depends who’s persuading.
  2. Why Saudi Arabia (still) tests limits of US influence
  3. Zoom isn’t carbon-free. The climate costs of staying home.
  4. Billie Holiday as activist: Can a movie change the singer’s image?
  5. Kindness linked us on the Mongolian steppe

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