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Vials of vaccines. Photo: Tunahan Turhan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia became the latest district of the Catholic Church to reject religious exemptions to COVID vaccine mandates, the Washington Post reports on Thursday.

Why it matters: It's another sign of the fracture within the church when it comes to vaccination. Though the Vatican says getting the vaccine is "morally acceptable," some bishops have argued that vaccination is not a moral obligation and must be voluntary.

Details: The Philadelphia Archdiocese has directed its priests not to assist parishioners who wish to pursue an exemption "based on their own reasons of conscience," a spokesperson said in a statement to the Post.

  • At least five other diocese — including San Diego, New York, Los Angeles, Honolulu and Camden, N.J. — have issued similar guidance, while other bishops and Catholic organizations have publicly backed parishioners seeking exemptions for reasons of conscience.
  • In Lexington, Ky., employees at the Catholic Center of the Catholic Diocese of Lexington will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, Bishop John Stowe announced this week.

"These divergent policies at the highest levels of the church in the United States exemplify Catholics’ divided attitudes toward vaccination," the Post writes.

  • "They and other people of faith, most of whose beliefs emphasize the dignity of human life, are grappling with how that conviction applies to vaccines developed during a pandemic that has killed more than 4.3 million people worldwide."

Go deeper

Updated Nov 27, 2021 - Health

The next big bottleneck in the global vaccination effort

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

The world still needs more coronavirus vaccines, but an additional bottleneck has emerged in many low-income countries: They need help getting shots in arms.

Why it matters: Increasing vaccination rates across the world is both a humanitarian necessity and the best way to prevent dangerous new variants from emerging, but it increasingly requires complex problem-solving.

Nov 27, 2021 - World

South Africa says it's being "punished" for detecting new COVID variant

South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor addresses the 76th session of the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 22 in New York City. Photo: Eduardo Munoz - Pool/Getty Images

South Africa said Saturday it's being "punished" for detecting the new Omicron coronavirus variant as more countries rush to enact travel bans and restrictions.

Driving the news: The U.S. imposed air travel restrictions from eight countries Friday in response to the Omicron variant. Countries in Europe and Asia have also implemented their own travel restrictions in response to Omicron.

NASA estimates Tonga volcano exploded with force of 5-6 megatons

A satellite image of Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano on Dec. 24, before the eruption. Photo: Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies

NASA scientists estimate the power of Tonga's volcanic eruption over the weekend to have been 5-6 Megatons of TNT equivalent.

Threat level: Saturday's eruption of the Hunga Tonga Hunga Haʻapai volcano and subsequent tsunami killed at least three people. Scientists warn an "ash-seawater cocktail" poses a potentially toxic health threat, and drinking water could be contaminated.