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Tuesday's papers: Banned neo-Nazi group returning, priest cleared over gay marriage, community helps lonely kids

Police probe resurgence of banned neo-Nazi group, court backs priest over gay wedding, meals and play for isolated kids.

lapsi syö leipää.
The community programme will provide kids with three meals a day until mid-July: porridge for breakfast, lunch and an afternoon snack. Image: Titta Puurunen / Yle

Police have confirmed to the Tampere-based daily Aaumlehti that they are investigating claims that members of the banned neo-Nazi organisation Nordic Resistance Movement are reconstituting as part of new groups.

On Tuesday AL reported that investigator Erkki Rossi of the National Bureau of Investigation said officials are looking into individuals related to the group, but noted that he did not name names. The aim of the probe is to determine whether or not efforts are underway to continue the operations of the NRM under different identities.

In September last year, the Turku Appeal Court upheld a decision by a lower court to proscribe the group, making it illegal for it to mobilise, demonstrate and distribute propaganda. "The situation is being investigated as operating an illegal association. The number of suspects is uncertain, because they are always changing," Rossi told AL.

The investigator said that there had been evidence that the group was re-assembling in different parts of the country, including in the Tampere region and that the subterfuge activity had continued after the appellate court’s ruling, at least up to the end of March this year.

The paper cited three different successor organisations: Towards Freedom, the People’s Unity Association, and another body allegedly operating as a charitable organisation, Finland Aid.

Towards Freedom was reportedly set up by former NRM member Paavo Laitinen and had been active during recent parliamentary elections. Meanwhile other NRM activists are said to have established the People’s Unity Association, which is collecting membership cards to register as a political party.

Court sides with pastor who performed gay wedding

Coming off the press in Oulu, the daily Kaleva reports Tuesday that the northern Finland administrative court has ruled in favour of a priest who was censured by the Oulu diocese of Finland’s Lutheran Evangelical Church for marrying a gay couple. According to Kaleva, the court decision was not unanimous as the final vote to clear the cleric was 2-1. It was the first ruling of its kind in Finland.

In 2017, the pastor Árpád Kovács received a written warning for performing the ceremony, with the diocese cautioning that his actions were contrary to his priestly oath and obligations.

Kovács told the paper that in his opinion, the religious community should not stand in the way when society decides that same-sex couples have the right to marry. "For me this is a victory for tolerance," he declared to Kaleva, adding that he hopes the ruling will inspire other priests to officiate at same-sex weddings.

Meanwhile the Oulu chapter of the church said that it will review the ruling and consider filing an appeal with the Supreme Administrative Court following a meeting on Tuesday.

Community effort to provide meals, activities for lonely kids

Leading circulation daily Helsingin Sanomat runs with a heart-warning story of a Vantaa community that united to provide meals and sporting activities to help kids who find themselves alone.

Journalist Marja Salomaa interviewed Anneli Virtanen, a resident of the 4,600-member community of Ilola located near Helsinki Airport. Virtanen said she wanted to set up a free meal scheme to help provide opportunities for young people to come together, especially during the summer holiday when they may feel lonelier than ever.

Another community activist, Jokke Pulkkinen seized the chance to organise sporting activities alongside the feeding programme. He said he was inspired to act when he read a letter to HS, in which the mother of a 13-year-old boy wrote about how her son was overwhelmed by loneliness.

According to HS, Tikkurila vicar Janne Silvast pitched in by offering the parish hall as a free venue for the programme for six weeks. In addition the city as well as other parishes contributed surplus food, while local businesses also supported the venture.

The community will provide three meals a day until mid-July: morning porridge, lunch and an afternoon snack. In addition kids will be offered an opportunity to join games, sporting activities and field trips.

Yle News previously reported on a separate initiative by the city of Vantaa, which is running a limited pilot of free park lunches this summer. That service is available at two locations in Martinlaakso and Havukoski.

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