VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis led the world’s Roman Catholics into Easter at a vigil Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Saturday night, urging the faithful to live not for transient things like wealth and success but for God.
The largest church in Christendom was dark at the start of the long service as the pope carved into a candle the numbers of the year 2019 and the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet – Alpha and Omega – signifying that God is the beginning and end of all things.
Easter, the most important day in the Church’s liturgical calendar, commemorates the day Christians believe Jesus rose from the dead.
Francis, marking his seventh Easter season as pope, wove his homily around the Bible account of the women who went to Jesus’ tomb only to find it empty and the large stone that had sealed it had been cast away.
“God takes away even the hardest stones against which our hopes and expectations crash: death, sin, fear, worldliness,” he said.
“There is another stone that often seals the heart shut: the stone of sin. Sin seduces; it promises things easy and quick, prosperity and success, but then leaves behind only solitude and death. Sin is looking for life among the dead, for the meaning of life in things that pass away,” he said.
During the Mass, Francis welcomed eight adult converts into the Church, conferring on them the sacraments of baptism and confirmation. They were from Italy, Albania, Ecuador, Indonesia and Peru.
On Sunday, the 82-year-old leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Roman Catholics is due to say a Mass in St. Peter’s Square and read the traditional “Urbi et Orbi” (To The City and The World) message. (Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Hugh Lawson)
China officials fired as coronovirus deaths surge past 1,300
Health officials in China‘s hard-hit central province of Hubei reported on Thursday that 242 more people died from the coronavirus COVID-19 as of Wednesday – the highest in a single day and more than twice the previous record high – pushing the death toll across the country to 1,355.
The province’s health commission also reported a huge jump in new cases, saying a further 14,840 people had been confirmed with the infection over the 24-hour period to midnight on Wednesday (16:00 GMT).
As this developed, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Thursday that the head of the Communist party in the province of Hubei has been relieved of his post – the latest in a line of local officials fired.
Hubei is at the centre of the outbreak, which is thought to have originated in a now-closed seafood market in the capital of Wuhan late last year.
Former Shanghai Mayor Ying Yong has been appointed as the new secretary of the Hubei Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China, replacing Jiang Chaoliang, the report said, citing the party’s central committee.
Al Jazeera’s Katrina Yu, reporting from Beijing, said “it was expected that somebody’s head was on the chopping block”.
“There’s been a lot of criticism about the information not being so forthcoming” from Hubei officials, she added. (Via AlJazeera)
NBA Legend Kobe Bryant dies at 41
Basketball legend Kobe Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Maria Onore Bryant were among nine people killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, on Sunday.
It’s hard to believe NBA superstar Kobe Bryant, whose prodigious talent and win-at-all-costs spirit made him one of the most famous and decorated athletes in history, is gone.
Trump confirms he is considering attempt to buy Greenland
Donald Trump has confirmed he is considering an attempt to buy Greenland for strategic reasons, though he said the idea is “not No1 on the burner”.
The US president’s interest, reported earlier this week, was greeted internationally with widespread hilarity but with indignation in Greenland and Denmark.
The government of the semi-autonomous Danish territory insisted it was not for sale. The Danish prime minister called any discussion of a sale “absurd”.
Nonetheless, on Sunday White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow first confirmed the story in an interview, before Trump spoke to reporters as he left New Jersey to return from vacation to Washington.
Saying the “concept came up” and he was “looking at it”, the man who runs a notoriously leaky White House also questioned how the idea found its way to the press.
Trump sought to tie the idea of a US purchase of the world’s largest island – not including the continent of Australia – to his own area of professional expertise, saying it would be “essentially a large real estate deal”.
“Denmark essentially owns it,” he said. “We’re very good allies with Denmark, we protect Denmark like we protect large portions of the world. So the concept came up and I said, ‘Certainly I’d be.’ Strategically it’s interesting and we’d be interested but we’ll talk to them a little bit. It’s not No1 on the burner, I can tell you that.”
(Via The Guardian)