Pope Marks ‘Easter Of Solitude’ In Virus Lockdown

This photo taken and handout on April 12, 2020 by the Vatican Media shows Pope Francis (C) deliver his Urbi et Orbi message following Easter Sunday Mass on April 12, 2020 behind closed doors at St. Peter’s Basilica in The Vatican, during the country’s lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP.

 

Pope Francis offered a prayer for coronavirus victims in an unprecedented livestream Easter Sunday message delivered from a hauntingly empty Vatican to a world under lockdown.

The 83-year-old pontiff spoke softly at a solemn ceremony attended by just a handful of priests and a small choir that was spaced out across Saint Paul’s Cathedral’s expansive marble floor.

The pandemic raging outsides the Vatican’s locked gates has killed more than 109,000 people and left billions confined to their homes.

The pope’s message was livestreamed for the first time — a bow to technology in the face of a new illness that has changed the shape of society and altered the way religion is observed.

“For many, this is an Easter of solitude lived amid the sorrow and hardship that the pandemic is causing, from physical suffering to economic difficulties,” he said.

A handful of priests and a few faithful also gathered at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City — locked down like the Vatican — to say prayers at the spot where Christians believe Jesus was crucified and resurrected on Easter.

READ ALSO: British PM Boris Johnson ‘Discharged From Hospital’ – Downing Street

The majority of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics were in forced confinement as the pope spoke and almost all of the world’s churches were shut on Christianity’ holiest day.

– ‘Not a time for division’ –

The pope pleaded with the world’s leaders to put aside their political differences and call back their armies during a global health emergency of a magnitude not seen in 100 years.

“This is not a time for division,” Francis said.

“May Christ enlighten all who have responsibility in conflicts, that they may have the courage to support the appeal for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world.”

He said health considerations required world powers to ease crippling economic sanctions imposed against their adversaries — a possible reference to those weighing over pandemic-hit Iran.

“In light of the present circumstances, may international sanctions be relaxed, since these make it difficult for countries on which they have been imposed to provide adequate support to their citizens,” Francis said.

He called for a “reduction, if not the forgiveness, of the debt burdening the balance sheets of the poorest nations” and for European nations to show the same “solidarity” they did in the wake of World War II.

“After the Second World War, this beloved continent was able to rise again,” he said.

“The European Union is presently facing an epochal challenge, on which will depend not only its future but that of the whole world.”

And he offered a prayer for those killed and those mourning the victims of a disease that spread from China to Europe in February and has now encircled the world.

“Today my thoughts turn in the first place to the many who have been directly affected by the coronavirus: the sick, those who have died and family members who mourn the loss of their loved ones, to whom, in some cases, they were unable even to bid a final farewell,” he said.

– Religious improvisation –

The pope’s virtual Easter Sunday message was the most vivid example of religious improvisation in the age of social distancing and confinement.

The faithful have already followed his advice and found creative solutions.

The archbishop of Panama took to the air and blessed his tiny Central American nation from a helicopter.

The faithful in Spain blasted religious music from their balconies during Holy Week.

Easter Sunday itself saw some faithful leave wreaths of flowers outside of the locked doors of churches from where festive processions had departed in previous years in the southwestern Spanish city of Seville.

A parish near the Philippines’ capital Manila pasted the empty pews with family photos that the faithful had emailed to the priest.

The Orthodox Church in Greece is planning to hold mass behind closed doors for its Easter on April 19.

Jews across the world did their best by using Zoom or other video-conferencing apps to “seder-in-place” when the eight-day Passover holiday started on Wednesday evening.

State television in Lebanon broadcast mass under lockdown from an empty church north of Beirut.

Catholics in neighbouring Syria — where celebrations had continued in Christian quarters of Damascus despite years of agonising war — stayed home this time because of the virus, but many watched a Facebook Live celebration by the country’s patriarch.

Sri Lankan Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith told a live mass broadcast that the southeast Asian country’s Roman Catholic Church had forgiven suicide bombers behind attacks that killed at least 279 people last Easter.

“We offered love to the enemies who tried to destroy us,” he said.

Westminster Abbey in London is following the trend by releasing Easter podcasts for the faithful of the Anglican Church.

And priests at France’s Roman Catholic shrine in the southwestern town of Lourdes were relaying nine consecutive days of prayers on Sunday by Facebook Live and YouTube.

‘Saints next door’

The lockdown forced the pope to improvise throughout Holy Week.

In previous years he had observed Holy Thursday service marking Christ’s last supper by washing the feet of 12 inmates on the outskirts of Rome.

The virus made that impossible this year.

Francis instead said a prayer for the dozens of priests and health workers who have died across Italy while attending to the sick.

“They are the saints next door, the priests who gave their lives by serving,” Francis said.

He invited five nurses and doctors to accompany him for the Good Friday processions in order to highlight their profession’s sacrifices over the past month.

Francis himself has reportedly been tested twice for COVID-19 since coming down with a cold at the end of February.

AFP

EASTER: Pope Offers Prayer For COVID-19 Sick

This photo handed-out on April 12, 2020, by the Vatican Media, shows Pope Francis read scriptures by the “Salus Populi Romani” Byzantine icon of the Madonna and Christ Child (L) during Easter Sunday Mass on April 12, 2020, behind closed doors at St. Peter’s Basilica in The Vatican, during the country’s lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP.

 

 

Pope Francis offered an Easter Sunday prayer for those killed and suffering from the novel coronavirus that has killed more than 100,000 people worldwide.

“Today my thoughts turn in the first place to the many who have been directly affected by the coronavirus: the sick, those who have died and family members who mourn the loss of their loved ones, to whom, in some cases, they were unable even to bid a final farewell,” the pope said in a live-streamed message from an empty Saint Peter’s Basilica.

Pope Francis on Sunday also called for the reduction or forgiveness of the debt of poor nations suffering in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: New York City To Keep Schools Closed Till End Of 2020, As Politicians Squabble

In his live-streamed message, he said: “May all nations be put in a position to meet the greatest needs of the moment through the reduction, if not the forgiveness, of the debt burdening the balance sheets of the poorest nations”.

The Head of the Church used his Easter sermon to also called for an “immediate” ceasefire in global conflict and urged European nations to show “solidarity” in the face of a coronavirus pandemic that has claimed more than 109,000 lives worldwide.

“May Christ our peace enlighten all who have a responsibility in conflicts, that they may have the courage to support the appeal for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world,” the Pope said.

Francis added that it was time for Europe, which he described as his “beloved continent”, to “rise again, thanks to a concrete spirit of solidarity” similar to that shown after World War II.

Pope To Livestream Easter Mass To locked Down World

This photo taken and handout by the Vatican Media on April 11, 2020 shows Pope Francis holding the Holy Book of Prayers during Easter’s Holy Saturday Vigil held behind closed doors at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican on April 11, 2020 during the lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP / VATICAN.

 

Pope Francis will break with centuries of tradition and livestream Easter Sunday mass to allow the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics to celebrate their holiest holiday under a coronavirus lockdown.

Fear and confusion in the face of a disease whose official death toll has soared past 100,000 — but whose real one is feared to be higher still — are reshaping society and transforming the way religion is observed.

Even such hallowed traditions as the pope’s messages to the faithful on Saint Peter’s Square have been replaced by prayers that Francis reads into a camera from the seclusion of his private library.

His only audience is the camera and the 83-year-old Argentine has admitted that the entire experience makes him feel “caged”.

– Life in confinement –

Francis cut a lonely but striking figure when he slowly entered a dark and starkly empty Vatican square in his white robe for a torch-lit Good Friday procession.

It had taken place around the Roman Colosseum in the presence of at least 20,000 faithful for more than 50 years.

READ ALSO: EASTER: Pope Offers Prayer For COVID-19 Sick

But Rome and the rest of Italy have been living under forced confinement since early March.

His Easter Sunday Mass and “Urbi et Orbi” blessing drew 70,000 to Saint Peter’s Square last year.

The Vatican’s entrance is now sealed off by armed police wearing facemasks and rubber gloves.

The pope has openly admitted that he was struggling along with everyone else to make sense of these extraordinary times.

“We have to respond to our confinement with all our creativity,” Francis said in an interview published by several Catholic newspapers this week.

“We can either get depressed and alienated … or we can get creative.”

– Religious improvisation –

The pope’s virtual prayers are just the most vivid example of religious improvisation in the age of social distancing and confinement. The faithful have already followed his advice and found creative solutions.

The archbishop of Panama took to the air and blessed his tiny Central American nation from a helicopter. The faithful in Spain blasted religious music from their balconies during Holy Week.

The scale of the unfolding tragedy has seen a New York City cathedral replace rows of wooden seats with hospital beds in case the surrounding emergency wards fill to overflowing.

In the Philippines churches across the overwhelmingly Catholic nation were shuttered due to the virus, but some have done their best to adapt to the unprecedented lockdown.

A parish north of the capital Manila had worshippers email to the church photos of their families, more than 1,000 of which are now pasted to pews for Easter.

“Those photos are the representations of the people who are watching and attending mass through livestreaming, so we also feel their presence virtually,” said Reverend Father Mark Christopher De Leon, of the Holy Rosary Parish Church in Angeles City.

Easter is normally greeted with parades, church services and large family parties in the Philippines but as the country battles the contagion those events were cancelled in major cities and severely curtailed in the countryside.

The Orthodox Church in Greece is planning to hold mass behind closed doors for its Easter on April 19.

“Seven out of 10 Greeks enjoy roasting lamb for Easter,” Greek meat trader Angelos Asteriou told AFP in Paris.

“That’s not happening this year.”

Jews across the world did their best by using Zoom or other video conferencing apps to “seder-in-place” when the eight-day Passover holiday started on Wednesday evening.

Westminster Abbey in London is following the technological trend by releasing Easter podcasts for the faithful of the Anglican Church.

And priests at France’s Roman Catholic shrine in the southwestern town of Lourdes were relaying nine consecutive days of prayers on Sunday by Facebook Live and YouTube.

In Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith told an Easter mass broadcast live from a television studio without an audience that Sri Lanka’s Roman Catholic Church had forgiven suicide bombers behind attacks that killed at least 279 people last Easter.

“We offered love to the enemies who tried to destroy us,” he said.

– ‘Saints next door’ –

The pope himself has in previous years observed Holy Thursday service marking Christ’s last supper by washing the feet of 12 inmates on the outskirts of Rome.

The virus has now made this impossible.

Francis instead said a prayer for the dozens of priests and health workers who have died across Italy while attending to the sick since the outbreak began in the Mediterranean country’s north in February.

“They are the saints next door, the priests who gave their lives by serving,” Francis said.

He invited five nurses and doctors to accompany him for the Good Friday processions in order to highlight their profession’s sacrifices over the past month.

Francis himself has reportedly been tested twice for COVID-19 since coming down with a cold at the end of February.

He told the Catholic newspapers that people across the world could try to spiritually escape their confinement through introspection.

“So: to be in lockdown, but yearning, with that memory that yearns and begets hope,” the pope said.

“This is what will help us escape our confinement.”

AFP

Madrid’s ‘Worst Game Of Season’ In Betis Defeat, Lets Barca Back In

 

Real Madrid’s response to winning the Clasico was another surprise defeat on Sunday as they lost 2-1 away at Real Betis to hand the initiative straight back to Barcelona.

Betis were deserving victors of a thrilling contest at the Benito Villamarin where two galling Madrid errors cost them their place at the top of La Liga, with Barca now two points clear.

A heavy touch from Sergio Ramos led to Sidnei’s stunning opener for Betis and then Karim Benzema, who equalised with a penalty on the stroke of half-time, was at fault for their 82nd-minute winner.

Benzema’s misplaced pass in midfield allowed Cristian Tello to go clear and he held his nerve to give Betis their first victory in eight games that adds yet another twist to this season’s back-and-forth title race.

“We lacked everything today,” said Real coach Zinedine Zidane.

“It was our worst game of the season. We lacked energy, fluency, possession, aggression. It was a bad day and that can happen. I am responsible. We can’t lose our heads but we can’t be happy either.”

Madrid appeared to have taken a significant step forward, at least psychologically, by beating Barcelona 2-0 last weekend but this result undid all their good work at the Santiago Bernabeu while bringing defensive doubts swiftly back to the surface.

Betis climb to 12th and put eight points between themselves and the bottom three.

Madrid have now lost three out of their last four games and won only two from seven, a dip in form that has appeared even more charitable given Barca’s own problems on and off the pitch.

After a game at home to Eibar on Friday, Zinedine Zidane’s side will travel to Manchester City in the Champions League but on this evidence their hopes of recovering their 2-1 home defeat from the first leg would seem faint at best.

Ramos will be suspended at the Etihad Stadium and his own poor run of form continued against Betis, where he was at fault for their first goal and then complicit in compounding Benzema’s error for the second.

“We haven’t played the way we trained all week,” said Ramos. “We have to be self-critical. And now we have to wait for those above us to slip up.”

Eder Militao will likely come in for Ramos against City and he was given an outing at right-back in the absence of the ill Dani Carvajal while Marcelo was preferred to Ferland Mendy on the opposite side.

Gareth Bale was left out of the starting line-up for a fourth match running.

Betis were the better side in the first half and might have taken the lead earlier had Marc Bartra not headed over from four yards or Thibaut Courtois not reacted quickly to push away Nabil Fekir’s thundering shot.

But five minutes before half-time they finally broke through, aided by Ramos, who tried to dribble the ball out after Fekir’s shot was blocked only for a heavy touch to allow the forward to retrieve.

Off balance, Ramos bundled into Fekir and probably would have conceded a penalty had the loose ball not spilled to Sidnei, who instead hammered it into the top corner.

Deservedly in front, Betis then went in level at the interval as Sidnei, perhaps with the adrenaline still pumping, fouled Marcelo in the box. Benzema drove into the bottom corner for only his third goal this year.

Both teams had chances to find a winner. A scintillating Betis break ended with Sergio Canales sending Joaquin through but after rounding Courtois he tried to square back to Canales when the net looked open. Luka Modric sprinted back and hacked away.

Madrid enjoyed their own spell of pressure as Modric’s shot from distance was saved and Mendy, on for Marcelo, curled onto the crossbar, helped on its way by the fingertips of Joel Robles.

But it was Betis that landed the decisive blow, again benefitting from a Madrid mistake. Benzema came deep and his pass inside was loose, persuading Ramos to dash out to intercept but he was beaten and left stranded.

Andres Guardado put Tello through the gap and he sent Courtois diving towards one corner before sliding the ball into the other.

Queen, Prince Harry, Senior Royals Set For Crisis Meeting

 

 

 

Queen Elizabeth II will host a showdown meeting with Prince Harry on Monday in an attempt to solve the crisis triggered by his bombshell announcement that he and wife Meghan were stepping back from the royal frontline.

Other senior royals including Harry’s father Prince Charles and brother Prince William, with whom he has strained relations, will join the monarch at her private Sandringham estate in eastern England, according to British media.

Meghan will join the meeting via conference call from Canada as they attempt to work out the “next steps” towards a compromise and nip the growing crisis in the bud.

Issues up for debate include how much money the couple will still receive from Charles’s estate, their HRH titles and what commercial deals they can strike, according to the Sunday Times.

Harry, Meghan, and son Archie spent Christmas in Canada, with the American former actress returning there this week.

The Queen on Thursday demanded that staff work with the couple to urgently find a “workable solution” that would take into account their demands for more freedom.

Several Canadian media reported Meghan had returned to Vancouver island off the country’s Pacific coast, where the family spent the year-end holidays and where baby Archie had remained with his nanny.

Senior royals were caught off guard by Wednesday’s announcement that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex wanted to seek a “progressive new role” and divide their time between Britain and North America.

The Queen’s office issued a terse statement the same evening, saying there were “complicated issues that will take time to work through”.

Harry and Meghan said they intended to continue to “fully support” the queen and “collaborate” with senior royals.

They also want to keep their home on the queen’s Windsor Castle estate as their British base, while aiming to become financially independent.

But their desire to live as both members of the monarchy and private individuals making a living was described as a “toxic mix” by David McClure, an investigator into royal finances.

“The history of senior royals making money — the two is a toxic mix. It hasn’t worked well in the past,” he told the Press Association.

“How can you be half-in, half-out — half the week perform public duties and the other half earn your own income with TV, lectures, books? It is fraught with dangers.”

The younger prince, who has struggled with his role, last year revealed he has been growing apart from his brother, who as second in line to the throne is increasingly pursuing a different path.

Harry has been open about his mental health issues and he and Meghan last year admitted to struggling with the spotlight following their wedding at Windsor Castle in May 2018 and Archie’s birth a year later.

The couple has also lashed out at negative news coverage, some of which Harry says was racist — in light of Meghan’s biracial heritage.

Sri Lanka Catholics To Televise Sunday Mass Amid Bomb Threat

 

Sri Lanka’s Catholic Church will televise a private Sunday mass after cancelling regular services over fears of a repeat of Easter suicide bombings that killed 257 people, a spokesman said.

Father Edmund Tillakaratne said public masses were suspended for a second week, but a service conducted by Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith will be broadcast on national television.

“It will be like last Sunday when we had a service at Archbishop’s chapel and telecast it live,” Tillakaratne said.

Ranjith, who is also archbishop of Colombo, said Thursday that a “reliable foreign source” had alerted him to possible attacks this weekend, leading him to cancel Sunday services for the second week.

“The information we have from a reliable foreign source is that attackers are planning to hit a very famous church and a Catholic institution,” the Cardinal said in a statement.

Official sources said the Thewatte National Basilica, just outside Colombo, was the suspected target, and the military deployed hundreds of troops to search the area.

“There were no explosives found, but we have stepped up security in the neighbourhood,” a police official said.

The government is going ahead with plans to reopen public schools on Monday, but the Church said Catholic schools will remain shut “until further notice”.

Sri Lankan authorities had advance warnings from Indian intelligence of the impending Easter attacks but police and security forces failed to act, leading to Sri Lanka’s worst single suicide attack against civilians.

There were at least 42 foreigners among the 257 killed while some 480 were also wounded in the attacks targeting three churches and three luxury hotels on April 21.

Armed guards have been stationed outside hotels, churches, Buddhist temples and mosques across the country since the attacks.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said Friday that some of the conspirators may still be at large.

“Most of those responsible for the Easter attacks have been arrested. Some have been killed,” Wickremesinghe said during a tour of island’s east, where a Christian church was hit.

“We are trying to see if there are any more secret IS cells in the country,” he said. “We will ensure that IS terrorism will be eradicated from our land.”

Sri Lanka bolstered security Friday with fears of attacks against several bridges and flyovers in Colombo as well as police stations.

He hoped normality would return by Monday when public schools reopen after an extended Easter vacation. About 50 children were among those killed.

The attacks were blamed on the local National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ) whose leader was among the suicide bombers. The group had pledged an oath of allegiance to the Islamic State group.

PFA Awards: Hazard, Kante Among Nominees

Courtsey: thesun.co.uk

Eden Hazard and N’golo Kante have been named among the six nominees for the men’s PFA Players’ Player of the year award.

The Chelsea duo are joined by Manchester United Forward, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Tottenham Striker, Harry Kane, Everton’s Romelu Lukaku and Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez on the full shortlist.

Leicester City winger Riyad Mahrez scooped the prize in 2016, while Hazard won the award during the 2014/15 campaign.

The 44th PFA Awards will be hold in London on Sunday, April 23, 2017.

Nigeria Win World Scrabble Championship In Australia

ScrabbleNigeria made history on Sunday, winning the World Scrabble Championship in Perth, Australia.

In the finals of the best of seven games decided on Sunday, Nigeria’s Wellington Jighere defeated England’s Lewis Mackay 4-0, to emerge the new World Champion.

Team Nigeria had only six senior players at the Championship, after the youth team and officials were denied visa.

The Nigeria Scrabble Federation had expressed beliefs that the achievement in Perth would develop the board game in the nation.

Man Utd, City Play Goalless Draw

manu--cityManchester United and Manchester City, on Sunday, played out a goalless draw in their derby at Old Trafford.

With the result, City returned to the top of the English Premier League, ahead of Arsenal, on goal difference.

United and City played out a dour 0-0 draw at old trafford that was short on entertainment as well as chances with both sides cancelling each other out.

Only ‘Bad Luck’

Manchester United Manager, Louis van Gaal, claimed his side controlled the game against City for 90 minutes, saying only ‘bad luck’ prevented them from claiming all three points.

City boss, Manuel Pellegrini, is however happy with his team’s defensive performance.

Meanwhile, Tottenham’s Harry Kane returned to goal scoring form with a hat-trick, as Spurs came from behind to thrash Bournemouth five goals to one.

Also, Sunderland moved off the bottom of the League table, following a three nil win over north-east rivals and fellow strugglers, Newcastle. Liverpool and Southampton played out a 1-1 draw.

Kano Pillars Stunned In Home Loss To Nasarawa After 12 Years

kano pillarsThe Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) defending champions, Kano Pillars have been beaten at home for the first time in 12 years, following a 1-2 defeat in the hands of visiting Nasarawa United at the Sani Abacha Stadium.

Mannir Ubale and Yaro Bature scored the goals for the Lafia-based club.

Sunshine Stars thrashed El-kanemi Warriors 5-nil to boost Coach Kennedy Boboye’s men chance of lifting their first domestic title.

In other games played on Sunday, Sharks FC beat Bayelsa United at home by a lone goal, while Akwa United and Giwa FC settled for a 2-2 draw.

Rangers International and Dolphins of Port Harcout played a 1-1 draw, as Warri Wolves edged out Wikki Tourists 1-nil.

Abia Warriors beat Heartland FC 1-nil, while Kwara United also defeated Shooting Stars by same score line.

Siasia Invites 31 Players To U-23 Training Camp

siasiaHead Coach of the Nigerian national U-23 team, Samson Siasia, has called up 31 players to camp in preparation for next month’s All-Africa Games, in Brazzaville, Congo.

The list, which is made up of mostly players who qualified the Dream Team for the games, has some new faces including Lucky Jimoh, Bright Onyedikachi and Olisah Ndah amongt others.

The invited players are expected to report in Abuja from Wednesday, August 12.

The dream team will face Ghana, Senegal and Egypt in Group B of the men’s football tournament from September 3 to 18.

Recently, Siasia picked 20 players for the crucial African U-23 Championship qualifier against Congo in Pointe-Noire.

 

 

 

Siasia Picks 20 Players For Congo Return Leg Clash

siasiaNigeria’s Under-23 Coach, Samson Siasia, has picked 20 players for Sunday’s crucial African U-23 Championship qualifier against Congo in Pointe-Noire.

While addressing the players after their last practice match at the FIFA/NFF Goal Project in Abuja on Wednesday, Coach Siasia said that all the players are good enough to make the trip, but it was impossible for everyone to be in Congo for the battle.

He assured the players left out to continue to work on their game as they could form part of the team for the All Africa Games.

“For those of you selected, this is a golden opportunity for you to show to Nigerians and the world that your first leg victory was not a flash in the pan, and as such you must fight hard when we get to Pointe Noire and beat the Congolese.”

The team takes a slim 2-1 win to Pointe Noire and must avoid defeat to stand a chance of qualifying for the eight nation CAF Under-23 Championship in Senegal.

The selected players for the task ahead are: Daniel Emmanuel, Atanda Sodiq, Stanley Amuzie, Azubuike Okechukwu, Olusegun Oduduwa, Erhun Obanor, Godwin Saviour, Etebo Oghenekaro, Junior Ajayi, Usman Mohammed, Etor Daniel, Yusuf Mohammed, Chima Akas, Semiu Liadi, Shehu Abdullahi, Kingsley Sokari, Taiwo Awoniyi, Umar Aminu, Austin Oladapo and Sincere Seth.