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Pope marks Holy Week alone for 1st time in history

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Pope Francis

Vatican City, April 6 Pope Francis held the Palm Sunday mass alone in the St Peter’s Basilica here for the first time in history due to the coronavirus pandemic.

On Sunday, the rites to mark the beginning of Holy Week, an important religious festival in the Catholic calendar, were not held in the Vatican Square as usual and there was no congregation present at the ceremony, reports Efe news.

Instead millions of people followed the liturgy on the internet, radio and television amid widespread isolation measures imposed around the world due to the deadly outbreak.

The Pope said during his homily: “The tragedy we are experiencing summons us to take seriously the things that are serious, and not to be caught up in those that matter less; to rediscover that life is of no use if not used to serve others. For life is measured by love.”

Only a small group of people were present with the pontiff for the service, respecting social distancing measures by maintaining a safe distance at all times.

The Vatican has been forced to adopt preventive measures since the emergence of the outbreak which has seen more than 1.2 million global infections and 66,500 deaths.

Italy has been one of the worst affected countries in the world with 128,948 confirmed cases and the highest number of deaths in the world at 15,887.

St Peter’s Square and Basilica in the Vatican City were closed to the public in March.

The Pope told people feeling lonely to cling to their faith in these difficult times.

“When we have our back to the wall, when we find ourselves at a dead end, with no light and no way of escape, when it seems that God himself is not responding, we should remember that we are not alone,” he said.

“Today, in the tragedy of a pandemic, in the face of the many false securities that have now crumbled, in the face of so many hopes betrayed, in the sense of abandonment that weighs upon our hearts, Jesus says to each one of us: �Courage, open your heart to my love. You will feel the consolation of God who sustains you’.”

The Pope will officiate at a mass on Maundy Thursday but without the traditional foot washing that he used to carry out at migrant shelters or in prisons.

Good Friday mass will be held inside the Basilica and there will be no faithful at the Easter Vigil on Saturday or at mass on Easter Sunday.

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5 things to know as Hiroshima marks 75th A-bomb anniversary

The city of Hiroshima in western Japan is marking the 75th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing

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The Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima

HIROSHIMA, Japan — The city of Hiroshima in western Japan marks the 75th anniversary of the world’s first nuclear attack on Thursday.

Three days after its Aug. 6, 1945, bombing of Hiroshima, the United States dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki. Japan surrendered on Aug. 15, ending World War II and, more broadly, its aggression toward Asian neighbors that had lasted nearly half a century.

Here’s a look at that day in Hiroshima 75 years ago.

Q. Why was Hiroshima chosen as a target?

A. Hiroshima was a major Japanese military hub with factories, military bases and ammunition facilities. Historians say the United States picked it as a suitable target because of its size and landscape, and carefully avoided fire bombing the city ahead of time so American officials could accurately assess the impact of the atomic attack. The United States said the bombings hastened Japan’s surrender and prevented the need for a U.S. invasion of Japan. Some historians today say Japan was already close to surrendering, but there is still debate in the U.S.

Q. What happened in the attack?

A. At 8:15 a.m., the U.S. B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped a 4-ton “Little Boy” uranium bomb from a height of 9,600 meters (31,500 feet) on the city center, targeting the Aioi Bridge. The bomb exploded 43 seconds later, 600 meters (2,000 feet) above the ground. Seconds after the detonation, the estimated temperature was 3,000-4,000 degrees Celsius (5,400-7,200 degrees Fahrenheit) at ground zero. Almost everything within 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) of ground zero was destroyed by the blast and heat rays. Within one hour, a “black rain” of highly radioactive particles started falling on the city, causing additional radiation exposure.

Q. How many people were killed?

A. An estimated 140,000 people, including those with radiation-related injuries and illnesses, died through Dec. 31, 1945. That was 40% of Hiroshima’s population of 350,000 before the attack. Everyone within a radius of 500 meters (1,600 feet) from ground zero died that day. To date, the total death toll, including those who died from radiation-related cancers, is about 300,000. Hiroshima today has 1.2 million residents.

Q. What effect did radiation have?

A. Many people exposed to radiation developed symptoms such as vomiting and hair loss. Most of those with severe radiation symptoms died within three to six weeks. Others who lived beyond that developed health problems related to burns and radiation-induced cancers and other illnesses. Survivors have a higher risk of developing cataracts and cancer. About 136,700 people certified as “hibakusha,” as victims are called, under a government support program are still alive and entitled to regular free health checkups and treatment. Health monitoring of second-generation hibakusha began recently. Japan’s government provided no support for victims until a law was finally enacted in 1957 under pressure from them.

Q. What are those colorful folded paper cranes for?

A. “Origami” paper cranes can be seen throughout the city. They became a symbol of peace because of a 12-year-old bomb survivor, Sadako Sasaki, who, while battling leukemia, folded paper cranes using medicine wrappers after hearing an old Japanese story that those who fold a thousand cranes are granted one wish. Sadako developed leukemia 10 years after her exposure to radiation at age 2, and died three months after she started the project. Former U.S. President Barack Obama brought four paper cranes that he folded himself when he visited Hiroshima in May 2016, becoming the first serving American leader to visit. Obama’s cranes are now displayed at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

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Hiroshima marks 75th atomic bomb anniversary

Many fear interest in the bombings is fading as they recede beyond the horizon of lived experience and into history.

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75th anniversary of bombing in Hiroshima Nagasaki

Japan on Thursday marked 75 years since the world’s first atomic bomb attack, with the coronavirus pandemic forcing a scaling back of ceremonies to remember the victims.

Survivors, relatives and a handful of foreign dignitaries attended this year’s main event in Hiroshima to pray for those killed or wounded in the bombing and call for world peace.

But the general public was kept away, with the ceremony instead broadcast online.

Participants, many of them dressed in black and wearing face masks, offered a silent prayer at exactly 8:15 am (2315 GMT Wednesday), the time the first nuclear weapon used in wartime was dropped over the city.

Speaking afterwards, Hiroshima mayor Kazumi Matsui warned against the nationalism that led to World War II and urged the world to come together to face global threats, like the coronavirus pandemic.

“We must never allow this painful past to repeat itself. Civil society must reject self-centred nationalism and unite against all threats,” he said.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has been criticised by some for his attempts to revise a key pacifist clause of the country’s constitution, pledged in his address to “do my best for the realisation of a world without nuclear weapons and peace for all time”.

And UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who addressed the gathering by video message because of the pandemic, warned that “the only way to totally eliminate nuclear risk is to totally eliminate nuclear weapons”.

The bomb attack on Hiroshima killed around 140,000 people, many of them instantly, with others perishing in the weeks and months that followed, suffering radiation sickness, devastating burns and other injuries.

Three days later, the United States dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, where 74,000 people were killed.

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Disaster

‘Horror show’: Massive explosion in Beirut kills dozens, wounds thousands in Lebanon’s capital

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Beirut Blast

BEIRUT : A huge explosion in a port warehouse district near the centre of Beirut killed more than 73 people, injured over 3,700 others and sent shockwaves across the Lebanese capital on Tuesday, shattering windows and causing apartment balconies to collapse.

Officials expected the death toll to rise sharply as emergency workers dug through rubble across a swathe of the city to rescue people and remove the dead. It was the most powerful blast to hit Beirut in years, making the ground tremble.

“What we are witnessing is a huge catastrophe,” the head of Lebanon’s Red Cross George Kettani told broadcaster Mayadeen. “There are victims and casualties everywhere – in all the streets and areas near and far from the explosion.”

Three hours after the blast, which struck shortly after 6 p.m. (1500 GMT), a fire still blazed in the port district, casting an orange glow across the night sky as helicopters hovered and ambulance sirens sounded across the capital.

A security source said victims were being taken for treatment outside the city because Beirut hospitals were already packed with wounded. Red Cross ambulances from the north and south of the country and the Bekaa valley to the east were called in to cope with the huge casualty toll.

The blast was so big that some residents in the city, where memories of heavy shelling during the 1975 to 1990 civil war live on, thought an earthquake had struck. Dazed, weeping and, wounded, people walked through streets searching for relatives.

Lebanon’s interior minister said initial information indicated highly explosive material, seized years ago, that had been stored at the port had blown up. The minister later told Al Jadeed TV ammonium nitrate had been in storage there since 2014.

Footage of the explosion shared by residents on social media showed a column of smoke rising from the port district followed by an enormous blast, sending a ball of white smoke and fireball into the sky. Those filming the incident from high buildings 2 km (more than a mile) from the port were thrown backwards by the shock.

Lebanon’s health minister said more than 25 people had been killed and more than 2,500 were injured. Lebanon’s Red Cross said hundreds of people had been taken to hospitals.

DAY OF MOURNING

Lebanese President Michel Aoun called for an emergency meeting of the country’s Supreme Defence Council, according to the presidency’s Twitter account. Prime Minister Hassan Diab called for a day of mourning on Wednesday.

The explosion occurred three days before a U.N.-backed court is due to deliver a verdict in the trial of four suspects from the Shi’ite group Hezbollah over a 2005 bombing which killed former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri and 21 other people.

Hariri was killed in another huge blast on the waterfront, although on that occasion it was caused by a truck bomb.

It was not immediately clear what caused Tuesday’s blaze that set off the blast.

Internal Security Chief Abbas Ibrahim, touring the port area, said he would not pre-empt investigations. An Israeli official said Israel, which has fought several wars with Lebanon, had nothing to do with the blast.

The governor of Beirut port told Sky News that a team of firefighters at the scene had “disappeared” after the explosion.

“I saw a fireball and smoke billowing over Beirut. People were screaming and running, bleeding. Balconies were blown off buildings. Glass in high-rise buildings shattered and fell to the street,” said a Reuters witness.

Residents said glass was broken in houses from Raouche, on the Mediterranean city’s western tip, to Rabieh 10 km (6 miles) east). In Cyprus, a Mediterranean island 110 miles (180 km) across the sea from Beirut, residents heard the blast bangs. One resident in Nicosia said his house and window shutters shook.

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