Pope Francis said on Sunday he was hurt by Turkey’s decision to make Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia museum a mosque, the latest religious leader to condemn the move.
“My thoughts go to Istanbul. I think of Santa Sophia and I am very pained,” he said during his weekly blessing in St. Peter’s Square.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has said the first prayers would be held in Hagia Sophia on July 24, after declaring the ancient monument was once again a mosque, following a court ruling revoking its status as a museum.
The World Council of Churches has called on Erdogan to reverse his decision and Patriarch Bartholomew, the Istanbul-based spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, called it disappointing.
Erdogan said the nearly 1,500-year-old Hagia Sophia, which was once a Christian cathedral, would remain open to Muslims, Christians and foreigners.
He added that Turkey had exercised its sovereign right in converting it to a mosque and would interpret criticism of the move as an attack on its independence.
Greece has condemned the move and UNESCO said its World Heritage Committee would review Hagia Sophia’s status and that Turkey’s decision raised questions about the impact on its universal value as a site of importance transcending borders and generations.
Edited By: Emmanuel Okara/Silas Nwoha (NAN)https://nnn.ng/pope-very-pained-by-decision-to-turn-istanbuls-hagia-sophia-museum-into-mosque/
Pope appeals for end to Libyan civil war
Pope Francis appealed on Sunday for both sides in the Libyan civil war to seek peace, urging the international community to facilitate talks and protect refugees and migrants he said were victims of cruelty.
In an impassioned plea during his noon address in St. Peter’s Square, Francis said he was pained by the situation in Libya, which has had no stable central authority since dictator Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown by NATO-backed rebels in 2011.
For more than five years Libya has had rival parliaments and governments in the east and the west, with streets controlled by armed groups and sporadic fighting.
“Please! I urge international bodies and those who have political and military responsibilities to restart, with conviction and resolve, the search for a path towards an end to violence, leading to peace, stability and unity in the country,” he said.
Egypt announced a new initiative for Libya on Saturday. Meanwhile Russia and Turkey, who support opposing sides in Libya, have postponed ministerial-level talks on the conflict.
Libya is divided between the Libyan National Army (LNA) and the rival Government of National Accord (GNA) with nations split over their support of the LNA or the GNA.
In an apparent reference to the coronavirus pandemic, Francis said the already precarious health conditions of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers had been aggravated, making them even more vulnerable to exploitation and violence.
“There is cruelty. I call on the international community – Please! – to take their plight to heart … Brothers and sisters, we all have responsibility in this.
“No one can consider themselves dispensed from this,” he said.
Human rights groups such as Doctors Without Borders have said people in migrant detention centres in Libya are being held in harmful conditions and exposed to abuses.
Edited By: Emmanuel Okara/Oluwole Sogunle (NAN)https://nnn.ng/pope-appeals-for-end-to-libyan-civil-war/
Pope donates €1m for coronavirus charity efforts in Rome
Pope Francis has offered one million euros (1.1 million dollars) for a new charity fund targeting people in Rome left in dire straits by the coronavirus economic crisis.
The fund, called “Jesus Divine Worker,” will be managed by the Roman branch of Caritas, the Catholic charity, the Diocese of Rome said in a Tuesday statement.
As well as the leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics, the pope is also the Bishop of Rome, and he made the donation in that capacity.
He mentioned people with casual, temporary jobs or with contracts that have not been renewed, interns, people with small businesses, domestic workers and the self-employed.
“Many of them are mothers and fathers who are struggling to bring food on the table for their children and ensure they have the bare minimum,” he wrote.
Francis urged public institutions, priests and ordinary people to also take part in charity efforts. “I appeal to the good heart of all the Romans,” he said.
The municipality of Rome and the region of Lazio, which includes the Italian capital city, responded by each offering 500,000 euros for the new fund.
De Donatis, who was personally affected by the epidemic as he tested positive in late March and was hospitalized for more than 10 days, said he was “deeply grateful” to the pope.
Edited By: Isaac Aregbesola (NAN)https://nnn.ng/pope-donates-e1m-for-coronavirus-charity-efforts-in-rome/
Don’t celebrate victory over coronavirus too soon, Pope tells Italians
Pope Francis on Sunday warned Italians to not let their guard down against coronavirus now that infection rates have fallen and urged them to obey government rules on social distancing and wearing masks.
Francis, addressing several hundred people in St. Peter’s Square for his Sunday blessing, reacted to applause that broke out when he said their presence, albeit reduced, was a sign that Italy had overcome the acute phase of the pandemic.
“Be careful. Don’t cry victory too soon,’’ he cautioned them, departing from his prepared text.
The number of daily deaths has fallen from nearly 1,000 several months ago to 72 on Saturday.
Italy entered the latest phase of an easing of restriction on June 3, when people were allowed to travel between regions again.
However, some Italians, particularly young people, have flouted remaining rules on social distancing and wearing masks in public places.
Authorities have warned of the danger of a second wave.
“We still have to follow the rules,’’ Francis said.
“Thank God, we are leaving the worst part, but always by obeying the rules that the authorities have stipulated,’’ he said.
Francis said no one should forget that coronavirus was still claiming many victims in other countries.
He said he has heard that on Friday in one country, a person had died every minute.
“Terrible”, he said, without naming the country.
Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)https://nnn.ng/dont-celebrate-victory-over-coronavirus-too-soon-pope-tells-italians/
Pope calls on people to take care, follow health rules during worship
Pope Francis on Sunday called on worshippers to take care and to follow regulations to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus when taking part in religious services.
Pope made the call in a statement on Sunday.
“In some countries, liturgical celebrations with the faithful have begun again, while in others this step is under consideration.
“Please, let us follow the guidelines we are given to protect the health of each individual, and of the people,” he said.
In Italy, religious services may be celebrated as of Monday, but the public is called on to observe social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus.
The pope is set to celebrate a Mass in St Peter’s Basilica on Monday in honour of John Paul II, whose 100th birthday would have fallen on May 18.
However, this is to take place behind closed doors, attended only by a few priests.
St Peter’s Square and St Peter’s Basilica have been closed since the outbreak of the pandemic at the beginning of March.
Edited By: Isaac Aregbesola (NAN)