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Pope Francis, right, embraces Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI during Mass before the canonisation ceremony of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II at
St Peter's Square at the Vatican.
Huge crowd as popes made saints
Pope Francis proclaimed his
predecessors John XXIII and John Paul
II saints in front of more than half a
million pilgrims in the Vatican, hailing
both as courageous men who withstood
the tragedies of the 20th century.
Cheers and applause rang out across
St Peter's Square after the historic double
papal canonisation as many in the crowd
xed their gaze on huge tapestries of the
two popes on the facade of the basilica
behind Pope Francis.
"We declare and de ne Blessed John
XXIII and John Paul II to be saints
and we enrol them among the saints,
decreeing that they are to be venerated
as such by the whole Church," Francis
said in his formal proclamation in Latin.
Relics of each man --- a container of
blood from John Paul II and skin from
John XXIII --- were placed near the altar.
e crowd was so large it stretched
back along Via della Conciliazione, the
broad, half-kilometre boulevard that
starts at the Tiber River.
e Mass was also attended by former
Pope Benedict, who last year became the
rst ponti in six centuries to step down.
Benedict walked with a cane and was
dressed in white.
His attendance gave the ceremony a
somewhat surreal atmosphere created by
the presence of reigning Pope, a retired
Pope and two dead popes buried in
the basilica. Francis went over to greet
Benedict twice during the service.
" ese were two men of courage . . .
and they bore witness before the Church
and the world to God's goodness and
mercy," Pope Francis said in his address.
" ey lived through the tragic events
of that (the 20th) century, but they were
not overwhelmed by them. For them,
God was more powerful; faith was more
powerful," he added.
John XXIII, who reigned from 1958 to
1963 and called the modernising Second
Vatican Council, lived through both
John Paul II, the Pole who reigned for
nearly 27 years witnessed the devastation
of his homeland in World War Two and
is credited by many with helping end the
Cold War and bring down communism.
e fact that the two being canonised
are widely seen as representing
contrasting faces of the Church has
added to the signi cance of an event
that Francis hopes will draw the world's
1.2 billion Catholics closer together.
e Vatican said more than 500,000
people lled the basilica area while
another 300,000 watched the event
on large television screens throughout
e overwhelming majority in the
crowd were Poles who had travelled
from their home country and immigrant
communities as far a eld as Chicago
and Sydney to watch their most famous
native son become a saint.
Hundreds of red and white Polish
ags lled the square and the streets
surrounding the Vatican, which were
strewn with sleeping bags, backpacks
and folding chairs.
"For years Pope John Paul II took the
Church to the ends of the earth and
today the ends of the earth have come
back here," Father Tom Rosica, head
of Canada's Salt and Light Catholic
television network, said.
Families and other pilgrims had waited
for more than 12 hours along the main
street leading to the Vatican before
police opened up the square at 5.30am.
Some people said they had managed to
sleep on their feet because the crowd was
About 850 cardinals and bishops
celebrated the Mass with the Pope and
700 priests were on hand to distribute
communion to the huge crowd.
Pope Francis's own huge popularity has
added extra appeal to the unprecedented
ceremony to raise two former leaders of
the C hurch to sainthood on the same
day. But while both were widely revered,
there has also been criticism that John
Paul II, who only died nine years ago,
has been canonised too quickly.
Groups representing victims of sexual
abuse by Catholic priests also say he
did not do enough to root out a scandal
that emerged towards the end of his
ponti cate and which has hung over the
Church ever since.
e controversy did nothing to put o
the rivers of Catholic faithful.
"I think that they were two great
people, each of them had their own
particular character, so they deser ve
what is happening," Leonardo Ruino,
who came from Argentina, said.
About 10,000 police and security
personnel and special paramedic teams
were deployed and large areas of Rome
were closed to tra c.
John, an Italian often known as the
"Good Pope" because of his friendly,
open personality, died before the Second
Vatican Council ended its work in
1965 but his initiative set o one of the
greatest upheavals in Church teaching in
e Council ended the use of Latin
at Mass, brought in the use of modern
music and opened the way for challenges
to Vatican authority, which alienated
John Paul continued many of the
reforms but tightened central control,
condemned theological renegades and
preached a stricter line on social issues
such as sexual freedom.
A charismatic, dominant pope, he was
criticised by some as a rigid conservative
but the adoration he inspired was shown
by the huge crowds whose chants of
"santo subito!" (make him a saint at
once!) at his funeral 2005 were answered
with the fastest declaration of sainthood
in modern history.
e election of the Argentinian-
born Pope Francis has injected fresh
enthusiasm into a Church beset by
sexual and nancial scandals during the
papacy of his predecessor Benedict XVI.
A letter from a passenger on the
Titanic, written just hours before the
ship hit an iceberg and sank on its
maiden voyage, sold at auction at the
weekend for £119,000 ($233,074).
It was written by British survivors
Esther Hart and her seven-year-old
daughter Eva who had been travelling
in second class on their way to start a
new life in Canada.
Auction house Henry Aldridge and
Son said the price was believed to be a
record for a Titanic letter.
" ere was a lot of interest," a
spokesman said. "We have sold other
letters from the Titanic but none have
reached anything like this price."
e Titanic sank on the night of
Sunday, April 14, 1912, on the fth day
of its rst voyage from Southampton to
Over 1500 passengers and crew lost
their lives in the tragedy, including
Hart's husband Benjamin.
e letter, written on special
stationery headed "On board RMS
Titanic" and complete with an envelope
embossed with the White Star Line
ag, was intended to be delivered to
Hart's mother in Chadwell Heath, east
It tells how Esther Hart was su ering
the e ects of sea-sickness and feeling
"My dear ones all," it begins. "As you
see it is Sunday afternoon and we are
resting in the library after luncheon. I
was very bad all day yesterday could not
eat or drink and sick all the while, but
today I have got over it.
" e sailors say we have had a
wonderful passage up to now. ere has
been no tempest, but God knows what
it must be when there is one. It is very
nice weather but awfully windy and
She adds: " ey say we may get into
New York Tuesday night but we are
really due early Wednesday morning.
Shall write as soon as we get there."
e letter, with a cheery farewell from
young Eva at the bottom, survived
because it had been in the pocket of her
husband's coat, which he had given to
his wife to keep her warm as the ship
was evacuated. He did not survive the
Hart and Eva, who later recalled the
events of the liner's last hours in her
autobiography, Shadow of the Titanic,
were rescued by RMS Carpathia.
In the book, Eva wrote of her mother:
" e letter she had written that Sunday
afternoon on the Titanic was never
posted. She found it in the pocket of
my father's sheepskin-lined coat after
we had been rescued and for her it was
to remain a constant reminder of that
tragic journey and of the loss of her
Eva died in 1996 aged 91. --- Reuters
Last letter from Titanic changes hands
South Korean Prime Minister Chung
Hong-won announced his resignation
overnight over the government's poor
response to the April 16 ferry disaster,
in which it was rst announced that
everyone had been rescued.
e Sewol ferry sank on a routine trip
south from the port of Incheon to the
traditional holiday island of Jeju.
More than 300 people, most of them
students and teachers on a eld trip
from the Danwon High School on
the outskirts of Seoul, have died or are
missing and presumed dead.
e children were told to stay put
in their cabins, where they waited for
further orders. e con rmed death toll
overnight was 187.
e resignation has to be approved by
President Park Geun-hye.
"Keeping my post too great a burden
on the administration," a sombre Chung
said in a brief announcement. "On behalf
of the government, I apologise for many
problems from the prevention of the
accident to the early handling of the
" ere are too many irregularities and
malpractices in parts of society that have
been with us too long and I hope those
are corrected so that accidents like this
will not happen again."
Chung was booed and someone threw
a water bottle at him when he visited
grieving parents the day after the disaster.
Tempers have frayed over the slow pace
of the recovery and frequent changes in
information provided by the government.
e Gyeonggi Provincial O ce of
Education sent text messages to parents
that "all Danwon High School students
are rescued" in the hours after the
disaster, media reported.
Park, who has the most power in
government, was also booed by some
of the relatives of the missing when
she visited a gym where families of the
missing were staying. --- Reuters
20 years without apartheid
Pro-Russian rebels paraded European
monitors they are holding in eastern
Ukraine overnight, freeing one but
saying they had no plans to release
another seven as the United States and
Europe prepared new sanctions against
In Donetsk, where pro-Russian
rebels have proclaimed an independent
"people's republic", armed ghters seized
the headquarters of regional television
and ordered it to start broadcasting a
Russian State television channel.
Heavily armed pro-Russian gunmen
have seized buildings in towns and cities
across eastern Ukraine. e Organisation
for Security and Co-operation in Europe
has sent unarmed monitors to try to
encourage compliance with the peace
deal. e pro-Russian rebels seized eight
European monitors three days ago and
have been holding them at their most
heavily-forti ed redoubt in the town of
Slaviansk. One, a Swede, was permitted
to leave. A separatist spokeswoman said
the prisoner had been let go on medical
grounds. --- Reuters
President Jacob Zuma has led
celebrations on the 20th anniversary
of South Africa's post-apartheid
democracy, insisting it is closer
to its multi-racial dream despite
inequality, poverty and corruption.
"Our country has done well," Zuma
said at a ceremony held overnight
two decades after the rst all-race
election that saw Nelson Mandela
become the country's rst black
"We all have a good story to tell.
"We have moved closer to our
cherished dream of a united non-
racial, non-sexist and democratic
South Africa,"he said at the Freedom
Day ceremony held in Pretoria.
South Africa is now the most
developed country on the continent
and boasts among other things,
a strong constitution and an
But its successes have been sullied
by mismanagement and high-level
corruption blamed largely on the
ANC-led government, as well as a
legacy of racial inequality, poverty,
rampant crime and lack of ser vices.
e government failings have
become a rallying point for the
opposition ahead of next month's
general election, the fth since the
end of sanctioned racial oppression.
But Zuma --- who himself has been
tarnished by corruption allegations
--- used his speech to warn rivals not
to dismiss the "tremendous" gains in
the country of 51 million people.
"I am sure you all agree with me
that . . . we have made South Africa
a much better place to live in," Zuma
"We must not deny or downplay
these achievements, regardless of our
political di erences ... at any given
time, including the election period."
Zuma, who is seeking re-election,
urged South Africans to turn out in
their millions on May 7 to vote.
"Our freedom was not free. It came
about through blood, sweat and
tears. at is why we must defend it
at all cost," he said.
Freedom Day was marked by a full
military parade including a 21-gun
salute and y-pasts as well as prayers,
music and dance.
A colourful cultural parade entered
the Union Buildings gardens to the
tune of the South African 2010
World Cup's o cial anthem Waka
Waka ( is Time for Africa).
e Union Buildings complex
is where generations of apartheid
leaders penned many of the racial
laws that Mandela and others fought
against for most of their lives.
For many South Africans, Freedom
Day brings back sweet memories of
the euphoria of the election on April
27, 1994, when black, Indian and
mixed race voters stood in long lines
alongside whites to cast their rst
ever ballots. --- AFP
A French tourist has o ered
her pizza to a man rummaging
through rubbish in the streets
of New York, not realising it was
Richard Gere making a movie.
Karine Valnais Gombeau, a
42-year-old Parisian, spotted
the actor, a cap pulled down over
his ears, sifting through rubbish
as she came out of a pizzeria
near Grand Central station in
Manhattan, with her husband
and 15-year-old son, the New
York Post reported overnight.
Without blinking, Gere, 64,
asked her what was in the bag she
o ered him.
"I tried to tell him in English
but it came out half in French,"
Gombeau told the Post.
"I said, 'Je suis desolee (I am
sorry) but the pizza is cold'."
"He said, ' ank you so much.
God bless you'," she said.
She left without knowing it
was Gere making his new movie
Time Out of Mind, until the
Post ran a photo of the moment
two days later.
"It was magical. It's crazy,
this story. It's unimaginable
that something like this could
happen," she said, adding she
thought Gere, the star of Pretty
Woman and Chicago, was "very
handsome, even at his age".
Tutu 'glad' Mandela
not alive to see
South Africa today
Nobel peace laureate
Desmond Tutu says he is
glad Nelson Mandela is
not alive to witness the
current state of South
"I'm glad that Madiba
is dead. I'm glad that
most of these people are
no longer alive to see
this," Tutu told South
Africa's Sunday Times
newspaper, referring to
what he saw as the slow
pace of change in the 20
years since the end of
His comments were
published as South
Africa was celebrating
the 20th anniversary of
its rst all-race elections
that ended decades of
racial oppression under
apartheid and brought
Mandela to power as its
rst black president.
"I didn't think
there would be a
disillusionment so soon,"
the Anglican archbishop
emeritus was quoted as
Tutu, 82, who is still
regarded as a moral
beacon in South Africa,
had con rmed on
Wednesday that he
would not vote for the
ruling ANC in the
May 7 elections.
He has been openly
critical of current
administration, but on
Wednesday chose also to
highlight the positives
over the two decades
since the fall of apartheid.
e Israel branch of the Simon
Wiesenthal Centre has given Germany
and the United States top marks in its
annual report on e orts to hunt down
Nazi war criminals.
It placed both countries in its category
A, of states which "have taken all
reasonable measures to identify the
potential suspected Nazi war criminals
in the country in order to maximise
investigation and prosecution and have
achieved notable results during the
period under review."
It speci cally praised Germany for
implementing a legal strategy that "paves
the way for the conviction of practically
any person who served either in a Nazi
death camp or in the Einsatzgruppen
(mobile killing units)."
It was published overnight as
Israel prepared to observe Holocaust
remembrance day from sundown, with
the entire country coming to a standstill
for two minutes of silence today to
remember the six million Jews killed
during the Holocaust in World War
e survey gave Argentina, Brazil,
Costa Rica, the Czech Republic,
Finland, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia
an E, the grade given to countries where
"no practical steps have been taken to
uncover new cases".
At the bottom of the rankings, with
an X, were Belarus, Belgium, Bolivia,
Bosnia-Herzegovina, Chile, Colombia,
Denmark, France, Greece, Luxembourg,
New Zealand, Netherlands, Paraguay,
Russia, Spain, Ukraine and Uruguay.
ey "did not respond to the
questionnaire, but clearly did not take
any action whatsoever to investigate
suspected Nazi war criminals during the
period under review," the report said.
A separate report on anti-Semitism
published overnight by Tel Aviv
University registered a drop in violent
attacks on Jews worldwide.
" e year 2013 witnessed 554 registered
violent anti-Semitic acts or direct threats
against Jewish persons or institutions
such as synagogues, community centres,
schools, cemeteries, monuments as well
as private property."
It said that was down from 686
incidents the previous year.
It said that the country with the
highest number of recorded events in
2013 was France with 116, compared to
200 in 2012 and 114 the year before.
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