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Pope Francis’s ‘half-miracle’ in Naples

It was a miracle! Or maybe not. The dried blood of Naples' patron saint Januarius half-liquified on Saturday during a ceremony when Pope Francis held and kissed the relic while on a visit to the southern Italian city.

Pope Francis's 'half-miracle' in Naples
Archbishop of Naples Crescenzio Sepe shows the ampulla containing the blood of Saint Januarius during a pastoral visit by Pope Francis to the city. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

Archbishop of Naples Crescenzio Sepe showed the glass vial to the congregation in the city's cathedral and declared: "The blood has half liquified, which shows that Saint Januarius loves our pope and Naples."

Francis, known for his plain speaking, quipped that he and his fellow visitors to the city's cathedral had failed to win the saint's full affection.

"The bishop just announced that the blood half-liquified. We can see the saint only half loves us."

"We must all spread the word, so that he loves us more!" he added.

Each year thousands of Roman Catholic faithful go to the three special services at Naples Cathedral where the dried blood of the fourth-century martyr is said to turn to liquid.

Some people say the blood even increases in mass during these displays, though the church does not officially recognise any of the relic's alleged transformations as a miracle.

The Roman bishop was decapitated during the persecution of Christians during the reign of the emperor Diocletian in 305 AD.

Catastrophe

The showing of the vial is eagerly awaited because, according to tradition, whenever the blood has failed to liquify a catastrophe has occurred.

The ceremony has been going on, sometimes up to 18 times a year, for the past six centuries.

In 1527 and 1528 non-liquefaction was followed by the plague. In 1559 famine came and in 1833 cholera raged through the city. In 1944 during World War II non-liquefaction was proceeded by bombing raids by Allied aircraft.

The "half-miracle" came during Francis's one-day visit to the city in which he was greeted by hundreds of thousands of people waving Vatican flags.

Further strengthening his down-to-earth reputation, the pope headed deep into mafia territory, visiting jailbirds and the poor in Naples amid heightened security.

The pontiff arrived in the poor, crime-ridden Scampia area of the city in a popemobile and immediately plunged into a crowd of children and young people, two of whom managed to pose for a selfie with the pontiff.

"Corruption stinks, corrupt society stinks," he told residents, adding that "we all have the potential to be corrupt and to slip into criminality".

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HEALTH

Pope calls for a quicker vaccine rollout in Italy’s Easter Sunday message

Pope Francis proclaimed vaccines an "essential tool" in ending the pandemic in his Easter Sunday address and urged their swift rollout to the world's poorest countries.

Pope calls for a quicker vaccine rollout in Italy's Easter Sunday message
Pope Francis delivers his Urbi et Orbi Blessing, after celebrating Easter Mass on April 04, 2021 at St. Peter's Basilica in The Vatican during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / POOL / AFP)

On the holiest holiday for the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics and the second under the shadow of the coronavirus crisis, the Pope focused his message on the world’s most vulnerable – the sick, migrants, people facing economic hardship, and those living in war zones like Syria, Yemen and Libya.

“The pandemic is still spreading, while the social and economic crisis remains severe, especially for the poor,” the 84-year-old Argentine said, speaking to a congregation of only around 100 people inside the vast St. Peter’s Basilica.

“Vaccines are an essential tool in this fight,” he said, calling on the international community to overcome delays in distributing vaccines, “especially in the poorest countries”.

READ ALSO: Children lead the way in Italy’s reduced Good Friday service

Francis, who has focused on the plight of vulnerable groups since becoming pope in 2013, had already warned rich nations against vaccine hoarding in an address to the UN General Assembly in September.

The pope said it was “scandalous” that armed conflicts around the world had not ceased. He called for an end to the war in Syria, “where millions of people are presently living in inhumane conditions”, and in Yemen “whose situation has met with a deafening and scandalous silence”.

A deserted St. Peter’s Square in The Vatican, after the Pope’s Easter Mass and Urbi et Orbi blessing during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP)

He also expressed his closeness to Myanmar’s youth – “committed to supporting democracy” – called for dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, and urged an end to violence in Africa, citing Nigeria, the Sahel, Northern Ethiopia’s Tigray region and Cabo Delgado in Mozambique.

“There are still too many wars and too much violence in the world,” Francis said, adding that April 4th marked an awareness day against landmines, “insidious and horrible devices”.

An Easter message in Lockdown before a key month in Italy

The Pope’s Easter “Urbi et Orbi” (To the city and the world) message in the Vatican came as 60 million Italians spent the Easter holiday under lockdown.

The whole of Italy, the first country in Europe to have been hit by the coronavirus, has been declared a high-risk “red zone” from Saturday through Monday, with restrictions on movement and restaurants closed along with non-essential retail.

READ ALSO: Covid-19: What can you do this Easter in lockdown Italy?

Despite the gloom, there have been hopeful signs that vaccinations are gaining pace in Italy, while infection rates dipped in late March – although emergency rooms remain under enormous strain.

April is set to be a crucial month for Italy’s vaccine rollout, with authorities hoping to administer 300,000 doses per day within two weeks, according to the country’s coronavirus commissioner, General Francesco Paolo Figliuolo.

Three regions, including that of Veneto, which includes Venice, are also preparing to slightly loosen their anti-coronavirus rules from Tuesday onwards, passing from the most restrictive “red” zone to “orange”.

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