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NEW YEAR

Europe parties ring in New Year despite terror jitters

Millions of people around the world shrugged off terror jitters to ring in 2017 in style.

Europe parties ring in New Year despite terror jitters
Revellers celebrate at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate, undeterred by a terror attack on December 19. Photo: Odd Andersen/ AFP
Revellers crammed into major cities across Europe to celebrate New Year with security tightened amid fears large crowds of people could present a target for extremists.
 
Celebrations swung into Europe with the night sky over Moscow's Red Square literally painted red by the fireworks.
 
In Berlin, revellers seemed undeterred by the deadly attack on a Berlin Christmas market on December 19,  as they gathered under a freezing Berlin sky for a series of concerts and a large midnight fireworks display over the Brandenburg Gate. 
 
 
Nearly 500,000 people gathered on Paris's famous Champs-Elysees, where the Arc de Triomphe was lit up with a colourful countdown to 2017 and the word “welcome” in dozens of languages.
 
   
The raucous celebrations drew to an end a year of political shocks, led by Britain's vote to leave the European Union. It has also been a year of celebrity deaths from David Bowie to Prince and Mohammed Ali. 2016 was also a year of bloodshed and misery that has seen the war in Syria, Europe's migrant crisis and numerous terror attacks dominate the headlines.
 
The German capital beefed up security, deploying extra police, some armed with machine guns.     
  
“This year, what's new is that we will place concrete blocks and position heavy armoured vehicles at the entrances” to the zone around Brandenburg Gate, said a police spokesman.
   
In Paris, nearly 100,000 police, gendarmes and soldiers will be deployed across France against the jihadist threat and President Francois Hollande inspected the security measures on the Champs-Elysees.
 
But fireworks returned to the French capital, after muted 2015 celebrations following the massacre of 130 people by jihadists.   
 
 
Brussels also reinstated its fireworks show after last year's was cancelled at the last minute due to a terrorist threat, with large crowds gathering in De Brouckere square. 
 
 
In Stockholm crowds gathered on the north side of Södermalm to watch the fireworks over Djurgården
 
 
In Copenhagen, the main gathering point was central Rådhuspladsen. 
 
 
 
Rome stationed armoured vehicles and greater numbers of security forces around the Coliseum and St Peter's Square, where Pope Francis will celebrate a “Te Deum” hymn of thanksgiving.¨
 
At the Coliseum, thousands set off their own fireworks filling the air with smoke and sparkles. 
 
 
 
 
In Barcelona, hundreds of thousands gathered in the city centre to ring in the New Year. 
 
 
They were greeted with a fantastic fireworks display. 
 
 
   
In Rome, earlier on Saturday, the pontiff held a mass at which he urged people to reflect on the plight of the young as the year drew to a close.
 
   
“We have created a culture that idolises youth… yet at the same time paradoxically we have condemned our young people to have no place in society,” he said.
   
At the stroke of midnight, there will be a “leap second” decreed by the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service to allow astronomical time to catch up with atomic clocks that have called the hour since 1967.
 
 
 

NEW YEAR

Bout of sciatica forces pope to skip New Year’s masses: Vatican

Pope Francis unable to celebrate New Year's masses Thursday evening and Friday morning at St Peter's Basilica because he is suffering from sciatica, the Vatican announced.

Bout of sciatica forces pope to skip New Year's masses: Vatican
Image: FABIO FRUSTACI / POOL / AFP

The chronic nerve condition that causes hip pain for the 84-year-old meant that “celebrations this evening and tomorrow morning… will not be led by the Holy Father,” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a statement. 

Giovanni Battista Re, the dean of the College of Cardinals, will celebrate the vespers on Thursday December 31, while Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin – the pope's right-hand man – will preside over the New Year's Day mass, Bruni said.

Later on Friday January 1, the pontiff will lead the Angelus prayer from the library in the Apostolic Palace “as planned”, the spokesman said.

Shortly before Christmas, two cardinals in the pope's entourage contracted Covid-19, raising fears that Francis, who rarely wears a mask, risked infection.

In addition to the Argentinian-born pope's official events reported by the Holy See's press office, he also has many private meetings at the Vatican's guest house Santa Marta, where he lives.

During Italy's first lockdown in March, Francis initially delivered his Sunday Angelus prayers from the Vatican library instead of his usual window overlooking crowds on Saint Peter's Square.

The restriction prompted him to say he felt “caged”, and he made several brief appearances at the window, greeting the few people who ventured out into the vast square.

The pope has a risk factor for Covid aside from his advanced age. When he was 21 years old in 1957, he suffered from severe pleurisy, requiring surgery to remove part of his right lung, according to biographer Austen Ivereigh.

The Vatican has not yet indicated when the pope may be vaccinated against Covid-19.

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