Lockdown tamps down Easter, Passover celebrations

The global coronavirus death toll topped 100,000 Friday as Easter celebrations around the world kicked off in near-empty churches with billions of people stuck indoors to halt the pandemic's deadly worldwide march.

Churches will be empty this Easter and Passover festivities will also take place behind closed doors owing to the COVID-19 lockdown.

Christians will be obliged to turn to services broadcast on television or over social media this year owing to the coronavirus and Jews will mark the Passover holiday in their own homes rather than as communities.

 - Passover -

The major Jewish holiday starts Wednesday evening and runs to April 16 but families are being strictly urged to mark the festival at home for their own protection against COVID-19.

"Passover in confinement means Passover in security," says France's Grand Rabbi Haim Korsia, so as "not to contaminate those you love most" while remaining united in faith even at a distance.

Yet awkward questions arise for those who choose to adopt the strictest interpretation of traditions such as, for example, not using electricity or being accompanied by others for a reading.

For those in confinement on their own, do traditional observances allow recourse to modern get-arounds such as video-conference at least for the duration of the Passover Seder, the ritual feast which marks the start of the holiday period? 

Fourteen rabbis in Jerusalem have decreed in favour of on-screen participation in order to maintain contact particularly with the sick and the elderly. However, Israel's Chief Rabbinate Council  is opposed, arguing it amounts to "profaning" a religious holiday.

In France, home to Europe's largest Jewish community, rabbis of a liberal bent are proposing to offer a 'digital' seder forum where believers can connect and discuss such matters.

  - Urbi et Orbi -- and the confined -

Christians celebrating Easter will see the COVID-19 confinement crimp celebrations with Holy Week services generally taking place behind closed doors. 

The Vatican will be no exception, where Pope Francis last Sunday celebrated Palm Sunday at a deserted Saint Peter's Basilica. 

His audience will likewise be watching on screens rather than physically attending his Urbi et Orbi blessing in Saint Peter's Square, a case of addressing the city and the confined world.

Predominantly Catholic countries would normally see huge gatherings on Sunday (Orthodox Easter falls on April 19) -- but not this year, not even in the Mexican municipality of Iztapalapa, which usually hosts a Passion procession that sees participants lug crosses through the streets.

Television and internet are stepping into the breach, however, to allow believers to participate remotely in one of Christianity's most important festivals.

In mainly Catholic Spain the Archbishopric of Seville hopes its mass broadcast will draw an audience in the hundreds of thousands, while Catholic broadcasters in France will transmit mass from the pilgrimage site of Lourdes in the country's southwest.

In Lebanon, Maronite and Catholic masses will be broadcast live with just a priest present while the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem is urging believers to pray at home and gather virtually over social media. 

Elsewhere, South Africa's Anglican Church has issued guidelines including earmarking a place in the home for prayer and to continue the local tradition of eating pickled fish on Good Friday.

But the virus has forced one South African Easter traditions off the menu -- the evangelical Zion Christian Church has had to forego its annual pilgrimage to Limpopo province, southern Africa's largest Christian gathering.

- Orthodox variant -

Orthodox Christians concentrated largely in Russia, Ethiopia, Greece, Serbia and Ukraine, follow the Julian, rather than the Gregorian calendar, hence their Easter falls on April 19. But the extra week will make little difference when it comes to COVID-19 confinement. 

"The celebration of the resurrection is a celebration of victory over death. We shall certainly celebrate Easter even if it won't be possible to go to church," said Metropolitan Ilarion, a senior Russian Orthodox Church cleric.

The powerful Russian Orthodox Church initially said that regional authorities had no right to close churches but Patriarch Kirill in late March called on the faithful to pray at home amid the pandemic.

In the hope that COVID-19 may have abated by then, Greek, Syrian and Lebanese authorities are hoping to bring the faithful back into church on May 27 in time to see in Ascension Day.

  • Protesters tear through D.C. after National Guard troops and Secret Service keep them from the White House
    Yahoo News

    Protesters tear through D.C. after National Guard troops and Secret Service keep them from the White House

    Downtown Washington, D.C., was filled with flames and broken glass in the early hours of Sunday morning as large groups of protesters moved through the city for the second straight night. The protesters caused extensive damage to businesses in the blocks surrounding the White House after a large contingent of law enforcement — including National Guard troops, the U.S. Park Police and the Secret Service — kept the demonstrators back from the president's residence. Protesters lit fires at multiple locations around the city and clashed with law enforcement, hurling fireworks and other projectiles at the officers.

  • The trucker who drove through a crowd of protesters in Minneapolis was once arrested for domestic assault
    INSIDER

    The trucker who drove through a crowd of protesters in Minneapolis was once arrested for domestic assault

    Bogdan Vechirko, 35, was arrested on suspicion of assault after driving a semi-truck through a George Floyd march in Minneapolis on Sunday. Public records show that Vechirko has was convicted for disorderly conduct in late 2012. Donation records also show three contributions of around $100 since 2018: one to President Donald Trump's re-election campaign, and two more to the Republican Party.

  • Iran says it is ready to continue fuel shipments to Venezuela
    Reuters

    Iran says it is ready to continue fuel shipments to Venezuela

    Iran will continue fuel shipments to Venezuela if Caracas requests more supplies, the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman said on Monday, despite Washington's criticism of the trade between the two nations, which are both under U.S. sanctions. "Iran practises its free trade rights with Venezuela and we are ready to send more ships if Caracas demands more supplies from Iran," Abbas Mousavi told a weekly news conference broadcast live on state TV. Defying U.S. threats, Iran has sent a flotilla of five tankers of fuel to the South American oil-producing nation, which is suffering from a gasoline shortage.

  • Biden: ‘I know I’ve made mistakes’
    Yahoo News Video

    Biden: ‘I know I’ve made mistakes’

    Former Vice President Joe Biden on Monday attended a campaign event in Delaware and addressed criticism by saying, “I know I've made mistakes.

  • 8 Minutes and 46 Seconds: How George Floyd Was Killed in Police Custody
    The New York Times

    8 Minutes and 46 Seconds: How George Floyd Was Killed in Police Custody

    On May 25, Minneapolis police officers arrested George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, after a deli employee called 911, accusing him of buying cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. Seventeen minutes after the first squad car arrived at the scene, Floyd was unconscious and pinned beneath three police officers, showing no signs of life. The day after Floyd's death, the Police Department fired all four of the officers involved in the episode, and on Friday the Hennepin County attorney, Mike Freeman, announced murder and manslaughter charges against Derek Chauvin, the officer who can be seen most clearly in witness videos pinning Floyd to the ground.

  • Cities push back as airlines seek dozens of new service cuts. Is your airport on the list?
    USA TODAY

    Cities push back as airlines seek dozens of new service cuts. Is your airport on the list?

    As cities reopen and air travel gradually picks up, the government is on the cusp of giving final approval to a lengthy list of cities that could lose some of their airline service. Airports on the list that could temporarily lose an airline or certain flights range from those in large cities like Albuquerque, New Mexico, and New Orleans, to towns like Platinum, Alaska, and Ogdensburg, New York. Most, however, fall somewhere in the middle when it comes to size, whether it's Columbus, Ohio, or Sacramento, California.

  • Truck seen driving into protesters in Minneapolis
    NBC News

    Truck seen driving into protesters in Minneapolis

    A large truck was seen driving at full speed into a crowd of protesters Sunday on a bridge in Minneapolis, sending people running for safety. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety called it "very disturbing actions by a truck driver on I-35W, inciting a crowd of peaceful demonstrators." The truck driver was injured and is under arrest, the department said.

  • Cuomo: "Don't snatch defeat from the jaws of victory" in virus fight
    CBS News

    Cuomo: "Don't snatch defeat from the jaws of victory" in virus fight

    Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday warned New Yorkers gathering in ongoing protests that "we don't know the consequences of the COVID virus in mass gatherings." As parts of the state continue to move ahead with reopening and New York City set to reopen on June 8, Cuomo said "don't snatch defeat from the jaws of victory." "It took us 93 days to get here," Cuomo said.

  • India Has Lots of Nuclear Weapons
    The National Interest

    India Has Lots of Nuclear Weapons

    India is estimated to have produced enough military plutonium for 150 to 200 nuclear warheads, but has likely produced only 130 to 140,” according to Hans Kristensen and Matt Korda of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists. Nonetheless, additional plutonium will be required to produce warheads for missiles now under development, and India is reportedly building several new plutonium production facilities. In addition, “India continues to modernize its nuclear arsenal, with at least five new weapon systems now under development to complement or replace existing nuclear-capable aircraft, land-based delivery systems, and sea-based systems.

  • Minnesota Guard Carrying Guns and Ammo in Response to 'Credible Threat,' General Says
    Military.com

    Minnesota Guard Carrying Guns and Ammo in Response to 'Credible Threat,' General Says

    As law enforcement officials brace for another night of violent protests in Minneapolis, Minnesota National Guard members activated to support them are now armed and carrying ammunition, the general in charge said Sunday. Guard members are carrying rifles, sidearms and ammunition in response to a "credible threat" aimed directly against them as reported by the FBI, Army Maj. Gen. Jon Jensen, adjutant general of the Minnesota National Guard, said in a phone briefing with reporters. The number of Guard members activated in Minnesota to support local law enforcement reportedly could reach 10,000.

  • 2 Atlanta police officers were fired and 3 were placed on desk duty for their use of force in arresting 2 college students during a Saturday night protest
    INSIDER

    2 Atlanta police officers were fired and 3 were placed on desk duty for their use of force in arresting 2 college students during a Saturday night protest

    Two Atlanta police officers were fired Sunday for their conduct at a protest Saturday, the city's mayor and police chief said. Investigators Mark Gardner and Ivory Streeter, who were both members of the department's fugitive unit, were terminated from the police force, a spokesperson for the Atlanta Police Department told Insider. Investigators Carlos Smith and Willie Sauls, and Sergeant Lonnie Hood, were placed on administrative duty, the spokesperson said.

  • Trump claims Minneapolis a 'laughing stock' for George Floyd protests and says governors will look like 'jerks' if they don't 'dominate'
    The Independent

    Trump claims Minneapolis a 'laughing stock' for George Floyd protests and says governors will look like 'jerks' if they don't 'dominate'

    Donald Trump has slammed state governors as “weak” during a fiery call where he implored them to crack down on protesters taking to the streets in cities across the United States. The president's harsh words came during a video teleconference on Monday between himself, state governors, law enforcement and national security officials. Cities across America experienced mostly peaceful, but sometimes violent, protests in the last six days following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

  • Factbox: China's numerous diplomatic disputes
    Reuters

    Factbox: China's numerous diplomatic disputes

    China is engaged in diplomatic disputes on numerous fronts, from acrimony with the United States to a backlash over its clampdown on Hong Kong, a border dispute with India and criticism over its handling of the novel coronavirus. UNITED STATES From disputes over trade and technology, to U.S. criticism over the coronavirus outbreak and China's accusation of U.S. backing for protests in Hong Kong, ties between the world's two biggest economies are at their lowest point in decades. HONG KONG China's plan to impose national security legislation on Hong Kong provoked U.S. retaliation and disapproval from other Western capitals.

  • Letters to the Editor: Stacey Abrams lost in Georgia, but she could lift Biden as his VP.
    Los Angeles Times Opinion

    Letters to the Editor: Stacey Abrams lost in Georgia, but she could lift Biden as his VP.

    To the editor: I like what columnist Jonah Goldberg has to say about Joe Biden's potential picks for vice president, yet I disagree with his assessment of former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. Abrams is a winner. Maybe it behooves Goldberg to take a second look at Abrams and her qualifications.

  • Body cameras weren't activated when authorities fatally shot Louisville man, mayor says
    USA TODAY

    Body cameras weren't activated when authorities fatally shot Louisville man, mayor says

    Mayor Greg Fischer said Monday afternoon that police officers involved with National Guard personnel in the early morning shooting of the owner of a barbecue business had not activated their body cameras during the incident. Fischer said Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad, who announced his resignation in May, has been fired, and a nightly 9 p.m.-to-6:30 a.m. curfew has been extended to June 8. Gov. Andy Beshear ordered Kentucky State Police to investigate the fatal shooting by police and National Guard personnel.

  • Supreme Court upholds Puerto Rico's financial oversight board
    NBC News

    Supreme Court upholds Puerto Rico's financial oversight board

    The Supreme Court on Monday upheld the oversight board established by Congress to help Puerto Rico out of a devastating financial crisis that has been exacerbated by the coronavirus outbreak, recent earthquakes and damage from Hurricane Maria in 2017. The justices reversed a lower court ruling that threatened to throw the island's recovery efforts into chaos. In a unanimous holding, the court will allow the oversight board's work to pull the island out of the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history to proceed.

  • Philippine capital reopens despite jump in virus cases
    AFP

    Philippine capital reopens despite jump in virus cases

    Manila emerged on Monday from one of the world's longest coronavirus lockdowns as the Philippines seeks to repair its badly damaged economy even as the number of new infections surges. "The virus is frightening but it's either you die from the virus or you die from hunger," salesman Himmler Gaston, 59, told AFP as he entered the train station where commuters had their temperatures checked. The Philippines has so far reported 18,638 cases and 960 deaths, but experts fear limited testing means the true figures are likely much higher.

  • India coronavirus: Huge crowds as some train services resume
    BBC

    India coronavirus: Huge crowds as some train services resume

    India has partially restored train services amid reports of chaos and overcrowding at some stations. At least 145,000 people will travel in trains on Monday as the country starts to reopen after a prolonged lockdown. Two hundred trains will now start operations - up from the existing 30 that are currently running.

  • Minnesota National Guard Opened Fire on a Vehicle, Commander Says
    Military.com

    Minnesota National Guard Opened Fire on a Vehicle, Commander Says

    A soldier in Minneapolis opened fire on a speeding vehicle that posed a threat Sunday night -- the second known instance of a National Guard member discharging a weapon during the nationwide mass protests, the Minnesota National Guard commander said Monday. "Our soldier fired three rounds from his rifle in response to a direct threat" from a vehicle that drove at a position held by local law enforcement supported by the Guard, said Army Maj. Gen. Jon Jensen, adjutant general of the Minnesota National Guard. Read Next: Army Vet Lawmaker: Invoke Insurrection Act, Deploy Active-Duty Troops to Riots The driver ignored warnings to stop or turn away before the soldier opened fire, Jensen added.

  • Police officers kneel and march in solidarity with protesters
    CBS News Videos

    Police officers kneel and march in solidarity with protesters

    Some police officers are taking a knee in solidarity with protesters for racial justice, as demonstrations continue across the nation in response to the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after being pinned to the ground by a Minneapolis police officer.

  • Defying Trump's Landmark Peace Deal, Taliban Continues to Back Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, UN Report Says
    Time

    Defying Trump's Landmark Peace Deal, Taliban Continues to Back Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, UN Report Says

    The U.S. went to war in Afghanistan with one goal in mind: ridding the country of the threat of al-Qaeda just weeks after the group killed nearly 3,000 people in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Now, after nearly 20 years of fighting in which more than 3,500 American and coalition lives have been lost, President Donald Trump is pushing to withdraw U.S. forces on the back of a wobbly peace deal signed with the Taliban. Al-Qaeda has 400 to 600 operatives active in 12 Afghan provinces and is running training camps in the east of the country, according to the report released Friday.

  • White supremacists attending George Floyd protests, Minnesota officials believe
    The Independent

    White supremacists attending George Floyd protests, Minnesota officials believe

    Officials in Minnesota believe that white supremacist “agitators” were inciting chaos at protests against police brutality and the killing of George Floyd. The Minnesota state corrections department said on Sunday that white supremacists were thought to be attending demonstrations in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and making chaos. “They're agitators,” said Department of Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell on those who have caused destruction during demonstrations.

  • Australia relaxes lockdown further, intensifies economic recovery efforts
    Reuters

    Australia relaxes lockdown further, intensifies economic recovery efforts

    Several Australian states eased social distancing restrictions further on Monday, allowing restaurants to host more people and public attractions to reopen, as the government moves to revive an ailing economy through accelerated infrastructure spending. Australia has recorded about 7,200 coronavirus cases and 103 deaths. In Australia's most populous state, New South Wales (NSW), a maximum of 50 people are now allowed to sit down for a meal in a cafe or restaurants, while 20 can attend a funeral.

  • Pompeo: U.S. Could Make Moves Against International Criminal Court In “Coming Days”
    The National Interest

    Pompeo: U.S. Could Make Moves Against International Criminal Court In “Coming Days”

    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the United States will “push back” against the “corrupt” International Criminal Court in the coming days. Pompeo has slammed the international tribunal over its inquiries into U.S. actions in Afghanistan and Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories. “You'll see in the coming days a series of announcements not just from the State Department, from all across the United States government, that attempt to push back against what the ICC is up to,” he said.

  • Louisville police shoot reporter with pepper bullets on TV
    CBS News

    Louisville police shoot reporter with pepper bullets on TV

    Hours after a CNN reporter was arrested while covering protests in Minneapolis, a crew from an NBC affiliate faced its own violent interaction with police in Louisville, Kentucky. While providing live coverage of the protests in Louisville, the city where Breonna Taylor was shot and killed by police in her own home, a WAVE 3 news reporter and her crew were directly shot with pepper bullets by police outfitted in riot gear. The incident happened while the crew from WAVE 3 was live on air, when reporter Kaitlin Rust was speaking about the dozens of officers in riot gear standing shoulder-to-shoulder near Louisville City Hall, according to CBS affiliate WIVB.