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Around the Traps

The Vatican does the numbers
VATICAN (SE): More than 3.9 million people visited  the Vatican or attended papal events, liturgies or prayer services during the Holy Year of Mercy in 2016.

The total of 3,952,140 is slightly up from the 3.2 million for 2015, but or a jubilee year it still fell short of the 5.9 million people who visited in 2014.

Terrorist attacks in Europe are thought to have discouraged visitors during typically busy tourist seasons in Italy.

Around 762,000 people attended the pope’s 43 weekly general audiences while 446,000 attended the 11 jubilee audiences held one Saturday a month.

Over 169,000 took part in group audiences, over 924,000 in papal liturgies and more than 1.6 million on Sundays and major feast days in St. Peter’s Square.


Assad visits convent

DAMASCUS (SE): Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria, visited a Christian religious community on Christmas Day.

Accompanied by his wife, Assad travelled to the Greek Orthodox monastery of Our Lady of Saydnaya, about an hour north of Damascus. He conveyed his Christmas greetings to the nuns in the area.

The monastery is believed to have been built by the Roman emperor, Justinian, in the sixth century, but was damaged by shelling during the Syrian civil war. On the same day as his visit, Christians in Aleppo celebrated openly for the first time since the city was captured by the Islamic State.


Christ the Redeemer shaky

RIO DE JANEIRO (SE): The archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro has launched a fundraising campaign to repair the famed statue of Christ the Redeemer.

“Christ the Redeemer, with his open arms, is the greatest showcase for Rio and Brazil,” Orani Cardinal João Tempesta, said.

The statue is struck by lightning an average of six times per year, causing cracks.


Norway turns off FM radio

OSLO (SE): Norway has become the first nation to switch off its FM radio network in an unpopular leap to digital technology.

Critics fear people may miss emergency alerts currently broadcast on FM. The nation’s two million cars that are not equipped with digital audio are of particular concern.

Sixty-six per cent of Norwegians oppose switching off FM, with only 17 per cent in favour, an opinion poll published by Dagbladet says.

“We’re the first country to switch off FM, but there are several countries going in the same direction,” Ole Jørgen Torvmark, from Digital Radio Norway, said.


Cardinal Dolan leads prayer at Trump inauguration

NEW YORK (SE): Timothy Cardinal Dolan was one of six religious figures to deliver an invocation or reading during the inauguration ceremony for the new president of the United States of America, Donald Trump, on January 20.

“I am honoured to have been asked to offer a reading from scripture at the upcoming presidential inauguration and look forward to asking almighty God to inspire and guide our new president and to continue to bless our great nation,” Cardinal Dolan said. The cardinal has been critical of Trump’s public statements on immigration.


Pusan revives spirit of 1960s

PUSAN (UCAN): The diocese of Pusan in South Korea donated the proceeds from the sale of the Catholic Charity Apartment to its poor neighbours.

In 1964 it built two-storey apartments for 35 low-income families, but they have now reached their use-by date.

Residents want to rebuild the apartments and the site was sold to a local developer for a mixed-use housing complex.

The sale realised some three billion won ($19.38 million). The gift is seen as a re-enactment of the spirit of love which animated the original projects of the 1960s.

The building was put up with money donated by the Austrian Catholic Women’s Association.


McDonald’s and bishops don’t mix

ROME (SE): A McDonald’s has opened just a few blocks from St. Peter’s Square in Rome, Vatican Radio reported.

The fast-food outlet is located in a building owned by the Vatican in the Borgo Pio district. It has prompted angry protests from bishops who live in the same building and had to help pay for the renovations that were needed to accommodate it.

They charged that a fast-food franchise would damage the historic character of the neighbourhood—although several pizza parlours, sandwich shops and souvenir stands are located on the same street.


McDonald’s has agreed to distribute 1,000 free meals a week to the homeless.

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