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Palm Sunday: Pope skips sermon, prays for Moscow attack victims

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.Don’t lose faith in God, Archbishop Martins urges Nigerians

.As Russia observes day of mourning for 137 victims

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CHINYERE IKEANYI with Agency report


Pope Francis on Sunday sent prayers to the victims of the concert hall attack in Moscow, calling the violence “inhuman acts” that offended God.

No fewer than 137 people were killed and more than 140 people also injured in an attack on Friday evening at a packed concert venue in Moscow when gunmen entered the Crocus City Hall, firing indiscriminately before setting it on fire.

“I assure my prayers for the victims of the cowardly terrorist attack carried out the other evening in Moscow,” said the 87-year-old pope, following a Palm Sunday mass in Saint Peter’s Square.

“May the Lord welcome them in his peace and comfort their families, and convert the hearts of those… who organise and carry out these inhuman actions which offend God, who commanded ‘Thou shalt not kill,” he said.

Meanwhile, Christians in Nigeria joined their counterparts across the world to mark Palm Sunday to commemorate the triumphant entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem before his suffering death and resurrection in Easter over 2,000 years ago.

Yesterday’s mass also marked the beginning of the Holy Week where Christians especially Catholics re-enact the passion and death of the Messiah.

Delivering a homily at the Holy Cross Cathedral, the Archbishop of Lagos, Most Rev. Alfred Adewale Martins urged Christians not  to lose faith in God because of the current harsh economic situation of the country adding that the triumphant entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem was meant deliverance them from hardship.

However, the Pontiff presided over Palm Sunday Mass in front of a crowd the Vatican estimated at 25,000 people, but spoke in a weak, faltering voice and did not deliver his homily as planned.

He appeared in good spirits following mass, however, circling the piazza, smiling and waving at the crowd from his vehicle.

The pontiff caught flu last month and has subsequently asked others to read his texts at appearances.

Francis has suffered a number of health issues in recent years, from knee and hip pain to an inflamed colon and hernia surgery last year.

Sunday’s liturgical celebration marked the start of Holy Week, in which the pope presides over a series of important events leading up to Easter, Christianity’s most important holiday.

Last year, for the first time, Francis missed the traditional “Way of the Cross” prayer service on Good Friday.

The weather at the time was unusually cold and he was recovering from a bronchitis infection that saw him hospitalised for three nights.

But speaking in Lagos, Archbishop  Martins, who noted that currently, Nigeria had been characterised by corruption, insecurity economic meltdown, called on Christians not to give up faith in God.

“We should remain firm in our faith especially in the name that we bear, Christians. We should bring good news to the end of the earth as we have been commanded by the Lord Lord Jesus Christ.

“Each of us, even though we may look anonymous in the whole crowd, we are unique in the presence of God and He is willing to use us. God wants to use us in parts and we must be ready to bring the good news of Christ to the end of the earth. Whatever talent and gift that we have, anything that we have at all, let us use them to the glory of the Lord”.

On the the significance of the Palm Sunday, Bishop Martins stated that the event is the commemoration of the triumphant entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem following His glorious miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead.

According to him, Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week, the final week of Lent, and the week in which Christians celebrate the mystery of their salvation through Christ’s death and His resurrection on Easter Sunday.

He added that a major hallmark of the feast is the celebration of the Holy Mass followed by a procession of the faithful carrying palm branches, representing the Jews who celebrated Christ’s entry into Jerusalem.


Faithful mark feast with procession, fanfare, rekindle faith

Similarly Catholic Faithful in parts of Lagos on Sunday joined others across the world to mark the Palm Sunday with procession, fanfare, to rekindle faith in God.

The feast, an important one in the celebrations of the church, reminds faithful of the majesty of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the confidence of faithful in the sonship of Jesus Christ.

At the St. Thomas Aquinas Church, Okokomaiko, faithful began the occasion with a procession, mass, and street evangelism,  to draw people to Jesus Christ.

Parishioners were seen marching in jubilation within the area to register God’s presence in the place, while some used the medium to reach out to people to turn to Jesus Christ and heed the good news of salvation.

It was a spectacular scene at the Saints Peter and Paul, Tedi, Ojo Lagos Parish, where the priest in charge, Rev. Fr. Anthony Thompson,  asked faithful to physically present a written petition to God to heal the nation.

The followers, professing Jesus Christ as King of Kings approached the altar with their petitions.

The event, which aroused public interest in the environs also had faithful display varying attractive craft made of Palm fronts to signify the day.

In his sermon, Rev. Fr. Thompson, said that before Jesus was crowned King, He showed perseverance and good character.


“It is expected of us to toe the line of Christ, for us to make it as a people and a nation. The decorations in the church with the palm fronts is a sign of victory, therefore our hope in the nation need not be dampened.The anxieties of today will not last but has come to an abrupt end with the triumph of our Lord today,” he said.


Day of mourning in Russia after 137 killed at Crocus City Hall concert


Meanwhile, Russia is observing a day of mourning after at least 137 people were killed in an attack on Friday evening at a packed concert venue in Moscow.

Flags are flying at half mast, many events have been cancelled and TV channels have updated their schedules.

More than 140 people were also injured when gunmen entered the Crocus City Hall, firing indiscriminately before setting it on fire.

The Islamic State (IS) group says it was behind the attack.

On Saturday Amaq, the IS media outlet, posted an image of the four masked men they claimed were involved in the assault. Russia has not commented on the IS claim.

The group later released highly graphic footage from the attack. The video, which has been verified by the BBC as genuine, shows one of the gunmen opening fire on several people.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said all four gunmen who carried out the attack have been arrested.

In his televised address on Saturday, Mr Putin condemned the massacre – the deadliest in Russia for nearly 20 years – as a “barbaric terrorist act” and repeated earlier suggestions by Russian security services that the attackers had tried to escape to Ukraine.

Kyiv dismissed the claim that it was in some way involved in the attack as “absurd”.


“To suggest the suspects were heading to Ukraine, would suggest they were stupid or suicidal,” Andriy Yusov, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian military intelligence directorate, told the BBC.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Mr Putin of seeking to “blame” Ukraine for the attack. “This worthless Putin, instead of dealing with his citizens of Russia, addressing them, remained silent for a day – thinking how to bring this to Ukraine,” he said in his nightly address.

The US National Security Council said it warned Russia of a potential IS attack on “large gatherings”, including concerts, in Moscow earlier this month. The Kremlin at the time dismissed that as “propaganda” and an attempt by Washington to meddle in the recent Russian election.

On Saturday, the White House said it condemned the “heinous” attack and described IS as “a common terrorist enemy that must be defeated everywhere”.


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