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The Latest: Chunks of plaster fall from St. Peter's Basilica

Pope Francis walks towards an amphora containing holy oil during a Chrism Mass inside St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican, Thursday, March 29, 2018. During the Mass the pontiff blesses a token amount of oil that will be used to administer the sacraments for the year. (Vatican Media via AP)
March 29, 2018 - 11:14 AM

VATICAN CITY - The Latest on Holy Thursday (all times local):

8:15 p.m.

The Vatican has had to seal off part of St. Peter's Basilica after some chunks of plaster fell during the height of the Easter holiday season.

No one was injured by the falling plaster, which rained down Thursday near Michelangelo's famed Pieta statue to the right of the main entrance.

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke says repairmen are working to secure the site and the basilica remained open. He says it will re-open as regular on Friday.

Holy Week sees floods of pilgrims and tourists visiting St. Peter's, taking part in Pope Francis' ceremonies, which are capped by Easter Sunday celebrations outside in St. Peter's Square.


6:30 p.m.

Pope Francis says he has to have cataracts surgery next year.

Francis revealed the news as he bid farewell to prisoners at Rome's Regina Coeli prison, after he performed the Holy Thursday ritual of washing the feet of 12 people.

Francis, who frequently tells inmates they need to keep hope alive, told them that they must clear their eyes every day so they can see and spread hope. He said cataracts often make it difficult to see. He says "at my age, for example, cataracts come and you don't see reality well. Next year I have to have an operation."

He said the same thing happens with life, when disillusionment clouds the soul. Francis urged the inmates to do a daily cleansing of their view on life — a "cataract surgery for the soul" — so they can keep having hope.


11:30 a.m.

Pope Francis is urging priests to be spiritually close to their flocks and not insist only on preaching laws when they sin.

Francis issued the guidance during Holy Thursday Mass, which is meant to show the unity of the Catholic Church during its most solemn, pre-Easter period.

In his homily, Francis warned priests to not be tempted to "idolize" church law and doctrine when preaching, since that can distance ordinary faithful from Jesus. Even when people commit adultery, he said, priests should not condemn with legalisms. Rather, he said, priests should help adulterers to look forward, even if they have to tell them not to sin over and over.

The admonition came as conservatives have complained that Francis is dividing the church with his opening to letting divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion. Critics say Francis is disregarding church law about the indissolubility of marriage by effectively allowing adulterers access to the sacraments.

News from © The Associated Press, 2018
The Associated Press

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